Texting Harry Potter: The Absence of Digital Media in Popular Fiction
It’s no secret that we’re in the midst of a digital era. Our lives are consumed with technology, and we’re surrounded by digital natives—or what writer Marc Prensky defines in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, as a person born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies, and through interaction, has a greater understanding of its concepts. These digital natives spend most of their time fiddling with their iToys as they immerse themselves in forms of instantaneous communication. They are addicted to their gadgets, and are slaves to the conveniences of their smart phones, tablets, and social networking websites. Their devotion to technology is evident in the songs they listen to, and the movies they watch. It’s difficult to imagine, especially with so many sources encouraging our consumption of digital media, that there is a way for us to escape the pings, beeps and vibrations of our electronic lifelines. However, although digital technology is prevalent in our lives, there are some forms of entertainment that provide us with the opportunity to escape our digital leashes—forms of entertainment such as fantasy fiction.
As technology continues to evolve, it’s peculiar that our addictions have yet to trickle into the popular stories that dominate the shelves of our neighborhood Barnes & Noble. The fact that we turn off our HD televisions, silence our iPhones, and curl up on sofas with our Nooks and Kindles, so that we can read stories about magical realms, post-apocalyptic battle fields, and boys with lightning bolt scars, is intriguing. It seems it should be the digital immigrants—those born before the existence of digital technologies and have adopted it to some extent later in their life—that would willingly abandon their ties to technology in order to read a decent book. However, it’s peculiar that the digital natives that flock to the Apple store to stand in a four hour line so they can be the “first” to purchase a brand new device are some of the same individuals who gravitate to stories that exclude the types of technology heavily relied upon today. But why is this? Why are we unwilling to sever our ties with technology in our daily lives, but willing to dive head first into a fictional universe where these items don’t exist? Are we craving a world where we use carrier owls to relay messages? A world where we battle for our lives in an arena similar to the Thunderdome? A world where the only sources of communication are flashes in the sky, and messages attached to balloons? It’s unlikely that we want our world to mimic those of the popular protagonists that capture our attention through the pages of a well-written novel. So what’s the allure? Are we simply aware that digital media may be exciting in our personal lives, but in a book that is supposed to command our attention and entertain us—it would be downright boring?