Can traditional forms of art and communication survive technological advancements?
Imagination is our ability to form mental images to give shape to ideas, abstract or otherwise. Among many things, it helps us grow and encourages us to make positive changes to our daily lives, to how we treat ourselves, our loved ones and the world at large. It helps us explore thoughts not bound by the limitations of physical reality and helps us visualize and manifest our dreams. It is quite easily one of the most important and the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. And nothing sparks it quite like opening up a book does.
Reading makes us think!
Books urge us to bring our own unique perspective to a story being told and co-create a world entirely from our own imagination. It provides us the information required to conjure up images in our minds which are intricately singular and unique to us. The beauty lies in our ability to interpret the same piece of writing in a number of ways. Reading compels us to exercise our imaginative skills and pushes the boundaries of our imaginative capabilities in a way no other medium does.
Limitations of the big screen
For instance, the audio-visual medium has broken immense technological ground over the years and has played a huge role in revolutionizing and modernizing storytelling. But despite these advancements, it falls short in stimulating the imagination of its audience the way books have and continue to do. Films are evocative of one person’s vision, the filmmaker. It is the filmmaker who visualizes and manifests a story on the screen, and it is from their perspective that we are asked to view it. This barely leaves anything to our own imagination, and consequently encourages little to no effort on our part. In his poem Television, Roald Dahl, albeit a tad over-dramatic and comical as he begrudges the then new medium’s influence on children, provides some interesting observations in the excerpt below:
“IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK - HE ONLY SEES!”
Books v Films
Adaptations can especially be quite challenging to depict on the big screen. This largely stands true for adaptations of books loved by many, like the Harry Potter franchise. Every child has their own interpretation of what the Harry Potter world and the characters inhabiting it look like. And when these high levels of imagination meet the limitations of the big screen, it can leave many dissatisfied. It is very rare to find a film adaptation of a book which is not only faithful to the original source but also does justice to it.
Traditional v Digital
Even digitally created music and art cannot compare to the originality of holding an instrument in your hands and coming up with a new tune, or physically holding a paintbrush between your fingers and letting your imagination run away with you. Organically rooted in creations through physical exertion, art and music manifested this way provide a tactile experience which is difficult to replicate by any other medium. The same can be extended to the evolution of gaming. What once used to be evenings spent playing tag, a game of Monopoly with friends or games devised solely from our imagination, has now been replaced by days spent within the four walls of a bedroom playing Grand Theft Auto.
Keeping the art alive
There is no doubt that technological advancements have brought in a fresh perspective on art and communication. And as innovative and inspiring as that is, it has its limitations. And it is these limitations that have kept traditional forms of art and communication from heading into oblivion. People continue to prefer traditional ways of creating and absorbing art. And it is, hence imperative, that we do not lose sight of their origins which are firmly rooted in tactility, simplicity and the use of boundless imagination, and keep them alive for generations to come.