“All the convenience of being able to access a thousand titles on an e-reader could never justify its efficient obliteration of a young person’s shelf of cherished books. Seven “Harry Potter” volumes stacked next to the bed are a monument to a kid’s determination and devotion; seven “Harry Potter” titles on a Kindle might as well be under an invisibility cloak.” Source.
Ron Charles wrote the quote above in a Washington Post article, illustrating an impending problem related to a digital world: physical representation.
(A quick aside- my first name is Charles, and the author I am referring to is Ron Charles, a Washington Post book critic. To avoid confusion, I’ll refer to Ron Charles as “the author”.)
When children read ebooks, the author contends there is no physical shelf of completed books that can be proudly pointed to.
My daughter recently ran up to me, holding out a newly-loaned chapter book:
“Dad! Look how thick it is! How many pages do you think it has?!”
She reminded me of a tiny track and field pole vaulter, amazed at the height of a bar she recently launched over.
She was proud of reading “big books”, the “chapter books” with limited pictures. Would she feel the same pride by pointing to the little dots representing pages on a Kindle screen?
I agree- when we begin reading eBooks, we are not left with the 14 inch span of books on a shelf as a testament to the work. Physical objects are great reminders to link us back to memories.
(I’ve read that the sense of smell has the strongest link to our memories. However, I can’t imagine living in a house constantly assaulted by scents of Apple Pie, loamy dirt or sweaty gym shorts. Can you? I prefer to stay with pictures and physical mementos for now.)
Ebooks and digital learning are definitely here to stay.
Memories of experiences are still important— even if that experience happened because of a digital screen.
And, reminding ourselves of (digital) memories helps us to reinforce our goals, encourage us and even warn us.
So, where does that leave us?
I think we need physical representations of the important parts of our digital lives. We already have digital representations of our physical lives in our cyber experience- Facebook reminds us of last Halloween’s photos. So also, we need our digital world showing in our physical experience.
Some of you are probably imagining holograms right now. Others may be imagining a room’s walls converted to massive screens.
Let’s take a step back. I have a simple example:
I saw a poster titled “Top 100 Must-Read Books”. Empty rectangles represent each book title. Once a book title is finished, the reader gets to place a sticker in that book’s space. I agree, this sounds like an elementary school motivation technique— (“Here is your star for good behavior, Sally”). But, hold your judgement for a sec!
This poster is a great way to represent all the investment to read those books— especially because many of them were borrowed or loaned.
People bring back masks from their trip to Africa, and seashells from the beach experience.
How can we remind ourselves of the funny, insightful or embarrassing digital life we live?
I saw a great cartoon that illustrates this:
“Mommy, why are there photos of everyone in our family, except me?”
“Because, sweetie- I post them all online.”
We can print photos. How do we print a chat conversation? How do we represent the 35th minute of our family reunion Zoom video conference, when uncle Billy fell off his chair, knocking his cereal and cat into the air?
I don’t know how we can yet. But, I know I need to be reminded of Uncle Billy, and the milk and the chaos that happened.