Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Misunderstood or Double-Edged?

Robert McGinley Myers:

In the first half of the ad, the kid is portrayed as self-absorbed, antisocial, even rude in his attention to his iPhone. But why? Would we have seen him in such a negative light if he had been reading a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, or writing in a journal, or drawing in a sketchpad, or noodling on a guitar? The magical, revolutionary thing about an iPhone (and I say this unironically) is that it can become a novel, a journal, a sketchbook, a musical instrument, or a video camera/video editor (with apps like iBooks, Day One, Paper, Garageband, and iMovie among many others).

What is it about reading The Catcher in the Rye on a screen that causes a different perception than reading the same book in dead tree form? I think there’s something much greater to this ad than a simple twist, or just selling a product. I think Myers has really latched onto an interesting thread here: what is it about a glowing screen that creates an adverse reaction compared to a printed page?

Shawn Blanc thinks it’s because the open-ended nature of such a device draws us to conclude that the user is probably not reading a book, but reading Twitter; they’re probably not writing in a journal, but sending a text message. I think that’s a reasonable approach, but I also don’t think there’s something necessarily wrong with that.

While commuting by train the other day, I was iMessaging my sister — this isn’t necessarily a big deal, except she’s been on an exchange program in Europe since the end of August, and I haven’t seen her since. It was nice to catch up with what she’s learning in her classes over there, and how she’s enjoying her time in Amsterdam.

The multifunctional nature of a smartphone invites us to use it in myriad ways. Who’s to say that this is necessarily a “bad thing”? Perhaps someone is reading on Twitter about a breaking news story that concerns a relative on the other side of the world, or just because they’re interested in that story. Is it so bad to be curious, even if that curiosity is explored in front of and through a glowing screen?