I’ve always been an avid reader. My bibliophile tendencies were sparked by the adventures of Dick and Jane in a series of basal readers of the same name. I went through all the young reader classics. Some of my favorites were The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, Mop Top by Don Freeman, Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Conder Soule, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline.
I developed a fondness for magazines at a very early age. It started with My Weekly Reader distributed to grade school students. Each week I eagerly anticipated my copy of this magazine. It was filled with facts and fiction; pictures and puzzles. It fueled many lunchroom pranks and debates. My Weekly Reader was followed by subscriptions to children’s magazines such as Highlights and Ebony, Jr. During my pre-teens and teenage years I had subscriptions to American Girl, Right On! and Seventeen. Today as an adult, my consumption of magazines has dwindled but, I still get a thrill seeing the thick glossy copies of the September issue of Vogue at a newsstand. You have to bend at the knees to lift it but, I don’t care because it is a ritual I associate with autumn; just like apple picking and falling leaves.
Today I saw a video clip of a baby viewing a magazine with the iPad. One cute pudgy finger flipping the virtual pages. Seeing that was a reminder of the ever-widening generation gap. I fully expect that by the time this baby has babies; magazines will have gone the way of dinosaurs. Magazines will be extinct. I suspect they will be replaced by holographic images downloaded from a cloud computing environment. Sounds fun and I’d like to see that.
When I was little kid I felt powerless. I never felt worthless; I simply recognized my limits as a kid in a world of adults. I aspired to be a grownup; with all the wisdom, knowledge and power that comes with tenure and title. So what struck me about the video was what a sense of power this baby must be gaining through the manipulation of the images on the screen. In the clip you can see the wonder in the baby’s eyes as she makes it “go”. You also see the frustration when the magic of the finger doesn’t work on the “real” magazines; then she starts to touch things in the real world. At one point she touches herself and has such a quizzical look on her face. I wonder what she was expecting to happen and I wonder how having that sense of empowerment fueled by technology will inform who she will become as an adult. As I ponder the thought, with a chill, I recall a line from the book Children of Men by P.D. James – “If from infancy you treat children as gods they are liable in adulthood to act as devils.”