Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween, Part Four.....and the Survey Says.......

In a manner most fitting, the Cape Cinema in Dennis had a Halloween showing of the National Theater Live's production of Frankenstein last night.  Produced in 2011, this critically-acclaimed version of Mary Shelley's classic was meticulously directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle. It was magnificent and thought provoking.

Along with the notions of good and evil, viewers were asked to think about the themes of scientific responsibility, cognitive development and the effects of parental neglect. The neurotic Doctor Victor Frankenstein created a living, breathing, nameless creature whose biggest desire was to be accepted as a human.  A scientist, and  man of great vision, Frankenstein used his intellect and  gifts in ways that, in the end, proved to be not only irrational but irresponsible.  After all, creating a monster who killed innocent people is not exactly a socially responsible endeavor.  The first twenty minutes of Boyle's stage play shows the creature  as he is born, bursting from what appears to be a huge amniotic sac. Incapable of much more than a series of  flips and flops on the ground, his brain an empty canvas, he must first learn to walk.  The birth of intelligence, with the rapid acquisition of cognitive skills astonish us as we watch the monster mimic and learn. We see the pathetic scorned creation of Victor Frankenstein, unloved and uncared for by his only parent after repeated attempts to gain his attention.  In the end, both father and son go off toward their mutual demise. Was it all worth it?

Hours before leaving our home for last evening's show, I read about a study which was almost as frightening as Mary Shelley's novel.  This study, by "Common Sense Media", a non-profit children's advocacy group, says that 38% of children under age two, have had experience with mobile media. Children, just learning to walk, have used mobile devices, including iPhones,tablets and Kindles.  The figures have skyrocketed  from a mere 10% in 2011. This statistic might not come as a surprise to anyone who has visited a playground, a mode of public transportation or a restaurant in the past several years.  Recently, I watched a baby, surely not even eighteen months old, holding a small touchscreen device which displayed a kiddie video meant to amuse as his mother grocery shopped.  We don't have to be told that children are using smartphones and tablets for longer periods of time, watching videos and playing games.  We witness this, every day and everywhere. In addition, we see parents, eyes glued to their own touch devices, seemingly ignoring their children.  Is this the new neglect? Or is this the new parenting?  It's scary either way.

I just can't help but wonder where all of this is heading.  True, the babies of today are growing up to face a world very different from their grandparent's, even from their own parent's.  We hear that schools are allowing students to bring their devices to school and, with careful monitoring, teachers who now teach in a digital age find this beneficial.  The Brave New World is here and the babies have so much to learn.  Or do they?  Will the future generations need to learn anything or will they have all the information they could possibly need, right before their eyes at all times?  Will they have to acquire social skills or will their connections be exclusive to the devices in their hands?  What will future hands actually look like? Will all digits be in use in the digital age or will we see hands with large thumbs and no others. When I think back to the report cards of our yesterdays, I see columns checked off by teachers.  "Plays well with others", the prerequisite to "works well with others" stands out in my mind.  I fear the total demise of social grace and skills approaching as the percentages laid out by the Common Sense Media report rapidly escalate.

Is science being irresponsible?  Perhaps Mary Shelley, back in the early nineteenth century had a message for us, one that we need to ponder carefully as our civilization progresses.  Is technology creating a nameless monster?   I find myself asking again, was it all worth it?

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  1. Hi Lynn!!! I'm just now seeing your comment on Andrea's funny that you are at cape cod when I wrote my comment to her. And I was in Assisi for a month last October!!! sounds like we may be on the same path! I was visiting your land with a girlfriend from WA state...I'm from Loosiana. And I met andrea while in Italy last yr and we became instant friends.
    Can't wait to read thru your blog. Loved Loved Loved the Cape. We stayed in Chatham but went to every city and the islands! So Much Fun!!

  2. Oh MY.....I have just finished reading about your Assisi adventure. Hand to God,,,,I coud have written it. Your trip mirrors mine, in every way. I went for the same reasons you husband gave me the trip for our 36th anniversary, knowing I needed to find myself again. This is crazy....if you go to my sidebar on my blog, you'll see my Italy blog that chronicles my trip. STILL haven't finished it!!! Would love to swap stories about assisi with you sometime!!

  3. Amazing cooincidence! Write me anytime
    When did you leave Assisi? I arrived November 2nd after being delayed by Hurricane Sandy.

  4. Amazing cooincidence! Write me anytime
    When did you leave Assisi? I arrived November 2nd after being delayed by Hurricane Sandy.