Is technology dulling our senses?

Has our love of technology so diminished awareness of our surroundings that we are now impaired in our social relations?

I stumbled across two interesting articles this week that highlight this question. One relates to our use of cellular devices; the other to social behaviour in museums, of all places.

USA Today looked at what happens when people spend a lot of time texting, talking on mobile devices or listening to mp3 players. The result is a phenomenon we're all familiar with: lots of us are "present, yet absent." This has many social and personal implications. For example, while on vacation to exotic locales some people walk around with their heads down sending messages instead of experiencing the natural beauty they paid good money to experience. At restaurants, conversations (and relationships) are impaired when we pay more attention to incoming and outgoing messages than the conversation we're also having with our own partners.

Are we becoming "post-human" and are we losing valuable R & R time? Find out in Olivia Barker's story here.

In The New York Times, meanwhile, Michael Kimmelman writes an observational piece about tourists roaming museums. Watching visitors in the Louvre in Paris, Kimmelman asks himself what, exactly, are tourists doing and how do they react when confronted with a work of art? The answer, most of the time, is that they are taking hasty snapshots and moving on. During a morning of observation, almost nobody paused in front of an object for more than 60 seconds.

Kimmelman contrasts this experience with that of visitors in the pre-digital era, when people would bring sketchbooks to museums and interact with a work for much longer. He points out that artists see things differently. "Artists fortunately remind us that there’s in fact no single, correct way to look at any work of art, save for with an open mind and patience," he writes. One cannot review one's "lifetime art history requirements in a day."

Fortunately, not everyone that morning was impatient to move on to the next photo opportunity, as you'll see in the story here.


Thanks to John Lee for his photograph of texting on a mobile phone and to Christian Bauer for his shot of the exterior of the Louvre Museum.

For a related story in Zanepost, see "The present is the only thing that's real."

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