People of the book and people of the screen. Blogjune 16/24



(My blog. My rules. I can fiddle faddle with them if I want)

An answer to Pharaohs or tree lights or shopping or bed. Blogjune 15/64

A queen sized bed under a painting of quirky birds. The bedding is white Broderie Anglaise. A large iPad and a couple of crossword books lie on it.

Dramatically lit trees in blues and greens


In 2008, I described on this blog my reflections after attending a talk from neuropharmacologist Baroness Susan Greenfield where she described the ways she thought what was being offered on the internet was changing young people’s brains. She contrasted (older) people of the book to (younger) people of the screens, who she suggested are more likely to:

have shorter attention spans, are likely to be less risk adverse, emotionally shallower, less likely to be influenced by dogma and spend a lot of time responding to visual stimuli.

At the time I was, like everyone else, 16 years younger. What she was saying seemed hyperbolic. She definitely got the dogma bit wrong. The rest, I am slower to reject now. I was pretty annoyed at what I saw as a very narrow understanding of what was happening online, with far less credit being given for the deep and productive socially interactive and creative work happening in online gameplay and what we called “immersive worlds” then. I provided an example of a Sydney teacher using Second Life as a way for students to collaboratively create and explore costuming, space and meaning in Shakespeare.

I vividly remember her face as she repeated throughout that younger people are being stimulated in broad-brush ways, living in the “yuk” and “wow”. Yuk and wow. Yuk and wow. So, superficially and glibly engaging with experiences so impressive that any quest for nuance, subtlety or depth is overridden and appreciation of this is simply not developed.

So, last night at  Royal Botanic Gardens Lightscape I understood the spectacle of event, saw people with their kids pointing and saying “oooo”, and a lot of people taking photos of themselves at spots obviously designed for a great pic. I was left feeling like the natural world – which itself is wonderful, amazing, impressive, subtle, delicately interconnected – was being overwritten by Wow! so it could be consumed into a feedback loop of bright flashing and flashy stimulus.

Too much felt like a generic international arena rock performance had moved into town and set up across a landscape it was not really engaging with. Laser shows and dry ice, but performers neglected. One patch was a collection of fake plastic life-sized flowering plums, with lights where the flowers should be. That lead into a spot where ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” blared out. I do not know why. It seemed unconnected to anything else.

I loved a similar event at the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide in the last couple of years. By contrast, there it seemed the artists had analysed the landscape, layout and environment to create an experience far more in harmony with the gardens. A long corridor of Moreton bay figs became a walk into sunrise. A bamboo grove was lit with lights that ran up and down each stalk to co-ordinated Angklung music, undulating as the bamboo swayed in the wind. Real thought had been put into the placement of lights in a still pond so a large tree, and its reflection that went down forever, became the stars not backdrop to the piece.

Silhouettes of people walking toward a large semicircle of light


A grove of bamboo lit with Criss cross pattern


Large lit up trees over a pond at night


What do you think? Let us know.