On the superhighway to where, exactly?

The digital revolution is changing everything, from literary forms to TV dramas. But somehow the marketing of Ireland remains the same

Share
Related Topics

If there is anything more sinister than Gadget Man, the new Channel 4 series in which Stephen Fry and friends exclaim over a stack of gizmos that might just divert the jaded consumer for a moment or so, then it is the advertisements that surround this and every other peak-time television programme currently on view. Cheap supermarket provender aside, most of the festive television blandishments are there to promote technology: tablets, iPads, a variety of child-care substitutes designed to hoodwink the fond parent into thinking his children are learning something, on-screen dance-offs, and much else besides.

It is not that any of this electronic eye-candy is particularly injurious in itself – although I still roar with laughter at the sight of a leotard-clad exerciser bouncing about to the TV screen when she could be running over a field – merely that in the average consumer-materialist's rush to avail him or herself of whatever the kind gentlemen at Apple or Microsoft have decided the public ought to buy this Christmas, hardly anyone ever stops to consider what the human consequences of our ongoing technological revolution might be.

Even at the basic level of written communications, for example, technology has had a profound effect on the way the mind works. One could make out a plausible argument for the whole course of Western literature over the past couple of hundred years having been conditioned by the nature of the writing implements available: the stately, multi-clause sentences encouraged by the 18th-century quill giving way to the less compartmentalised effusions of the Victorian fountain pen, and thence to the Hemingway-style terseness of the typewriter, which as somebody once remarked, made you write like a Gatling gun.

As Philip Hensher's recent book on the decline of handwriting shows, all this is far more than a revolt into technological style; it is also a kind of existential severance whose ultimate effect on the people doing the severing can only be guessed at.

"The advance of science and technology means a human future of change so rapid and of such kinds of tests and challenges so unprecedented, of decisions and possible non-decisions so momentous and insidious in their consequences, that mankind... will need to be in full intelligent possession of its full humanity," F R Leavis warned as long ago as 1962.

Is the Gadarene horde scampering down the superhighway in full intelligent possession of its full humanity? Answers on a postcard.

...

Ryanair, that well-known public benefactor and model of commercial probity, is running an ad extolling the beauties of south-west Ireland. "The Ring of Kerry is twinkling," it somewhat archly declares. "Horse-drawn carriages trot by Killarney's lakes and the Kerry Way is a walking wonderland. Late sun warms the Great Blasket Island, cliffs tower over the tide on Dingle's peninsula and a cosy pub corner has your name on it." And all this for £22!

Syntactical flaws aside – it is the horses, surely, that are doing the trotting, not the carriages, and the tourist who is doing the walking, not the wonderland? – this vignette offers a fascinating exercise in historical continuity.

For southern Ireland has been promoted to the English tourist in this folksy way for something like 170 years, ever since the first Victorian visitors began to write the place up in their guidebooks. Gaelic historians sometimes talk about the "exploitation" of what is now the Irish Republic by these early holidaymakers, but in fact the process was entirely reciprocal. The Victorians came looking for the picturesquely romantic, and the cash-hungry locals made sure they found it.

William Thackeray's Irish Sketchbook (1843) is full of stagy scenes in which the traveller is accosted by a cap-doffing ancient, his brogue as pronounced as the church steeple, who enquires: "Would your honour like to see a big pig?" It is nice to see Ryanair's marketing team passing on this cultural baton. Thackeray would have been proud of them.

...

Still with technology, an extended sit-down with the first three episodes of The Killing confirms how wide-ranging an effect electronic communications are having on the crime-buster. The Sherlock Holmes stories, though capable of fast-moving climaxes, move at what now seems an extraordinarily gentle pace, with frequent halts for quiet reflection and the pondering of clues. Poor Sarah Lund's life, a century and a bit later, is a nightmare of emails and text messages with the potential to set her haring off in a different direction at a second's notice.

Technology's ability to change how a particular literary art-form works was long ago noted by critics: several of Anthony Trollope's novels, in which a character's fate hangs in the balance merely because a vital witness is abroad, could be exploded by way of a two-minute phone call. With police procedurals, the effect is to take what is already a highly stylised genre and render it yet more stylised.

And so The Killing, with its two plot-twists a minute, is an exercise in pure form, where the rush of information is so unstoppable that the viewer's powers of reasoning hang suspended in the ether. By the end of the opening episode, I was ready to believe anything, and the sight of a rhinoceros in pink tights descending a rope-ladder from Copenhagen Cathedral to expound the philosophy of Kierkegaard would have had me happily nodding my head.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum