The absence of hope or the habit of heroism?

Anthony McCarten signs books at the Schools ProgrammeAnthony McCarten’s Schools Programme session from Festival Thursday: I’m sitting looking at my notes, and trying to figure out where to start. Turns out my notes resemble real life in the digital world: fast, furious, and full of brightly intense images and words that flash by even before I can process them properly. So I’m going to take the easy option and do the ‘stream of consciousness’ thing at you.

If you were there, this will hopefully help you remember, and if not, come and find me and I’ll show you my scrawlings! (In conversation afterwards with Mr McCarten’s publicist, she says she might be able to get the full session notes from the man himself, so hopefully we will be able to give you a better report soon – watch this space!).

After a brief introduction from the MC (with the best instruction EVER to an audience, who have gotten into a terrible muddle with no information from the venue about how and when to move between sessions : What are you all DOING? Sit down and be quiet, or I’ll come down there and beat you …), we are off with the opening lines from Anthony, who freely acknowledges that as a 51 year old he knows far less about the internet than they do, but that they need to think of him as a huge fan who is offering constructive feedback about a loved one.  And now the thoughts come thick and fast:

One piece of advice – be nice to nerds. We old folk are now living in the equivalent of Vichy France, occupied in our own country by supposedly benign dictators.  We are saturated with newness, looking at the Kindle-ing of literature (how’s the book? Great – I’m 32% of the way through it). Told to want things we don’t need, and that New is always better than Old, no matter what. Imagine Gutenberg had invented the iPad in the 1400s and that Apple was publicising its brand new invention the Book today.

We are nearing 1 billion Facebook users – the industrialisation of friendship. Alice is in Cyberland. An online life is better, faster, with instant feedback and greater rewards – why wouldn’t you want to live there all the time? The internet today is like drugs and alcohol was to previous generations. BUT when international studies show that teenagers are even losing interest in sex, then clearly we have a problem.

References to Columbine, Virginia Tech and Norway lead to studies on video games and violence, BUT with studies finding no direct causal link between virtual violence and real-world should we worry about games like Doom, Counterstrike, BlackOps or Modern Warfare 3?

Is what we are seeing the Absence of Hope?

The internet allows us to lie, escape reality, hide behind a mask, never grow up, explore every kind of degeneracy, be less innovative, more docile, blind to new ideas, predisposed to be followers and copiers – Log in, imitate, and cop out.

BUT it’s not all bad – technology allows us to do the things we always wanted to do but couldn’t – the internet allows us to travel the world, talk to people everywhere, improve our lives, save the planet: witness the Arab Spring and revolution via cellphone. Computer games teach us co-operation, problem-solving, and the habit of heroism.

It’s too late to turn back the clock, put the genie back in the bottle – like the Industrial Revolution, we can only go forward from here.

We are all nerds now.

One thought on “The absence of hope or the habit of heroism?

  1. rachaelccl 11 May 2012 / 4:18 pm

    I’m intrigued – better grab the copy on the shelf at Upper Riccarton before someone beats me to it!

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