Eight-Year-Old Daughter: Dad, sometimes my brain feels like a computer.
Me: In what way?
Daughter: Well, when I’m thinking about something from a movie, or from real life, it’s like I’m visiting a lot of web pages, going deeper and deeper into the computer.
I don’t remember saying something similar to my father at that age, but if I had, books and libraries would probably have been the metaphor I’d have reached for.
This in the week when Karen Schneider wrote that “[t]he paper-based book is already a metaphor; books are now born in digital format.” We help our poor paper-based brains comprehend the nature of this new form of text by saying “it’s like a book, except…”. Can it be that in a single generation, age-old metaphors like the “book of nature” will be inverted? Perhaps when they encounter this in, say, Galileo, the kids will explain to each other: “For them, the book represented a rich, coherent, navigable body of knowable stuff, the way the web does for us.”
I wonder how this will affect their view of the world. One possible example is that evolutionary theory will come more easily to them than to us. In a book-based metaphor, coherence is the result of design, imposed by an author; in the web, coherence emerges through use and requires no designer. For us the book has always been a stronger metaphor than the library; for them, though, it seems, the web will be stronger than the website, just as it was the navigability of websites that made the point of my daughter’s metaphor.
These are interesting times, all right. I should start keeping a diary.
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