Thursday, April 14, 2011

Technology in Stories Today

Technology is evolving so rapidly that a story written a year ago including then-modern technology may become culturally irrelevant today. Of course this is not the only thing that changes with time and makes old stories a bit stranger to read (slang, obsolete references etc.) but technology is by far the most rapidly changing, so the question is; where does technology belong in stories today?

This idea struck me as an important topic while I was watching the movie Burlesque  (a movie in which Christina Aguilera decides that the best possible career to aspire to with her amazing singing and dancing talent is to work as a singer/dancer at some funky pseudo-gentleman's club called Burlesque) which by all accounts could have been set twenty or thirty years ago with the exact same plot and dialogue. A positive way of looking at this is that it's what people call "timeless". The only indication throughout the movie that it was set in the present day was the cars, some buildings, and a cell phone or two that were never used on-the-go, and were for some reason used exclusively for verbal communication; two things that a house phone could have easily replaced.
Could children of today identify with this? For example: at the end of the dancer's shifts they were talking about going to get pizza together, they decide they will do so and leave. That's exactly what happened. What's missing? Not a single one pulled out a cell phone and began texting her other friends. Not a single person was seen texting at all, and as any young person today knows; texting is as abundant and natural to see as walking nowadays.

Okay so that just sounds like nitpicking. Still you certainly must see my point. When do you use technology in a story to make it more authentic, and when do you ignore it in order to focus solely on the story? On the other extreme of my Burlesque example is a movie that came out in 2004 called Cellular which revolved its entire plot around the evolving technology in cell phones and how they can both help and hinder the progress of a man's rescue mission in various creative ways (a low battery becomes a desperate chase for a charger, and redialing a received call from a bad guy loudly announces his hidden position with his ringtone) . Unfortunately time has yet to tell which movie will appear more outdated; the one with no modern technology, or the one with.

It's clear that either way, technology must be considered. Even though Burlesque didn't use cell phones in any meaningful modern way, it didn't need them either. Meaning that there was never a point in it with a  problem that could have been solved by a cell phone (like a "where did they go?" thing).

So what's my stance in all this? Personally I think a good story doesn't need to consider modern advances in technology unless the technology is so incredibly common, and a problem could be so easily fixed by them that it becomes ridiculous to ignore it. What I'm saying is that if technology is to be used, it ought to be used to enhance the story. Then again everything in a story ought to be for that purpose.

If all else fails, set the story in the 1990's.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think that the technology should be considered based on the setting of the story. And with that the setting should be clearly identified.

btw, in your second paragraph you have the word duologue and I think that you mean dialogue