Tales Told Around the Campfire

Two articles in Thursday’s paper threw strange and contrasting light on the disruptions that are buffeting our media landscape. In the ’80s, established media professionals thought that the VCR was changing everything. But VCRs were a minor blip compared to the tectonic shifts that the internet, and particularly the mobile net, are creating today.

The first article looks at how mobile devices and social networking are disrupting parent-child relationships. The kids know their parents are addicted to their gadgets, just as they know when caregivers are addicted to alcohol. And when parents declare a time out from their iPhones and Blackberries, young kids don’t complain, they celebrate.

The second article reminds us not of how new all this is, but of how much we still fit into history. Thousands of years ago roving poets — “tellers” — went from village to village and recited their memorized songs to rapt audiences gathered around fires. Today, in Haitian refuge camps, where people live in tents and media is nonexistent, new tales are being told — soap operas produced locally and projected on screens outdoors at night.

Wherever our fascination with mobile devices takes us, stories — stories told by people to people — still have the capacity to keep us sane. When everything else is stripped away, that’s what we media professionals are hopefully engaged in — connecting to the depths of whatever it is that makes us human.

The details are here: Haiti’s Displaced See Their Stories on TV and The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In

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