Recently a fellow went through every episode of the series Law & Order and documented every computer visible on screen. That’s twenty years of change from a box in the background–as often off as it was turned on–to something casually ubiquitous as light bulbs and cars. There’s a piece in The Atlantic if you’re curious.
Also at The Atlantic, a series of snapshots of famous writers and their bicycles. Tolstoy with a bike. Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife on a big-wheel tandem. Thomas Hardy.
I was surprised, re-reading Dracula, to note that Jonathan Harker’s journal was “Kept in shorthand” while Dr. Steward’s diary was “Kept in phonograph.” The lawyer and the scientist. Technology at work in the background.
Our technology, our artifacts, our tools and creations are part of the world. They are an expression of human nature, and no less “natural” than the artifacts of time and tide. While technology can overshadow art (how many–other–characters do you remember from 2001, A Space Odyssey?), and gadget-centered works don’t always wear well, avoid the props and scenery of daily life and we miss a lot of its poetry.
Today, write something that includes–but does not center on–artifact, technology, gizmo, gadget, instrument. Let it be a telling detail that would “date” your piece if you weren’t also telling us something important and universal (or otherwise entertaining us).
Bring on the drones and corkscrew lightbulbs, the tweet, the text and the Tesla–like robins and clouds.
(If you want an example of a master, check your preconceptions at the door and spend some time with Norman Rockwell.)