I have just finished reading Fahrenheit 451, I can’t believe I haven’t read it before now! It is put in the same category as books like 1984 and Brave New World.
It centres on a future where firemen don’t put out fires, but instead burn books, which are considered dangerous. It is a world dominated by mass media and pointless communication, where being the same as everyone else is what counts; intellectuals and academics are not well thought of, neither is original thought or creativity. The main character’s wife is particularly scary, she lives a hollow existence, mindlessly watching three screens of TV, with pointless dramas that she can’t even remember.
Written before the Internet the book in many ways mirrors what we are seeing today, i.e. a world highly interconnected, with information coming from every direction and a danger of channel hoping and surface browsing, rather than critical reflection and engagement. You can’t walk down the road today without seeing people staring at their phones whilst walking, indeed in the taxi this morning, the driver kept checking his phone for messages, as a result missed a change of lights! Of course the rich media we now have available at our fingertips offer a fantastic variety of ways in which we can interact with materials and communicate and collaborate. I just think we need to be mindful of the dangers of over simplification and remember that we need to develop the appropriate digital literacy skills to harness their potential and we need to be critically reflective on how we engage with them and what this says about our digital identity.