Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Paper Books and Electronic Books

There are times at Mass where parishioners will take out their smartphones for the lyrics of a hymn,  or the readings for the Mass. Young priests will take their smartphones to the pulpit to help them deliver the sermon. In her column in the Catholic Times a religious sister distinguishes between the paper books and electronic books, and  comes to some interesting conclusions.

She admits when traveling she uses the smartphone for prayers, but after finishing wonders whether she did pray. She feels she has done her duty, and yet she doesn't feel it was a prayer. Was it  because of the distracted environment? No, for when she has complete quiet and alone she has the same feeling. Isn't it the fragrance from the weight of the  book of the Divine Office? In any event she feels that something is missing: whether it was habit, bias or whatever, there is something that she was not able to fill with the use of the electronic book.

With the liturgy, concentration is important. We try to get rid of distractions and focus all our attention on the  words we are reading and let them resonate deep within us, and  allow our faith to confess them. There is not a search for knowledge but meaning in our faith life, and to purify our hearts and spirit. Is the smart phone a hindrance in reading deeply the words in front of us?

The script in a written book and the script in a smartphone is the same all that is different is the container. The medium is different. McLuhan, the media scholar, has left us the famous words: The  medium is the message. The medium is already the message and influences our thinking and in the way we live. Walter Ong the English Literature scholar said the form of the medium contains the substance and  at the same time becomes the contents.

The words we use contained in the smartphone  is the  same container used for music, videos, SNS and  for innumerable amount of information. The use of the smartphone over the years has aroused in us many conscious and unconscious feelings that weaken our ability to concentrate  on what we are doing.

She mentions the studies that  have shown that there is a difference in the results of reading from a book and reading from a smartphone. To day there is an excessive dependence on smartphones. When we want to pray and click on the smartphone how does the brain react? She hopes that we will not abandon the use of paper books, for she sees the loss of our ability to concentrate and to maintain a peaceful interior due in some degree to our use of the smartphones.

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