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Is technology always progress?

March 05, 2011|Meg Partington

When my son recently put his glasses on for the first time, all he could say was "Whoa!"

It was the same reaction I had in seventh grade when the world was transformed from somewhat blurry to dizzyingly clear. I told him I remembered riding in the front passenger seat of my mom's car on the way home from the optician's office and feeling like I was seeing a 3-D movie.

That struck a chord with him, as the world in which he has sprouted is so multidimensional. The only things that are "flat" to him are the ground on which he walks and the screen of the television that provides my husband with all the high-definition sports he can stand.

While there are benefits to having more depth in our lives in terms of sight and sound, there can be pitfalls.

Take, for instance, an Associated Press story published on page B4 of the Feb. 20 Herald-Mail about how 3-D entertainment makes millions of people sick or uncomfortable.

According to the report, optometrists say as many as one in four viewers have problems watching three-dimensional movies and TV, either because they cause eyestrain or because the viewer has problems perceiving depth in real life. At worst, 3-D makes people queasy, leaves them dizzy or gives them headaches.

Those drawbacks aren't deterring those in the entertainment business, which continues to produce more and more 3-D movies and TV shows. Jeff Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc., called 3-D "the greatest innovation that's happened for the movie theaters and for moviegoers since color," according to the AP story.

Nintendo Co. will soon offer a handheld gaming system with 3-D technology. The company does, however, warn that those ages 6 and younger shouldn't play with its 3D games because it might affect vision development, the AP reported.

So is the "wow" factor really worth it? Are movies that feature creatures seemingly jumping into your lap really more enjoyable than those that were shown from projectors? Does surround sound really enhance your appreciation of a piece's melodies or lyrics? Is a basketball game truly more fun to watch when you feel like you can touch the players' sweat?

Maybe.  

I know the world in which we live is all about technology. I grudgingly embraced its inevitable presence in print journalism but have discovered that being a "word nerd" on the Net can be just as much fun as being one on paper. I was proud the first time I successfully posted a photo gallery on The Herald's website, despite grousing about the process, and felt pretty excited when I linked a video to a story for the first time.

Sometimes these advances leave a bitter taste in my mouth, though. People in my career world are losing their jobs as the demand for printing presses diminishes. "Old-school" journalists who don't want to go digital are left in the dust.

I'm young enough and driven enough to take on the challenges that high-tech advancement brings. But there are days when I'm tempted to never again scrub off the ink that stains our pantry door, inside which can be found our newspaper recycling bags. That ink is a mark of pride. It also has some sentimental value, as it reminds me of the period when I was dating the man who now has been my husband for nearly 18 years. The passenger-side front seat of his car at the time was blackened by the ink from piles of newspapers I always had to move if I wanted to sit there.

The brighter hues and depths of today's world surely can be beautiful. But sometimes I still long for black and white.   

A few mornings ago, my son asked me who was in the photograph hanging on the wall of our guest room. An acquisition from one of my aunts who was cleaning out her attic, the 1920s sepia-tone image features one of my aunts and one of my uncles as children in heavy, button-up coats and stocking caps. There's nothing fancy about it.

"It's cool that we have something in black and white," my son said casually.

Indeed it is, son. Indeed it is.



Meg H. Partington is assistant city editor of The Herald-Mail Co. She can be reached Sunday through Tuesday at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by e-mail at megp@herald-mail.com.

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