Tuning Out Digital Buzz, for an Outdated Way of Thinking

(Please excuse me if I sound angry; these types of arguments just annoy me.)

They move through galleries fast and with a new purpose — cellphones in hand, they’re on Instagram treks and selfie hunts — and with a new viewing rhythm: Stop, point, pose, snap.

I’ll just start by saying I hate this article. I hate the wording. I hate the attitude. I hate the way of thinking. I hate that the article sounds like another “them-versus-us” argument about the detrements of social media and those young people are on those darn smartphones too much. 

Although yes, there are people who are just that vain and do go to museums just to take “selfies,” generalizing an entire demographic as attending museums for such reason is… stupid.

Like libraries, they were places where the volume was low, the energy slow, the technology unobtrusive. You came to them to look, to think and, in the days before museums became the prime social spaces they are now, to be alone in a small, like-minded crowd.

Yes, and you also used to pay gas that didn’t make your wallet cry, used to refer to a paper map for driving directions, and used to dial an industrial-grade plastic telephone with a corded handset. So what? What point are you trying to make? That museums are no longer the same environment back in “the good ol’ days?”


My own introduction to art was remote and virtual, at home as a kid, looking through books, flipping pages, stopping when something caught my attention. But what got me hooked were visits to museums, notably the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and seeing crucial features of art that didn’t come through in reproduction.

The attitude this author has is preventing him from realizing this: the same way books motivated him to go out to the museums to experience the real thing, social media is serving for the present generation. He speaks of everything books lacked–scale, experience, texture–without realizing that the “digital photographs” he speaks of are not seen as a holy grail that our generation is using to substitute a live experience. He sites a survey that states the obvious–that people prefer to see museums in person. He ends his argument with, again, the obvious–that photos do not suffice in terms of experiencing art. What he completely fails to see is that us, as “young people,” agree with him as well. I can attest to this firsthand, as my list of must-visit-when-I-have-free-time museums were generated from a friend’s Instagram. Without him, I probably would not have known about the more obscure, local museums outside of the LACMA and the recent Broad-buzz. Furthermore, museums own social media accounts do not supplement a substitute for a real life visit, but rather encourages it, seen below in the Pasadena Museum of California Art’s Instagram.

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Notice a user tagging her friend to actually go to the museum in person (I checked, she’s not old.)

Obviously there is the same motivative quality in social media as the author found in books. Just because we are now in an age of “digital natives” does not mean that all museum goers today lack substance. In fact, the fact that the author has a discouraging tone towards those who do manage to visit a museum in person, assuming and brushing off their motive as vain, only weakens his already ill-focused argument to me. He’s not satisfied with millennial culture making museums accessible online, nor is he satisfied with the reasons that make them want to go in person… What is he trying to achieve?

The only thing this article achieves is perpetuating an unnecessary “us-versus-them” mentality over a subject that is (somewhat) universally agreed upon.  How can you call this good journalism?



2 thoughts on “Tuning Out Digital Buzz, for an Outdated Way of Thinking”

  1. I completely agree that often times reviews or articles written with this attitude, posit that digital photographs are replacing real experiences, and thus there is a lot of meaning lost. I feel that seeing a digital photograph makes me want to experience the real object first hand even more.

  2. I agree with your comments that the writer of the article does seem to have a more closed view of technology. I think it is a view many people in museums have shared and are turning away from right now. I think that the museums that will be successful in the future are the ones that recognize how our generation is dependent on technology and they take advantage of it.

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