In an article posted in the BBC News Magazine today: BBC NEWS MAGAZINE
Prof Lisa Jardine tells us how New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik uses the argument that Harry, searching for the alchemical origins of the Philosopher’s stone, would not have gone to the library at Hogwarts, but rather just ‘googled’ it.
Fair point, even if google was in its ante-natal phase when the book was published, you might think. He goes on to argue that any reader these days might expect a quick keystroke to reveal instantly what was hidden in the pages of the restricted section of Hogwarts’ library. The argument from Mr Gopnik is that we now live in a different world, a world where all information is just a click away.
I am not convinced.
Unless I am much mistaken, we all bought in to the fact that telecommunication was a no no in the magical world. Who needs email when you can use an owl? Who knows, natural progression might have resulted in a magical internet where one might Moogle instead of Google. And I disagree with Adam Gopnik. Someone coming to the Harry Potter books now for the first time would have no difficulty in abandoning the world wide web. Even if harry could have moogled, The Ministry of Magic would have made laws stopping people from moogling, “spell to make someone shut up permanently”, wouldn’t they? Otherwise, society in the magical world would fall apart.
But as an author of mystery books, not all of which have the advantage of a world where owl communication is the norm, it is now becoming even more of a challenge to find ways of hiding knowledge so as to make the story more interesting. Secrets, of course, are our most valuable tool.
In the world of The Obsidian Pebble, Oz Chambers is forever googling for knowledge, but even so, when things have taken place in BGD (before Google days), we rely, as we always have, on History—and that means someone’s take on what happened. These days, we can see the happenings on YouTube and make up our own minds. Although we can look up what happened in 1761 in the Bunthorpe Encounter (See The Obsidian Pebble) or the 1215 signing of the Magna Carter on the world wide web, we read about what happened as a distilled thread spun from what evidence was available at the time, but we won’t be able to see it for ourselves. There is still a lot of scope for secrets and lies, the bread and butter of intrigue and mystery, stuff that I, and authors like me eat for breakfast.
So HP might have search engine’d Nicholas Flammel, but he still would have had to find the stone, duh!
Google is great, but give me secrets and lies any time.