The Shock of the Old

Edgerton’s The Shock of the Old enlightened me to an interesting problem I’ve had when looking at history. Specifically that it isn’t sequential.

Edgerton’s examination of history is a challenging read, if only for the fact that it almost entirely disestablishes the narrative of chronological scientific advancement as human progress. In fact, some of the most powerful passages in the text relate directly to the fact that so-called progress isn’t actually that progressive. Edgerton’s objective look at historical milestones is both amusing and disturbing in that it points out a flaw in the way we look at history: in milestones, rather than experiences.

By examining concepts like “what makes certain things ‘significant'” and “What is advancement”, Edgerton makes a point to highlight the seemingly forgotten aspects of technology and how it has interfaced with human reality. Examples like Rickshaws experiencing usage growth far past the introduction of Cars into daily life highlight the strange way people perceive history as a concrete, black and white series of steps.

The Shock of the Old had me thinking about how mediums can co-exist in multiple formats , and how things we see as “advances” in social and scientific contexts may only have the ability to exist thanks to the growths of the technology that came before. While Edgerton does briefly mention recent technology’s rapid advancement, I found myself thinking about how play as practice has coexisted with the many different mediums it is used to interface with, specifically Board Games and Video Games. In many cases I think the argument can be made that Video Games are largely a better medium for “games” than most human-enforced play systems, but Edgerton’s argument reminded me that this interplay (game politics?) may in fact be a much larger frustration of technology than I realized.

Just as a strange coincidence, I realized that for the most part, Edgerton’s argument could, with some tweaking, be applied to how Consoles have been marketed. In fact, as we’re in the strange in-between phase where the PS3 and Xbox 360 compete with their newer successors, the PS4 and XBone, I feel there is a lot to gain from Edgerton.

Leave a Reply