Nothing to see here…
As my friend Lisa Goldman (who pointed me to this photo) put it, I hope that they’re Googling some facts about the baroque masterpiece that they appear to be ignoring. In case you’re wondering, it’s Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.
…or is there? [An update]
Matthias Bauer pointed me to this article in The Uncatalogued Museum, which asks what we see in the picture at the top of this article. Its author, Linda Norris, posted photos taken the same day, showing the kids also absorbed in the art, takes notes on paper, and reading field study guides and other material on the art in the museum. If the kids had their noses in books instead of smartphones, she asks, would we be so quick to roll our eyes?
Yes, smartphones are wonderful devices for entertainment and chit-chat, but as tiny bundles of computing power, networking capability, and all kinds of sensors, they’re also tools for learning, creativity, and getting stuff done. As I said earlier, there’s always a chance that the kids were looking up information on the things they were seeing in the museum. They may have been using their phones as notepads (I do this all the time, as I can back it up, and in the long run, it’s far more portable than a paper notebook). Some of them may have taken photos of pieces they liked, perhaps to enjoy later as “desktop wallpaper”; I myself did this during my last trip to the nearby Dali Museum.
Of course, they may have been chatting with friends or playing the game du jour — and I’d bet good money that at least some of them were. And hey, as a middle-aged force of darkness (it sounds so much more badassed than “person of color”), it’s my right to rant about “kids today”, and especially first-world white kids who get to see some of the world’s most famous chef d’oeuvres on a school field trip.