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Harry Potter and Technology

by seanw on July 23rd, 2011

Harry Potter and his fellow characters were born on the page.  The author’s creation was plotted on paper and typed on a manual typewriter.  We first experienced Privet Drive, Hogwarts and the wonders that followed in books that we stayed up late to read, creating the pictures in our own imaginations.

Then came the movies.  Which of course relied heavily on technology for special effects.  The world came alive in a way that would have been impossible without computer animation.  Everyone wondered if the unprecedented success of the books could be matched in the theatre.  And the movies did succeed, driving many to read the books for the first time.

Online communities formed to discuss the details of the series, to guess at back stories and what the future would hold.  JK Rowling opened her own website to join the many others such as Muggle.net.

As we awaited each movie, we watched trailers online, released early enough to build and build the suspense.  We turned to the net to find about midnight openings for the last few volumes, to read interviews with the author that
released little clues.

The generation that grew up with Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron also grew up with the increasing ubiquity of technology.  Cell phones reached younger and younger and their features grew beyond mere phone calls.  The family computer became a family of computers in homes.  Things that their parents considered to be magical were just commonplace to a generation that never had to wonder when their ride home from practice was going to appear.

JK Rowling resisted allowing her books to be digitized. In a recent interview she talked about the feel, the experience of reading physical books.  She also discovered the magic experience of being able to download a book when she needed one on vacation to read to her own daughter.  She announced recently that she was relenting and launching Pottermore.com which will sell ebooks and digital audio versions of the books to fans worldwide.

The excitement following this latest and last film release built to a fever pitch online.  People followed Lord Voldemort on Twitter, created events of Facebook and arranged group meetups at midnight screenings,
watched the London premier on Live Stream and when the night finally came used Foursquare to check in.

For children of the Harry Potter generation, and even for their parents, the experience of losing oneself completely in a book was rediscovered.  All of the hand wringing about screen time and attention spans was matched by the site of kids and adults lining up for the books.  Millions of people have fought sleep trying to read more and more of the addictive pages.  The release of each book and then the release of each movie sent fans back to re-read yet again the earlier volumes so that they are prepared.

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