On the left, young visitors to Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum sit with their backs to Rembrandt's Night Watch, arguably his most famous painting, which was completed in 1642. Staring into their smartphones, they could be anywhere: at home, at school, on the subway, asleep.
This picture has been making the rounds online, evidence of an increasingly recognizable and yes, all-too-common behavior. (One person proposed the comical, if unlikely possibility that these kids were focusing on the painting's QR code.) What does 1642 mean in 2014 and how are they supposed to relate to it?
The photo on the right shows a feeding frenzy of a different sort: tourists not looking but instead, feverishly snapping pictures of the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's 16th-century masterpiece, on a recent afternoon in Paris at the Louvre. These people are “relating” by taking their own pictures of the most famous picture in the world.
Screens are like crack: addictive, antisocial, relentless in their sly, psychological pull. Tecnological progress is clearly not the same as cultural progress. Which is tragic. And also, true.