The Diamond Age (Or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer)

When we were talking about novels that featured augmented reality, Anthony brought up one of my favorite novels in the comments: Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age (Or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer). In it, a girl named Nell gets a world class education through the use of an interactive book (the illustrated primer of the title). I’ve been thinking about The Diamond Age a lot as we’ve been talking about Ender’s Game as both use video games as teaching technology. They also both use tablet-style computing of the iPad variety (Ender’s “desk” sounds a lot like an iPad to me).  Most significantly to me, they both incorporate direct interaction with another person in ways that appear to be simulations (the bit at the end of Ender’s Game where it’s revealed that one of the Bugger queens was trying to communicate with Ender through the psychological game). These interactions are part of what makes the experiences rich. Particularly in The Diamond Age it appears to be a statement about needing interpersonal interaction regardless of how complex and immersive a given simulation might be (or at least that’s always been my interpretation–if anyone else has read it and wants to weigh in, I’d love your take on it).

Speaking of The Diamond Age and teaching technology: I saw video of the PhoneBook product below from Mobile Art Lab for the first time a few years ago. As these videos were going around, a lot of the comments mentioned that it made viewers think of The Diamond Age. In fact, when I was searching for a video to add to this post, I looked for “diamond age iphone interactive book” and got one of the videos as the first result in a Google video search:

Some of the gameplay still seems to be of the spinach sundae variety, but it’s still pretty cool.

Incidentally, I realized today that I first read both of these novels when I was a junior in college, which is kind of fun since so many of the people taking this class are juniors and seniors. I’ll talk about Stephenson more when we get to Second Life (you can’t talk about Second Life without talking about Snow Crash).

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Redhead
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 21:19:42

    that phone-book thing is just brilliant! and i am SO putting Diamond Age in my TBR stack. I bought it last year, but haven’t even picked it up yet.

    I remember starting SnowCrash, and thinking that it was very second life. I got distracted and never finished that one.

    Reply

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