The line between magic and technology seems to have more to do with TIME and less to do with reality. For many of us, technology that we use, but do not understand, has a magical quality and virtually every dramatic innovation or over-the-top invention has had a sense of magic about it.
I was thinking about how technology changes the way stories are told when I stumbled upon a Magic Lantern (Laterna Magica) at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It’s a 17th century image projection system. Until that chance encounter at the museum, I’d never seen nor heard of a Magic Lantern and I was immediately entranced.
The lantern uses images painted on glass, projected through a concave mirror and a lens using a light source (originally candles or oil lamps) to project pictures onto a screen. Moving images could be created by using two slides (one moving and the other still) and a hypnotic sense of movement could be created by hand cranking rotations of a series of abstract patterned slides in bright colors. It must have looked like the patterns created by a kaleidoscope, only bigger.
Magic lanterns were used by magicians and by storytellers for entertainment and “education.” Early uses included dramatic pictures of demons—horror movies/dire warnings about straying from the path of righteousness—complete with special effects!
In the 21st century, we can carry entire libraries of stories in a digital package the size of a 20th century paperback book. We tell entire stories in short blog posts and conjure spirits in 140 character messages.