“Tradition meets modernity” was a phrase I used a lot back when I was an anthropology PhD student. It sounds super jargony, but it basically refers to the blending of old traditions with new ways of life. Sometimes they coexist harmoniously, and other times the juxtaposition can be contradictory. In grad school I used the phrase to describe modern Iran, where young people embrace a 21st century life while living under a regime that upholds antiquated religious law.

In our changing landscape of communications technology, we’re inundated with so many examples of tradition blending with modernity. I mean, using your smartphone to listen to the radio? That’s a funny concept. What about using a manual type-writer on your iPad? That’s just ridiculous.

manual typewriter for ipad

I often wonder what all these technological changes must be like for older generations. It’s hard enough for me to keep up with all this stuff, and I’m 28 and reasonably tech savvy. It’s easy to assume that older people are just getting left in the dust with all this.

But recently I was at a restaurant sitting near a table four seniors, probably in their 70s and 80s. My ears perked up when I heard one of them mention the Kindle. At first I thought they were talking about how they didn’t really get the concept of it, but I quickly realized that they were actually defending it. Why? Because it enables them to enlarge the text, so they can read much more easily than they would with a hard copy book.

It’s interesting that something as old and familiar as reading a book can be hindered by age, only to be resuscitated by a newfangled technology like the Kindle. But the most interesting thing of all is that while the Kindle wasn’t specifically developed for seniors, it is now being embraced by a demographic whose needs are often ignored in the digital media world.

I don’t know if that’s exactly tradition meeting modernity, but it is definitely an interesting (and harmonious) blend of old and new.

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