Abstract: An analysis of communication in both the wizard world and the muggle world.
Of coarse the simple answer for many who are posed with this question, “Is magic really better than technology?” is generally a definitive “Yes…” However I still feel that this is a very debatable question. Another good question would be which is more efficient? With magic you can flick your wand and you have a quill in your hand to write your letter, however in the muggle world, you of course would have to get up and retrieve it. The same point could be made for most kinds of communication.
However, when it comes to communication in the time-frame of these books this might be a harder question to answer. Because of the time the series took place (1990-1997) we would have to exclude the muggle technology of today. In the 1990’s almost every household had a telephone and was able to reach somebody in a matter of seconds. However during that same time in the wizard world owls seemed to be one of the few ways of communication. It’s not clear how long an owl takes to deliver a message but I would assume more than a few seconds. It is even true that a message could be delayed depending on the capability of the owl. So is a telephone superior to an owl when delivering short messages?
Another way of communication was seen in Deathly Hallows (y. 1997) when Kingsley notified the guests at the wedding of the Ministry’s downfall through a Patronus. Considering the patronus’ speed, this seems somewhat similar to an instant message. So why not use this efficient way of communicating instead of owls? Could Patronuses potentially deliver longer messages or perhaps… packages?
Another key mode of communication is seen in Goblet of Fire when Sirius contacts Harry through the fireplace. Once again I ask why is this simple way of communication not used instead of owls? Some simple explanations to this are that it might be an uncomfortable process – getting you head in there, you know – and that perhaps their are witches and wizards without a fireplace. Some other ways of communication that are less common are two-way mirrors, portraits, paper airplanes (seen in the Ministry of Magic), and Protean charms (as used by Dumbledore’s army on galleons).
All the aforesaid forms of magical communication were used in the 1990’s when telephones, emailing, texting, and mail were all forms of muggle communication. However, technology today is very different than it was in the 90’s. That brings up another question – Have there been any magical communicational advances made since the 90’s? The only way to gain this information is by looking at the the epilogue chapter at the end of Deathly Hallows. The only information concerning communication in The Epilogue is that the children have owls and Ginny promised to write them letters. Clearly they still use owl post as a main source of communication.
One can wonder why those in the wizarding world never learned to use iPads and e-readers and the Internet. The conclusion I’ve reached is that wizards have used magic to already accomplish things that iPads can do for muggles. I think they have ultimately found quicker and more efficient ways to communicate and get things done. I think that we both travel the same path when it comes to efficiency – magic folk and muggles – but each group finds different ways to do it. Of course magic is superior to muggle technology. But when it comes to communication I think there are some close parallels.