Is Magic Really Better Than Technology When It Comes To Communication?

By Myt

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.

You may also like...

  • Nyx Seraphim

    Personally I think it’s Rowling’s reflection on how the world treats animals and the environment as a whole. To be blunt, we, as humans, shit on everything that’s good.

  • Jacqueline Frank

    I think the way animals are treated in the wizarding world is just as bad as animals are treated in our world. Why should magical animals be treated better than non-magical? That would be racism towards animals. As long as everyone eats meat, it is just as bad to misuse owls, dragons and so on. They should not be getting special treatment just because they are magical. In my opinion, it is wrong to hurt any kind of animal. Human, non-human or whatever. Anything else, I would call speciecism

  • Mandala Witherwings

    I wrote a song about this exact problem in the wizarding world because the mistreatment of animals is a very common theme. “Be S.M.A.R.T.” looks at the treatment of owls, dragons, and the classroom practice of transfiguring animals in to common household objects.

  • Mariah

    I see your point but I don’t agree with classifying house elves, werewolves, centaurs, and dementors as animals. They aren’t human, but this does not make them animals. They are just other beings.

  • Ida

    Well this is just my opinion, but I think that on the contrary to what has been suggested in the other comments here, eating meat shouldn’t be classified under the heading “animal cruelty and mistreatment”. We can discuss about the conditions in which animals are reared for meat, of course, but not eating meat as such. Let’s not go overboard.nnnAs far as animal treatment in the Potter series goes, I think that overall the underlining thought is that the heroes of the series stand up for proper treatment of animals (unless those animals happen to attack them with the intention to eat/bite their head off, which I think is the understandable exception to the rule). The trio frees the dragon in Gringotts, Hermione fights for SPEW, Harry shows true affection and appreciation for Dobby, Norberta is sent home to other dragons, they all love and care for their pets (Ron might talk against this but of course we know he’s just not that good at showing affection) and the trio stands by Hagrid (the ultimate animal-creature-lover an carer) even at times when not many people do so.nnnI can understand the argument of transfiguration practise being considered cruel, but then again, this is fictional, and in this fiction those transfigurated objects are depicted as happy and lively as ever, skipping around on tables, and not by any means being in pain. If it makes someone feel better, they can imagine, that the animals don’t feel a thing and are always returned to their original form at the end of class. That’s the beauty of fiction.

  • Summer

    For the most part the treatment of animals in the wizarding world seems to parallel their treatment in modern/recent society. They’re used for transportation, as test subjects, and for fighting/protection. What I’m curious about is the source of animal products used for food/potions/clothing/etc. Other than a few mentions of chickens and goats I don’t remember any mentions of animal farming. I wouldn’t expect them to use the same factory farming method that goes on in most developed countries today, but their methods are probably equally as cruel and unnatural. I’m picturing cattle that have been engorged to the size of trucks permanently suspended in midair to save on space and keep their muscles tender. Chickens enchanted to lay dozens of eggs a day. Dragons covered in floppy, cumbersome wrinkles so more pairs of gloves can be made from one hide. The same sad and gross moneysaving tactics modern farms use, but caused by spells and potions rather than artificial hormones and selective artificial breeding.

  • Erin

    One thing that I’ve always found a bit disturbing in the series is the use of animals in transfiguration or charms classes. Their cavalier attitude about transfiguring hedgehogs into pincushions or vanishing mice is a bit frightening. We know that it often goes wrong (e.g. the pincushions curling up when you stick a pin in it) and we are never told what happens to the animals after the lessons. Where to vanished animals go? Do they use the objects after or change them back? And considering how passionate Hagrid and Hermione are about magical creatures, it’s odd that they don’t question this practice. Hermione wants it free the house elves, who seem to enjoy their work at the school (another topic for another day) but she has no problem with the mistreatment if these animals by children in the school.