• Opinion-top
Opinion

Opinion: Is the iPhone threatening to kill off toilet literature?

Posted by Maisie Skidmore,

This week, editorial assistant Maisie Skidmore questions whether the iPhone is killing those high-brow cultural outlets labelled toilet literature. As ever, you can join discussion in the comments section below!

The National Geographic makes for excellent toilet literature. It’s dominated by awe-inspiring photographs of people, places and animals that you’ve never seen before. The imagery is artfully interspersed with fascinating snippets of information (“Why do narwhals have tusks?” or “What does a 2,000 year-old Roman shipwreck look like?”) It does a great job of proving to anybody who might be visiting you that you’re the National Geographic reading type, and that you choose to improve your otherwise limited brain while hanging out on the throne. You’re efficient, and worldly. You know a lot about climate change.

For years now the National Geographic, alongside the likes of Time magazine and Art Review, has been bringing culture to time-spent-on-the-toilet worldwide. It brings some sophistication to going for a wee. And it’s come under threat in recent years due to the arrival of the iPhone.

What exactly does the iPhone offer to the act of going to the toilet? Suddenly, a whole generation of people have every corner of the world wide web at their fingertips, and what’s more, while you might be too ashamed to slink off to the bathroom for a short stay with a laptop cradled under your arm, nobody’s going to look twice at the phone sitting quietly in your back pocket and guess that you’re in for, ahem, a long stay.

And the reading material that this handheld device proffers? It’s a far cry from the high-brow information that toilet literature can offer. Arguably Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are the principal culprits for useless time-wasting, but swift on their heels come Reddit, OMG Facts and Buzzfeed, and a load of sites chockablock with memes and funny pictures and trashy gossip about celebrities.

I mean, I’m happy to admit that the death of toilet literature might not be a cultural emergency along the same lines as, say Edward Snowden’s discoveries about the U.S.A., or the economic crisis. But the ramifications for a generation who have even less contact with the high-brow media outlets our parents and grandparents happily subscribed to… Well, it’s saddening, at the very least.

Rather than emerging proudly from the loo to announce to the living room that a newly gained crumb of information about the new discoveries surrounding the Big Bang, you’ll leave it having retweeted a meme of a sloth whispering something sleazy into a model’s ear. And if you know the one I’m on about, maybe it’s time to subscribe to the National Geographic.

comments powered by Disqus
Ms-300

Posted by Maisie Skidmore

Assistant Editor Maisie joined It’s Nice That fresh out of university in the summer of 2013 and has stayed with us ever since. She has a particular interest in art, fashion and photography and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast. She also oversees our London listings guide This At There.

Most Recent: Opinion View Archive

  1. List

    In light of our recent changes and the launch of the new-look Design Observer, Rob Alderson reflects on design websites’ redesigns. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below, and we’re particularly keen to hear what you’re making of our new look!

  2. List

    This week James Cartwright wonders what the V&A is up to with its policy of “Rapid Response Collecting” and whether it really marks a shift in their curation policy. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.

  3. List

    This week Rob Alderson considers the aftermath of the disastrous Robin Thicke Twitter Q&A and wonders how it was ever signed off when what was going to happen seemed entirely predictable. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.

  4. Opinion-list

    This week assistant editor Maisie Skidmore asks what makes a good group show. Are they really all they’re cracked up to be, or are they poised for failure? Tell us what you think of them and which you’ve been to that were especially brilliant or terrible in the comments section below.

  5. Main

    This week online editor Liv Siddall wonders if anyone actually enjoys the huge amount of wacky summertime events that are on offer in London. As always your comments and opinions are welcome below.

  6. Main

    This week, editor Liv Siddall gets excited about the upcoming ELCAF festival in London, and tells you all sternly why YES it is very important that we keep going to live events surrounding graphic arts and comics.

  7. Top

    This week Nat Hunter, director of design at The Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (RSA) and a trustee of D&AD, welcomes awards being given to projects that make a real difference. It might mark, she believes, a fundamental shift in the design world. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below.

  8. Main

    This week our Editorial Assistant Madeleine Morley reflects on her four weeks at It’s Nice That but wonders if the fast turnover of creative content online is really a good thing. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to join in the conversation below.

  9. Main1

    This week Apple turned down an application for an app that promotes female masturbation on the grounds that it’s inappropriate. Liv Siddall wonders whether, despite the criticism over the design of the app, that was really the issue here. As always, get involved with your own comments below.

  10. Opinion

    This week Rob Alderson looks at actors who were too good-looking for the roles they played and asks Hollywood to give viewers a bit more credit. As ever you can join the discussion below.

  11. Main

    Two years ago when this Opinion feature started, Rob Alderson wrote a piece about the rampant rise of the “must-see” culture; shows which the media’s frenzy makes you feel like you have to go and see. Hands up who found themselves queuing for the Bowie show at the V&A without knowing much more about him than just the chorus to Life on Mars? Me. Who queued bottom-to-crotch in the rain with about 1,000 grumpy pensioners to catch a glimpse of Hockney’s A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy? Also me.

  12. List

    We really enjoyed this year’s Pick Me Up festival (as you can see from our glowing review) but others were not so convinced. Here Lawrence Zeegen, dean of design at the London College of Communications, argues that the graphic art world needs a wake-up call.

  13. Main

    This week we are privileged to reprint some of the thoughts of branding legend Wally Olins, who died recently aged 83. Tributes poured in from across the creative industries after his death, made all the more poignant by the introduction to his book Brand New : The Shape of Brands To Come which was published only last month. He rounds off the book’s foreword saying: “I am writing about it all now, because I won’t be here to see it and listen to people telling me how wrong I was.”