• 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.

Most Recent: Opinion View Archive

  1. Marcel-ingloriousfruits-itsnicethat-list

    After the Design Museum names its six category winners for the 2015 Designs of the Year, Rob Alderson argues that the victor in the graphics section is a very worthy winner. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below.

  2. List

    Ben Tallon’s new book explores the difficult transition to going freelance which many in the creative world make, and by which many more are tempted. To mark the publication of Champagne and Wax Crayons Ben has written a piece about how he found taking that giant leap. You can add your thoughts below…

  3. Grayson-perrys-dream-hous-007-list

    A few years ago, you wouldn’t have expected Channel Four to show a documentary about a cross-dressing artist making a house in Essex on a Sunday evening. But that’s the magic of Grayson Perry: there’s no such thing as low and high culture, no such thing as people not being “into” art, no such thing as stereotypes.

  4. List_sarah_lucas_i_scream_daddio_its_nice_that_

    One of my favourite exhibitions of the last few years was Sarah Lucas’ Whitechapel show, described by The Guardian as “Breasts, bums, blokes and their bits.” Naturally, I was thrilled when Sarah was announced as the artist creating the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Like the work of Jeremy Deller, the artist chosen in 2013, Sarah’s art can be messy and funny and fearless. It’s hard to make sense of, and big issues are frequently masked with a wry humour. Britain could be said to be the same; for all our perceived stuffiness, as a nation there’s a gloriously dishevelled side – a bold sense of “why the fuck not,” experimentation and our famed eccentricity which has made such a small place such a big deal when it comes to creativity.

  5. Oliviacharlesworth-itsnicethat-1

    At a time when debates surrounding art and design education and the way they prepare students for the creative industries are intensifying, Kingston University tutor Zelda Malan explains why it’s still so important that creative courses continue to teach ideas. You can add your thoughts using the comments thread below…

  6. Marianbantjes-designawards-itsnicethat-list

    It’s design award season (like the film world equivalent but fewer red carpets and more pictures of people staring at posters) and as ever the winners will be much discussed across the creative industries. But genuinely useful advice for those who enter has been thin on the ground, until now. Having relaunched her website, the brilliant Marian Bantjes has also started a new blog (huzzah!) and recently wrote a series of tips for those designers putting their work up for awards, based on her extensive experience as a judge. You can add comments below, or just soak up the wisdom…

  7. Newswall-itsnicethat-list

    Yesterday saw the launch of a brand new form of news presentation by Channel 4 in 4NewsWall – a Tumblr-hosted website dedicated to the day’s top news stories, listed chronologically, with each presented by a GIF. Thought up by 4Creative’s Jack Croft and Stacey Bird and developed by the creative team, it’s flashy, image-led and uncluttered – with each GIF offering a click-through button to a more detailed report – and looks set to be an interesting and exciting progression for news journalism.

  8. Graphicdesign_-opinion-itsnicethat-list

    A couple of months ago there was a lot of interest in this survey in which clients described the four worst types of creative agencies as they saw it. Now we have a chance to hear from the practitioners themselves, by way of Graphicdesign&’s in-depth industry study. Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright have partnered with social scientist Nikandre Kopcke to create a questionnaire which explores “practice, perceptions and prejudices alongside the usual questions about age, education, work and pay.”

  9. List

    It’s fast approaching the time of all-nighters (not the fun ones), tears, last-minute panics and all the other things that come with the end of learning and the impending beginning of the terrifying thing they call real life. But like the mum that tells you you’re always the best and most talented and most beautiful, or the best friend that bursts into your house and pops the kettle on/pours the gin, we’re here to remind you of some of the advice that might be able to help you.

  10. Stevedaniels-hero-list

    There is an awful lot of discussion around starting a new magazine and for many creatively inclined people it remains one of their foremost ambitions. Last week Makeshift founder Steve Daniels wrote an excellent blog about the things to consider when planning a new publication, and in doing so summed up many things we too feel are important. Steve’s now become an advisor to the title he founded, a move which maybe gives him a little extra distance to write “not a guide to the nuts and bolts of finding a printer and selling subscriptions but a contemplation of the major elements that will set you up for success.”

  11. Kingadz-autenticity-list

    In the branding and advertising world, authenticity seems to have become the Holy Grail. Seemingly melded to whatever people need it to convey, it’s become a buzzword whose significance has mushroomed while its meaning has all but vanished. With this in mind King Adz, aka Adam N. Stone – whose new book Unbrandable is out this summer – considers what authenticity really means in a contemporary creative context. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  12. Kinfolk_14.cover

    The latest issue of Gym Class magazine has an eye-catching cover; with bold block capitals on a black background spelling out: “Nobody cares about your oh-so-cool, Kickstarted, tactile, minimalist unoriginal magazine.” It’s intended as a “call to action,” Gym Class editor Steven Gregor told MagCulture, “make magazines, and make them exceptional.”

  13. Applewtach-list-int

    The Apple Watch was officially unveiled yesterday (as was a super-thin 13.1mm new MacBook) and as ever the internet is awash with run-downs and reactions slobbering over the new products. For Wolff Olins design director Jan Eumann though, the imminent arrival of the new timepiece got him thinking about logo design, and in particular how app buttons have rehabilitated the logo. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…