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Technology: Muggle Magic

aybala50's picture



           I’ve been trying to think of something to write specifically about Arthur Weasley, but my mind keeps wandering to a broader topic of the similarities and differences I’ve been noticing between magic in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, and muggle (non-magical human) technology. Ok, so magic sounds pretty awesome. I mean you are either born with it or not, but if you are born with it you have all of these powers you can use to simplify life, or just have fun. However, magic also discriminates. If I am born with magic, that’s awesome, I get to do all of the things I mentioned. However, if I am not, I am merely a muggle and nothing else. Then what? I am simple, boring, unprivileged.



            Yet, in the world of a muggle I am more ‘accepted’. I am not speaking for all muggles, just for myself. I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to various forms of technology throughout my life. Also, technology doesn’t discriminate between magical and non-magical people. As seen with Arthur’s purchasing of the muggle car and his ability to use it (even though he alters it with his magic), it is possible for the wizarding population to use muggle technology. A witch can take the subway, but a muggle cannot fly a broomstick. Being magical is privileged. Some of the magical community such as Voldemort believes that this privilege makes magical creatures better than non-magical ones, while the other group doesn’t believe that having magical abilities makes one better than the other.





            Does being a magical person rather than not make someone “better”? What can I not do as a muggle that a magical being can? I can’t transport myself to a different location instantaneously, I can’t fix my broken glasses in an instant, and I can’t use a potion to look like someone else. It seems to me that muggles have created alternatives to magical possibilities such as these. Ok, I might not be able to transport myself like a witch or a wizard, however, I can drive myself somewhere, or bike, or even fly somewhere on a plane. Hence, though not exactly in the same manner, I am still able to get to the destination that I want to go to. I may not be able to fix something that is broken immediately with the utterance of a few words, however I can find someone who will fix it for me. If I want to look like someone beside myself I can’t mix up some ingredients and do this, however, I can alter my physical appearance with surgery.


            What’s up with the owls? It seems to me to be the main communication method for the wizarding world, however; in this case muggle technology seems to be more advanced. If Arthur is looking for his son Ron, he can send him an owl asking him where he is. If I am wondering where my friend is I can just send her a text message and get a response within seconds. I can send someone an e-mail, call her on the phone or have a visual conversation through Skype. There are some exceptions in which some wizards are able to tell a portrait hanging on the wall of Hogwarts to deliver a message to someone in a different location. This is quicker than sending an owl, however it is not possible for just any wizard or witch to do it.

            When I was growing up everything new I learned amazed me and even today I am amazed by the technology that surrounds me. When I first got to play a game on a computer it was magical for me. Today, I am amazed that an e-mail I send to Turkey will arrive almost instantaneously. I don’t understand how exactly this happens, but I know that for it to happen someone must have a pretty good idea as to how it happens. So, it also seems to me that muggles have a better understanding of their magic than the wizarding world. I also feel as though in the wizarding world of Harry Potter understanding how the magic happens does not matter. In my world, understanding how something works by everyone is also not necessary, however it must be understood by SOMEONE in order to work. If no one understood how electricity worked, then a light bulb would be useless.

            Does this mean that though wizards seem superior in their abilities, muggles have a better understanding of the way their surroundings work?  Magic is natural either you have it or you don’t. Technology, or the ability to create it and use it also seems natural. I am still not certain as to how exactly I feel about the similarities and differences between magic and technology, but I do know that they are a lot more similar than I had originally considered them to be. Also, though I always felt that magic in the sense it exists in the wizarding world of Harry Potter seemed superior to muggle technology, I am reconsidering this.



Liz McCormack's picture

magic and privilege

 What I liked most about this paper was it exploration of magic as technology and technology as magic, the similarities and differences you describe deepen our appreciation of both.  The roles of both to shorten time and shrink space--i.e., directly related to our biologically derived human limitations, seems an important commonality.   The privilege associated with natural born abilities like magic creates an opposing stigma for those not possessing them.  Human, Muggle created technologies on the other hand (if one has access to them) can circumscribe these biological biases.  This seems an important distinction with ramifications for our modern world.   What about access to and training in technologies?, could it be a path to equity, freedom, self-actualization?  Is it important to be able to create the technologies, or simply to use them effectively and purposefully?