This document is a cartoon published in the Houston Chronicle by the cartoonist Nick Anderson. Anderson is a renowned cartoonist, who has published in famous newspapers such as The New York Times or The Washington Post. He is also a winner of the famous Pulitzer prize. The date is not stated in the cartoon itself, although it's clear that it was published in the twentieth century. The cartoon deals with a much debated topic on a humorous key: the benefits of technology.
The cartoon is made up of a drawing and a caption, representing a classroom, probably in elementary school. In the background we can notice a blackboard and a teacher sitting by her desk with the typical apple. In the foreground there are three students, two of them listening to the other, who is putting his hand up and formulating a question: "How come Lewis and Clark didn't just use MapQuest?"
We can guess the scene takes place in a history class in the United States of America, because Lewis and Clark were two famous explorers of the nineteenth century who were sent by president Jefferson to explore and map the newly acquired territory.
"MapQuest" is a free online mapping service.
The cartoonist suggests that technologies have had an important impact on our lives. Indeed, that is what the little boy implies when he asks what is evident for him: why didn't they just use a device provided by technology to help them with their task, instead of having to travel through North America mapping the whole country precisely? The author's aim is therefore not to critize but merely to show how much technologies have changed our everyday lives. Anderson is playing here with a child's innocent question to add the humour touch he needs. Maybe he wished to convey, on a deeper level, the fact that we are unaware of the importance of technology in today's world. In other words, he might be implying that we take technology for granted and that we cannot begin to imagine how our lives would be like without it.
On the whole, the message put across by the cartoonist would be the power of technology nowadays, which allows us to do things in a much shorter space of time, or simply with less effort than before. Although this could be considered as the principal message, there might be another message, much more implicit message. Anderson could be suggesting that society and particularly young boys and girls do not realize the benefits of technology and take it too much for granted.
I personnaly believe that this cartoon has been very carefully thought-out. Anderson has made an effort to represent what a regular american elementary school class would look like: the scene could take place in any school in the USA. The situation might be a bit exaggerated; any kid these days knows that in the nineteenth century computers or internet didn't exist. But then again, humorous cartoons tend to exaggerate in order to accentuate precisely the humor of the whole situation. In my personal opinion, the cartoon does convey its message effectively and is likely to amuse its readers.
I agree to a certain point with the author, indeed, technologies have a positive side, and therefore do make our lives beter and easier. But it's important to remember that they have a down-side aswell: technologies like smartphones or social networks can cause addictions and alienation from the real world.
Finally, this cartoon shows how, in a way, humanity has been spoiled by technology and how many could not live without it. Technologies are a wonder created by humans, indeed, but it seems that we have forgotten that it is fairly new, and that most of Humankind's history had taken place without any high-technology whatsoever! Indeed, this cartoon shows a postive side of technology.