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Tuesday, January 6. 2009
I read books at night and go online during the day during little breaks from work. Is exploring the internet reading? I dunno. Some say it's different from reading books. One quote from Christine Rosen on reading in The New Atlantis:
Could be true. We must all have ADD or are thinking about sex all the time, and are only able to learn if we're "really interested in it." Reading and studying are entirely different activities: one is more passive, one more active, as I see it.
Posted by The Barrister in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 09:47 | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)
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" ...you should not be the master”; you should be the student. “Surrendering to the organizing logic of a book is, after all, the way one learns,”..."
I can't go along with this. It is broad statement that does not take into account that many books are filled with filler that isn't worth your time. Also, not every book is worth reading, and as I am the master of what I choose to read, I'll save my time for reading that is worthwhile.
As far as traditional reading, there is too much information out there to stay beholden to the pleasure of a great book in the comfort of your bed. News magazines learned this and now all articles are on sequential pages, and much information is set out in little carefully ordered 'bites' so the reader can stay on one page where his eye naturally picks up everything. I remember dropping National Review because every page was a wall of text, most of it boring as hell. Some newspapers have wised up and lost the two column lead that is continured on 28A where, if you want to follow it, you have to flap and dig and count and search.
"As the report’s authors concluded, with a baffling ingenuousness, “It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.”
My reaction to this in a nation where 'readers' are few, is that this is not a bad thing. We are after a story, information, and just because the way we retrieve it on the Internet is not 'traditional' doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Are we not literate and informed because we 'scan for nuggets'?
I will add this: After I sign off at night, I get in bed with my latest book and lose myself. The pleasure and calm is beyond description. I wouldn't give up either, nor scold myself because I am not 'traditional'. My eyes lock onto information, and I read. That's what counts.
I certainly agree there. Most journalists and novelists are so wrapped up in being a journalist or novelist that they forget that their main purpose is to communicate thoughts, ideas, feelings, etc., not to show off how much crap they can string together. The long wordy novels of the past served a purpose of filling time and entertaining in a world where books were hard to come by and casual contact with people from far away places was rare. The world has changed so much with the explosive interaction of so many different ideas relative to 100 or even 50 years ago and yet these romantic ideas of Reading continue to insist on valuing a means to an end over the end result.
The other great thing about the web is that the communication is (or more like "can be") a two way street. Ideas can be enhanced or dissected more easily by a broader range of people than just those who have influence with publishers.
It amuses me when Wiki gets criticized for being too open, which is a problem with certain volatile subjects, but can you imagine how long it would take an encyclopedia publisher to amass the volume of information we have today, easily indexed and cross-indexed? And we have it right at our fingertips.
Of course everybody's spelling and grammar is going to hell. Gotta take the good with the bad...
I mean, we are talking about the difference between reading text and "hyper" text, right? These are two very different mediums. Who would read them in the same fashion. Plus, if you are a deliberate reader, you already have a variety of approaches to reading to suit your purpose, why would having another approach change anything.
I think Meta touched on the real issue: people who aren't readers are attracted to this medium and their numbers are skewing data used to define what reading is and how it is done.
At the end of the day, it's still better that people come to the web and read something rather than watching TV--albeit marginally better. You can be incredibly lazy online just like watching TV, but the readers will still read.
By the way, I was impressed by Meta's thoughtful response. I don't think I was clear about that in my comment. It obviously informed my comment.
This describes my screen reading behavior. I scan the page looking for useful information and avoiding filler. The internet enables me to scan for information from a multitude of sites in a small amount of time. Sort of like a hunter scanning the countryside looking for prey while avoiding the empty areas.
This computer reading behavior has changed my book reading habits too, as I seem to have less tolerance for reading from beginning to end than I used to. My mind wanders when the story gets slow and I end up rereading the page to get what I missed. Things like the slow, ponderous interviews on NPR have become unlistenable as the information density is too low for my mind to tolerate. I dunno if this is good or bad.
Good point: "the information density is too low for my mind to tolerate. " We've all become like that, and there's no stopping it. Think how our minds have evolved to keep up with the high density flow of information. We can't! Forever, we are The Red Queen, running and running to catch up. Accommodate is about all we can hope for, but it's a neat thing to think of how our brains are working. Very exciting.
Jephnol - Thank you.
Traditional reading has its pleasures, but I am puzzled by the author's belief without evidence that it is superior.
The information density of TV is too low for my mind to tolerate.