Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 23.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Fri, 19 May 2000 06:38:38 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: reading vs clicking vs life
A newspaper story from the Independent, for 18 May 2000.
According to a survey conducted by Book Marketing Ltd
<http://users.londonweb.net/bookmark/> for the U.K. Arts Council-funded
agency The Reading Partnership, the biggest threat to book-reading in this
country is not the Web but the decreasing amount of leisure time. The
survey found that book-reading in the U.K. is still in a very healthy
state: on average, adults read books for 5 hours/week, and 15% for at least
11 hrs/wk. Furthermore, fear that children are growing up more interested
in (newer) technology than books seems to be unfounded. Children read on
average 4 hours/week. After the age of 11 or 12, however, enthusiasm for
reading apparently tails off, esp. in boys, so that by the time they leave
school many are not reading for pleasure at all.
Two anecdotes, with commentary.
(1) Last night at the house of friends I spent about a half hour reading
Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mr Todd to their 4 year-old, who is a *very*
active and technologically engaged child. (In case you who have not read
the story recently, or at all, you should know that it's not an easy listen
for a child of that age.) He sat in rapt attention the whole time. When I
think about the kind and depth of imaginative engagement offered by the
story as opposed to the gizmos he has to play with, why of course there's
no contest. What about when there is a real contest, as surely there will be?
(2) A few evenings earlier I went out to dinner with a friend who works for
an information-management company whose employees as a matter of course are
on the job 14 hrs/day. As we were sitting at table drinking our pints (at
about 8 p.m.), her cellular phone went off and a 15-minute conversation
about a problem at work ensued. It's not as if she or the company for which
she works has a choice in the matter if that kind of employment is to be
maintained, nor can any clear distinction be drawn between her non-academic
job and many if not most jobs within the academy nowadays. What's wrong
with this picture? There's the obvious conclusion to be drawn -- that the
technology really isn't the issue, rather what we're doing with it. Then
there's the cogent objection that the technology embodies tendencies for
change that act on us, as owning a gun tends to result in its use. But more
importantly, perhaps, is the recognition of what we have to work with, our
lives as we find them, in the places where we have washed up, and so the
question, what do we want, how do we use our gizmos to realise that?
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