Monday, January 22, 2007

Throughlines: A Book in the Hand...

Throughlines: A Book in the Hand...

Debates about the "death of the book as we know it" occur frequently. This one is more thoughtful than many, I think. Once you read what Schauble and Richardson and others have to say, I'd be interested in knowing what you think. Is reading on the web "just different" or is it so different that new generations of readers will not be able to compare their web-prevalent reading to book-prevalent reading (as their predecessors perhaps can), resulting in an ultimate loss?

7 comments:

A.M. Strzyz said...

I am very intrigued with this idea, and I wonder what research has been done on this subject. Personally, I have been thinking about this quite often since our class. I am currently sitting in a local coffee shop and have been observing two readers. Coincidentally one is reading an article online and the other is reading a book. I was thinking about them both before I read this post and I found myself wondering about the "death of books". I like being able to see what others are reading (sorry to all those who I have spied on). I can do this more easily with a book. So, from a purely selfish stance, I do not want to see the death of the book. It would make me sad to not be able to scribe poems or create characters (most of which never find thier stories) based on their reading choices. However, I know that electronic texts have opened reading to more people - whether that be superficial reading or not. While I would agree that the depth is lost with so much information to scan, I see people who never read become engaged with words. Which is more important? Or, more specifically...Which is more important in the educational domain and which is more important in our lifeworld domain?

Monique Pawlowski said...

I also thought about books vs. online texts during and after class. During the summer of 2005 I attended DU's Publishing Institute where editors and writers and illustrators and CEO's from both coasts flew in to discuss the publishing world. I remember we had a woman speak (I think she was from Sourcebooks) about online books and how their company had faith that the market would expand and the public would grow to love them. Someone from my class asked what the reaction has been like so far, and the woman was hesitant but honest, saying they haven't caught on yet. She attributed this to readers' desire to touch what they're reading, smell the yummy "new book" smell, own a physical copy of something they paid for, etc. For me, her lecture only emphasized my belief that in a world that continues to move faster and faster and technology that continues to advance, people will want to escape into the physcial pages of a book more often than into the virtual pages on a computer screen. That will remain my preference, anyway.

evn said...

it occurred to me during last class that all the differences between electronic and paper texts discussed are little more than state of technology. right now, we don't have a way to read electronic texts that is as comfortable, practical or visceral as that of reading a real book. there is movement in that direction, though, and none of the attributes of reading a book are beyond the imagination of electronic and chemical engineers. there may be something that we understand about a book that we will be aware of when reading electronic texts, that will disallow full acceptance of the electronic text as comparable, even if there is no sensorily evident difference (perfect mimicry of book-like reading experience.)i think that will be limited to two generations after electronic texts take over. we all are thinking in terms of the past and the present. the people that will either accept or refuse the domination of electronic texts will not be limited by this point of view. they will know only a world in which electronic texts are just as good as paper in every sense and better in many other senses. consider the attitudinal changes that have occurred in regard to computer use and the internet. just ten years ago, the internet was considered a limited fad that could only serve for business and research needs. today, many people live completely within these systems. only their physical bodies really interact with the non-electronic world. the electronic infiltration into more and more aspects of our lives shows no signs of slowing, and this blog to which i am commenting and by which i have gained a voice is evident of this change that each of you is already embracing, however reticent you may think you are.

dan said...

“By 2014 we will have reached the end of the print era for most learning content. Digital content will have become the predominant medium for learning resources. Print materials will be the exception” (Stallard, Cocker 2001).

“It has never happened in the history of humanity that the introduction of a technological means killed off all the practices of the previous means…” (Umberto Eco: (Origgi 183)

As readers of a multitude of material texts, powered by as many different forms of rhetoric, we have undoubtedly been exposed to the linear rhetoric of numbers and sequential thinking. Yet, as video games and multi-user communication platforms have been integrated into our day to day lives, the common rhetoric of print communication is rapidly becoming insufficient to describe the digital experience. “The numerating linear rhetoric of “first, second, third” so well suited to print will continue to appear within individual blocks of text but cannot be used to structure arguments in a medium that encourages readers to choose different paths rather than follow a linear one. The shift away from linearization might seem a major change, and it is, but we should remind ourselves that it is not an abandonment of the natural,” (Landow 109) says George Landow, author of Hypertext 3.0 and professor of English and art history at Brown University. As constant learners and adaptive creatures the human race does not always learn in a manner we could describe as consecutively linear. Many times we skip steps in the learning process either by relying on intuition, by substituting prior knowledge, or by integrating our own past experiences or those of others.

Bruce Schauble said...

Hi Louann,

Welcome to the blogosphere, and thanks for linking to a couple of my posts.

In answer to the question you pose here, I certainly think that the two kinds of reading are comparable, and that the emergence of the new kind of reading offers us a chance, once we have experienced it, to come back to the physical experience of book-reading with a new perspective, which is potentially a very good thing. But as we deal more often, as I think we now are, with students who don't have much of a book-based experience to begin with, part of our job as teachers is going to be to try to help them work from what they do know how to do well and like doing to what they don't know how to do well and don't like doing. That's going to have a lot of implications for the what kinds of texts we choose, how much time we spend on them, and what processes they're going to need to practice that we might at one time have been able to assume they already knew.

Over the last ten or fifteen years I've noticed in my own classes that I've been moving, slowly but steadily, in the direction of fewer texts and more processing time in the form of directed assignments, lit circles, process reflection papers, and so on. I've found my students are generally quite willing to accept the proposition that there are reading skills they just don't have that would be useful to them if they were to get them. But it takes time and patience and practice to get there, and their lives, like yours and mine, are filled with agenda items that because they are immediate and often easier drive the long-term, slow motion things off the table. I start the day now by checking email and scanning Google Reader inbox. The items move by quickly, and I get a sense of accomplishment as I knock things off one at a time. How would my life be different if I spent the first hour of every day reading, say, George Eliot or David Eggers? (I'm reading What is the What? now, and it's pretty amazing.) And how much harder would it be for one of my students to make that choice?

Hogpen said...

I've read of a series of caves in the south of France with paintings on the rock walls. It is some of the oldest written language in the world. As I understand it, a young man about to enter into adulthood, taking on more responsibility in the this culture, entered this cave during a ritual that was supposed to act as a sort of rebirth into another stage of life. The discription of the ritual I've read in the palm of my hand supposedly totally enveloped the young reader and marked him with a permanent changed.
The point being that the web has enlarged our world, like the printing press before it, which increased literacy levels in many societies. Reading in the book form opened my mind to an ancient culture reading the walls of caves in the South of France. Who knows where the web and other technological innovations will lead future generations? Maybe print media all together will become in time viewed as ancient practice from archaic times and anthropologist will talk of the lost mediatational experience found in reading a book. In any case, it all seems fantastic to me, in every sense of the word.

dan said...

http://www.eastgate.com/catalog/PatchworkGirl.html

This is a link to one example of a hypertext novel created specifically for reading on the web. There are a multitude of new genre possibilities when considering what you can include in a "novel." sound, images, video clips, reader influlenced plot line and story development...