Written by: Sal Crivelli, Special to CC2K
CC2K's pop-culture editor offers a dissenting opinion about the future of reading.
I would first like to begin by saying I found Beth's article, “Is the Computer Age Killing Reading?” poignant and intriguing. There was an issue she raised toward the end, in which she said, “There’s a whole world of reading out there, and I have to believe that people will find it. Reading will change, but it will not go away.” I found this comment to be the source of a great discussion, and open that opportunity with this piece.
The Computer Age isn't killing reading. Reading is changing.
I would also hesitate to call the era in which we live the “Computer Age,” so much as it is an “Information Age.” We are constantly bombarded by, and seeking out, new and various types of information in all its forms. The fact that not all information is relevant or substantive is contextual, at best. We are living in a time when we find value in everything, thanks to our diversity.
I would submit that reading is certainly no more declining today than it was in the 1990’s. In fact, thanks to the availability of information, I would submit reading is actually occurring more frequently in this decade than the last.
While yes, most people participating in this “Renaissance” of information log onto Wikipedia, Twitter, or Facebook (or any other number of clique-y buzzwords that cement this article in one time period), we also live in a time of internet reporting, where most people log onto Google News or CNN.com and read the news as it happens. The news itself has evolved into further reading, thanks to the linking of relevant, connected articles within articles, leading the reader on a sort-of meandering journey of informational discovery. True, it’s not often quite as inspiring as I suggest, but the phenomena itself is all too real, and all-too necessary. I, for one, find myself accidentally embarking on little “information quests” when I find an article that catches my interest, whether it’s through The Washington Post Online, or CinCity2000.com. I challenge anyone to explain to me the difference between picking and choosing articles from a news source online, and a person flipping to a section of her choice in a newspaper.
Getting back to my previous point about how we seek this information, one crucial argument people forget is that people do not all learn and collect information the same way. Every person has a different learning style, unique to her own personality. One person may learn better from an aural teaching, whereas another might prefer to absorb information through a good book in a quiet corner.
I submit the term “reader” is contextual, and suggest it could apply to anyone who seeks information of any type. Not all people learn best through “reading,” (in the traditional sense). I think it’s why books are made into films, or made available on tape.
I don’t think computers or other various media we’ve been introduced to during our lifetime has devalued or invalidated “the reading experience.” I think technology enhances it, and allows everyone the opportunity to obtain information. It could be that “reading” in its original form is on the decline, due to the prevalence of video games, computers, internet videos and other types of “distractions.” On the other hand, it could be that “reading” has evolved past the need for books, and that what has occurred is a development into a broader, more accepting form, where readers and learners of all types can absorb the same information, but on their own terms.