long-form journalism: a thing of the past?

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A friend shared this link with me and it is very relevant to topics currently discussed in my communications class.

This group is setting out to reinstate long-form journalism, and I think it’s fantastic. They make some really valid points about news today… rapid-fire bits of information that pepper our senses, reaching us through a haze of advertisements that are trying to compete with the news. (Side note: There’s some irony there, I think… advertisers might like to think they are piggy-backing off of a news site’s reach and simply giving people access to information they probably already want, but they are also doing everything they can to distract from the main news. And news sources eat it up for the revenue–plus almost all sites have ads above content.)

Personally, I champion long-form literature and journalism, and you can basically read any previous post about Carr to garner my thoughts about reading online:) I’m interested in doing doctoral research in this area and I’d love to start a nonprofit someday or work with an organization already attempting to change the ever-decreasing interest in long-form reading, especially in youth. Relating to articles we read this week for class, I think dedicating this time is becoming increasingly difficult. “Choosing the Focused Life” talked about essentially working out our brains to be able to focus better, which is great, but I think that will only get more difficult as the media environment continues to develop. In Nick Carr’s “The Shallows”, one prominent graduate from Florida said something to the affect of this: “Why would I ever read a book again when I can just Google it?”

Is long-form reading a lost cause? I see benefits, and research has proved them, but is there any chance of making people (especially youth) see that? And is it something developing cultures should think about as the skip the print era and go straight to digital? How will their individual development differ?

stop what you are doing and read this

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[Stop What You Are Doing and Read This is] a mission statement about the transformative power of reading; about the way it inspires us, the tangible impact it can have on our well-being, the importance it holds for us now and will continue to hold in the future.” — Vintage Books

Nicholas Carr (author of The Shallows and his blog Rough Type) and ten other authors produced essays that came together to form this book about the benefits of reading. The synopsis gives an overview of why the pace and content of novels and poetry are important for our growth and development, and the fact that the book addresses reading through the perspectives of “passionate advocates from the worlds of science, publishing, technology and social enterprise” makes it more enticing. Since it has come up so frequently in my reading lately, I keep reminding myself that reading is still a form of entertainment, though it is so different from digital technology and current trends in its functionality, speed, accessibility, etc. Needless to say, I hope to acquire and read this book!

quote: neil postman

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“… Words may themselves be the agent through which his consciousness is raised. If they appear on a vocabulary list, they surely will not. But if they appear in a context which is filled with importance,if not urgency, they may arouse the sense of curiousity or wonder or need from which durable and profound learning originates.” – Neil Postman, Language Education in a Knowledge Context

e-books for kids

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One of my favorite organizations called First Book has recently released electronic titles in its online marketplace. For a little background information, First Book provides low-cost literature to organizations serving children in need.

They are very excited about this new offering, but I’m undecided. After reading Carr’s research about how e-readers are changing how we read (reviewed in a previous post), I’m less thrilled about the option. There are undeniable environmental benefits, and we now have the ability to provide entire libraries with one device. But aside from the psychological/sociological/physiological effects of this new medium, what about cost? Some might propose providing a few e-readers for a larger population, but research I found a few years back showed that interest in reading was much higher when kids had books of their own (I will dig up this info and add a citation later).

Though I might agree that the benefits of making this material available outweigh any negatives, I’ll be interested to see more infomation on the logistics of how it works.

View the First Book announcement here.

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“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.” – Henry David Thoreau

the shallows: chapter 6

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“The question that remains to be answered… is whether that reading class will have the ‘power and prestige associated with an increasingly rare form of cultural capital’ or will be viewed as the eccentric practitioners of an ‘increasingly arcane hobby.” – Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Books have survived numerous technological advances because none of these innovations could replace reading. Now, this favored pastime is being swiftly out-shone by the internet and e-books, and many people see this shift as a positive one. We are provided with more convenient, less expensive, environment-friendly options for reading – what could be better? But people forget that e-books are not just books by another name; “change in a medium’s form is also a change in its content” (Carr). People wish to take advantage of the opportunities that digital media provide and therefore want links and other extras in the content. While I can understand the draw, adding these features surely changes the overall experience of reading a book.

Carr also discusses a recent Japanese trend I had not heard of – cell phone novels. Authors compose on their mobile devices and upload strings of text messages online. The stories became wildly popular – according to Carr’s research, the 3 best-sellers in Japan in 2007 were written in this manner. A Japanese reporter states that readers are deserting physical books “by professional writers because their sentences are too difficult to understand, their expressions are intentionally too wordy, and the stories are not familiar to them.”

For one thing, Carr makes an excellent point later on the benefits of the published word: “The finality of the act of publishing has long instilled in the best and most conscientious writers and editors a desire, even anxiety, to perfect the works they produce – to write with an eye toward eternity.” Additionally, pardon the digression, but are we perpetuating our intellectual descent by coddling our minds instead of challenging ourselves? Does pure laziness drive our need to provide convenient, easy-to-consume material? Personally, I feel like some of the best things I’ve experienced in life required dedication and a little elbow grease.

“Their arguments are another important sign of the fundamental shift taking place in society’s attitude toward intellectual achievement… In arguing that books are archaic and dispensable, Federman and Shirky provide the intellectual cover that allows thoughtful people to slip comfortably into the permanent state of distractedness that defines the online life.” (Carr)

can one of you take me to the library?

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I was talking to a friend of mine about the decreasing interest in reading (specifically in youth) and she showed me this link. I don’t watch “The Middle”, but this clip is relevant to the things I’ve written about and is fairly funny. Though it puts a humorous spin on an ever-“progressing” and frightening reality, I thought it would be interesting to share.