Monday, December 12, 2011

The Stories We Tell

We are bombarded with images every moment of everyday. Even as I write this I find myself looking at images on the web, watching TV. While doing this, I’m also looking up music, checking facebook and tweeting on the side. Not only has imagery become dominating, but we also have massive amounts of media and information distracting us as well.

This does leave little room for the reading of books to get our entertainment and information, but is the written word dead?


Although, as I see it, our visual culture has cut down on the amount of books being read, I think it has increased the numbers of stories being told. Instead of now sitting down and reading a traditional book, we scour the internet, reading stories of other peoples lives, the experiences they have, living vicariously through the images we see. Globally we are exposed to all different cultures and occurrences. World news is at our fingertips. The images and visuals that we are exposed to each day drive us to read, to explore and to experience stories in a whole new way.


    I feel that it is true that we don't read books as much. I feel like everything is becoming so simple visually. I feel like it is already affecting our society. Nearly everyone uses some kind of social network online and the majority of the content is visual.
    I feel like it's a good thing in some aspects, we are learning to communicate visually, however I do feel like there are some drawbacks. We do not read as much as we used to. I feel like the vocabulary of this current society is dwindling and I feel like it will continue to get worse.
    The visual culture has also made us a little lazy in terms of digesting text. When I open an email and it is really long I have no motivation to read it. Part of me just wants the summary of long text in one line, so I don't have to read. I am trying to combat this. My wife reads tons of books and every now and again we will go to Barnes and Noble to get a book each, however so far I haven't finished any of them. I prefer picture books!
    I believe that if you read and fill your head with more than visual things you will have more of an advantages in a lot of things. With more knowledge you have more potential for creativity, because there's more ideas in your head and sadly the future society won't have that potential if they can't sit still and read. So it's my goal to do that.
I think it is true. While books will never completely disappear more and more people will turn to visuals for entertainment, news, reports, etc. We've seen this for a while now as more and more books are being turned into movies and those movie sales surpassing the books sales most of the time. I think it will affect the future society for good and bad. Good, because we will see amazing things done visually that people have never done before. Bad, because people will become less rounded. Reading is always a great way to keep your imagination going and I feel for the most part people will lose that part of them and it will affect their creative work. I think that the people in the future who maintain a good habit of reading will be the ones who will produce the more creative work, visual or copy.

R.I.P. books

From my perspective there is no doubt that our culture reads less books than previous generations. But, is this due entirely or even mostly to our society being more visual or other factors? I would argue that the main reason we read less books is because we have become so fast paced and books take time to read.

I would also say that our society may read less books but does not read less. There are just many more mediums than there used to be, especially online.

I do think that actual physical books on paper will phase out in the next 50 years or so, with advances in products like the Kindel.

So we may loose actual physical books one day, but we will never stop reading. In fact I assume we spend more of our day reading than any generation before us.

robbie rane

Friday, December 9, 2011

The melding of two cultures. . .

    My opinion on the matter might be a little biased to say the least. Being a lover of books and complete bibliophile since I was little the thought of reading as a dying race is the sound of nails on a chalkboard to my very conscious. To me reading is a living breathing thing that will continue to stand the test of time no matter what form it takes.

But I digress, enough of my soap box and woe is me.
 There is no doubt the way we receive information has changed dramatically over the years. But it doesn't necessarily mean that the reading and visual cultures are changing in the opposite direction. If anything I feel they are both enhancing and molding each others' audiences into one that values both.

I feel the advances in technology and images they display such as the nook, kindle fire, and ipad appeal greatly to both audiences, and in fact encourage this seamless melding of cultures. I know the new e-readers are enticing a new audience, one that is more visual, one that never before gave the old fashion paper reading a second thought. In turn the new advances and visual communication the ipad and iphone are displaying now are enticing a new crowd as well.

So when it comes down to it, do I think one culture is thriving and advancing while the other isn't? No, I feel the way we process and take in both cultures, visual and written are changing, but not in necessarily a bad way. I think more and more we're seeing both cultures as one.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why can't they work together?

Maybe this is just me, but I enjoy both reading text and visuals for what they each do. Text tends to be more analytic and cerebral, while visuals work to connect on a more instinctual level. Having been raised on a healthy diet of comic books as a kid, it always made sense to me that neither can connect comprehensively on its own.

Images will always be easier for people to process because we don't walk around in paragraphs and pages. Without images, we would have nothing to write and read about. Weren't the first forms of language images? Words only became necessary to describe more complex concepts than the images themselves could convey accurately.

Personally, I think people still consume about the same amount of words, but it's the distribution of where they come from that has changed. How much reading do people do today with texting, Twitter, and Facebook? And while some would argue this is a symptom of the decrease in reading, how do we know that those people would be reading a book with them? They're most likely to be the ones that wouldn't read a book anyway, so if anything those tools are helping them read more.

Visual vs. Reading

I think that that this is very true. We've all known or been that book worm who secludes themselves from everyone because they can't bear to put down their book. I believe that people that are better readers are generally very intelligent people, are above average test takers, and understand a lot when it comes to spelling/grammar. Reading text is becoming lost, especially as a leisure activity. Since everything has been becoming more and more visual I can see in myself that I sometimes get lazy when I have to read something, especially if it is something that I'm not reading by choice. As a society we have become lazy and are always looking for the quickest and easiest way of doing things. Reading a book, article, etc. to find something out often takes more time than some people are willing to invest so they look for alternate ways to find the answer they are looking for (i.e. a quick google search, pink monkey notes, asking siri questions on your iphone, gps vs. looking at a map, etc.).

I have always been a visual learner so as I child I definitely took reading for granted. Through time i have developed a love for reading, and can see the importance of it in an individuals learning. I know that is something that I sometimes have to force myself to do at times, because unless I have absolutely nothing going on at the time I don't feel like I have time to sit down and just read for fun.

Reading requires patience, attention, and dedication. I think that the kids of the future will have a hard time learning some of these elements. It will cause them to either learn these valuable lesson in some other way or just not learn them at all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

If books die, what happens to Imagination?

I don't know if reading will ever go away. We will always need words in order to convey meaning in society. Books however seem to be becoming more and more scarce. I am a tutor for a second grade class and it is amazing to me how little these kids read. The only time they pick up a book, is during school, and when they read in class they can barely stumble through a few sentences. I remember my friends and I were starting the Harry Potter books in second grade!  I've heard that reading levels are declining in the country and it makes sense to me. When kids get home from school, they watch tv, get online, play games on their parents iPads and all sorts of digital stuff. Whatever happened to grabbing up a book and taking yourself to far away lands to live in an adventure?

I don't know if people will ever stop reading novels and books. As long as there is imagination, there will be stories to tell. And as long as there are stories to tell, there will hopefully be stories to write and stories to read. The greatest of all stories cannot be contained into an hour and a half movie. Our world is bound together by stories... real life stories in history, sucess stories, adventures, fairy tales, love, friendship. Now the binding of the world is less and less about stories and is being thread into the binding of social media, movies, YouTube. Families are starting to bond by watching TV and movies, instead of reading together. The world cannot live on pictures alone. Movies are incredible, don't get me wrong, but they don't involve any imagination, it's force feeding every element into the mind. If I have one hope, it is that if books die, that imagination will still be kept alive somehow.

Our visual society benefits reading

I think that the visual nature of our culture hasn't necessarily destroyed the notion of reading, but it has definitely changed it. I think that reading will always be there, but it has a new meaning now. Back before computers, books were the only source of reading and visual material. Nowadays, reading involves the text, the images, and often videos or other links connected to the reading. I think that our visual culture has helped to expand the concept of reading. It has allowed us to make more connections between what we read and things around us. It has given us a full "experience." Reading is no longer something that you do passively, but it is active. People are more interactive with reading because of the highly visual nature of it.

I do think that reading may have lost some of its meaning in our visual culture. I think that the only downside to such a visual culture is that people are likely not thinking as critically about what they read. Because there is so much going on in a book or online when you read, it can distract from the simplistic nature that was intended with reading. I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing, it is just different. But different times bring different meaning to things, and I think we all have to learn to adjust to it and embrace it.

Emotions and Electricity

Jump back a few hundred years. When someone wanted to make a point to a large audience, he would often do it through well-articulated text: religious documents such as Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica and Martin Luther's 95 theses; philosophical works such as Kant's Critiques or political documents like the Declaration of Independence, Paine's Common Sense or Marx's Communist Manifesto. Each of these had a profound influence, and they were each delivered through well-written text.

Now jump to today--the TV, Internet and YouTube era. Instead of publishing a dense, articulate theological treatise, pastors who want to make a point will give a riveting, emotional speech--often in a megachurch auditorium, over TV, the radio, or online videos. Politicians do the same thing. In addition, more and more people are satisfied with staying up to date with politics through watching the Colbert report rather than reading political articles.

I think that at least two major factors are leading people away from books and more towards videos and images: 1) deep down, I believe that humans are emotional beings--we respond deeply to emotions; and 2) like electricity, we tend to take the path with least resistance (we find the closest parking spot in mall parking lots, we'll go through a door that's already open instead of opening the one next to it, etc).

It's requires less effort to get an emotional response from watching a funny or emotional video than to read a whole book or an article. Even if the reading is more enlightening, empowering, and invokes a deeper emotional response, it ultimately requires more time and effort--it's pulling open the closed door rather than walking through the nearby open door, like the funny TV show or YouTube video.

People will still continue to read and write--a lot. However, due to the quick access to reading and writing, I think the quality of day-to-day text will decline. I read that people in Shakespeare's day commanded a vocabulary that is nearly 10 times what we use in speech today--and our common vocabulary today is declining further through texts, email, and Twitter jargon (gr8, bff, lol, etc).

The bottom line--Images and videos tend to invoke emotional responses more quickly than books do; I think written text is undergoing a slow erosion, and is being replaced in many ways, ironically, by spoken text (via film, TV, the Internet) and quickly-typed writing we use in texts, emails, social networks and blogs. Books are still booming (ie: Harry Potter, Twilight (unfortunately), and their derivatives), and will always be around--whether in print or through digital books--but I think their influence is slowly being overshadowed by the more instantaneous sources.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reading will never disappear, but the novels may start to.

Yes our generation definitely does not read books as much anymore. My mother, however, still believes that reading books is the best leisure activity ever. She and her reading buddies always read the books before the movies come out because they believe that "the book is always better than the movie." As I do agree that the effect of technology is hurting our generation on the interest of books, I also think that the technology of the iPad and Kindle are helping the book industry. Making books more accessible, cheaper, and easier to read is great for those who enjoy reading and invite new readers to join culture. Having books at their fingertips and creating a feature that suggests more books similar to the one read previously is another great way to keep the readers intrigued. I do know that facebook, movies, and adventures take up most of our time today, but where would all the ideas come from if it weren't for the books. Most movies played in theaters have some relation or are based off a book or true story written down. Now or in the future, all people will always have their personal likes and dislikes about reading, but let's face it. Nothing can replace reading a letter to Santa by a five year old, a textbook for a class, or the Bible. Whether reading something long or short, reading will always be needed and learned to survive.

Visual vs. Written

I know I learn differently when I read a book or an article about an idea than when I look at a visual representation of the same idea.

In a lot of ways, I'm a visual learner. If I'm studying something that is new and complex, it's much easier for me to look at graphs or flow charts that explain the idea, than to read an article about it.

But I still love reading books for fun, and like to read the book before seeing a movie representation of it. Books give the reader the pen and paper and let them illustrate the story in their mind. I remember thinking as a little kid, if I put a book down before finishing it that somehow the story was going to continue without me. I still love the feeling of finding a book that is so good I can't put it down.

I think reading and words are really important in building and fostering a child's imagination. If a child is only ever exposed to movies or video games, they have fewer opportunities to create and imagine. Books give us part of the story, and our minds fill in the rest.

And that's where the good ideas come from.

The Visual vs. The Word

As we come to the end of our semester, I'd like you to think about the notion of "reading" text versus looking at images. There are arguments that our visual culture has made it so we don't read books as much. Do you think this is true? If this is the case, what affects will this have on our future society? If it's not true, please explain how so.