Thursday, 12 December 2013

Who has time to read these days?

Teaching reading to those who struggle with it is one of my passions. I cannot imagine a life in which I was unable to read and I firmly believe that no child should be denied either the pleasure or the practical uses of reading because of inadequate teaching.

But I’m beginning to wonder whether, at some point, the ability to read will cease to play such an important part of our lives. Will future generations look back at our times and wonder why we made such a big deal of it?

Experts on using the social media for business suggest that we monitor the response to our social media updates to see which kind of posts are most ‘engaging’. Facebook provides us with ‘Insights’ to measure just that and, as predicted, it’s updates with images, the bigger the better, that get the most response.

Great! As an artist/designer, I’m happy to provide images for my updates, accompanied by just a few lines of text, a link and maybe a hashtag or two. Excellent! Easy! 

But wait – is anyone actually reading the text? Some of the hilariously inappropriate comments I’ve had suggest that the answer is 'no'! And is anyone clicking on the link? Analytics suggest that clicks on the links are few and far between.

Which all leads me to ask the questions, how often are we bothering to read? 
Have Infographics made it too easy for us to get by without reading whole sentences, never mind paragraphs? 

I say ‘we’ because I know I am as guilty as anyone of absorbing the immediate impact of an image and clicking on the ‘like’ button, maybe adding a brief comment and even on some occasions, hitting the ‘share’ button; though when it comes to facebook’s exhortation to ‘write something about this’, I usually pass.

I think it’s all about time and its habit of disappearing so fast,  especially when we’re on the internet! 

The problem is that there’s a finite amount of time
 available to us to glance at, mentally classify, discard or actually absorb
an infinite amount of ‘content’. 

No wonder we are picky about what we actually spend our precious time reading!

Advice on writing for blogs invariable points out that most people ‘skim’ rather than read carefully and thoughtfully, word for word. I know it's true; I do it myself! So we must use bullet points, ‘headlines’ and the blogging equivalent of ‘sound-bites’ in our writing to make skimming easier.

I wonder whether the days of the blog are numbered. Not that I think they are going to disappear tomorrow; but the way things are moving, with almost purely visual sites like Pinterest growing like the proverbial mushrooms, who will bother to actually read a 500-word dissertation – unless it’s either so rich in meaning or uproariously amusing that it draws us in.

Is this a bad thing? 

Not necessarily. I’m all in favour of Infographics – I think they’re a brilliant way of communicating and, by the way, teachers have used them for years. They just called them Wall Charts or possibly Visual Aids.

But I do think it would be regrettable if the ability to read became devalued over time. There are so many books that I love to read over and over and I doubt whether a film or a video clip could ever replace them! 

What do you think?


Inkflo Chez Inkflo said...

I was taken to our local lending library when I was five years old. The look, touch and smell of those books, the polished wooden floors, and the hush of the huge room have stayed with me always. If it hadn't been for reading, my life would have been so much poorer. If it hadn't been for reading, I would never have been able to immerse myself in other worlds and forget the horrible day I was having, and if it hadn't been for reading, I would never have known the thrill of walking into a second hand bookshop, with it's promise of finding some long forgotten author that I have since come to love.
So,you can guess which side I come down on!

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you for your very thoughtful comments, Inkflo - you've reminded me of some of things I love too! Second hand bookshops can eat up time just as much as the internet can - and I have plenty of them within a stone's throw, at Hay-on-Wye! It's a great experience when you just happen to come across an out-of-print book by one of your favourite authors that you thought you'd never find :)

nanditark said...

I loved reading this post! It took me years back when I started my blog. I was full of new thoughts and wanted to write each one of them, and I did... But now, as you pointed towards this situation where people want to just ''go through the headlines..'', I think I've become one of them... Surprising it is, but yes I have stopped reading much ...
But today after reading this post I realized that I must have missed some good information that the writer/blogger had given !!! Thanks dear, thanks so much for making me realize my mistake!

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Nandita - I've very glad you enjoyed my post and found it useful. But don't worry, it's an easy mistake to make. If I, a reading teacher, find myself reading less these days, it can happen to anyone. And I forgot to mention, the written word is also competing with Youtube these days too!

Jayne said...

Guilty as charged, I'm afraid. I do try and devote a little time to reading, but I don't read in as great depth as I used to. As you say, I tend to skim through and glean the meaning of a sentence or paragraph without actually reading the whole thing.

Judy Adamson said...

Me too, Jayne - I can go for ages without reading anything properly and then try to make up for it in one big push, which inevitably means I have to skim. But I'm going to try and be a bit more consistent about it next year because I'm sure I'm missing out.

Marina said...

I would like to ask about a balance between texts and pictures.
My be any information couldn't be presented graphically as a picture or an image/symbol and so on.
Does this information exist?
Could I ask about the artist/designer's point of view?