Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Warning: Reading is Bad for You!

Reading books chronically understimulates the senses. Unlike the longstanding tradition of gameplaying—which engages the child in a vivid, three-dimensional world filled with moving images and musical sound-scapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements—books are simply a barren string of words on the page. . . .

Books are also tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him or herself in a quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children. . . .

But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can’t control their narratives in any fashion—you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. . . .

This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they’re powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it’s a submissive one.
And to think we've been advocating reading for so long! How could we have been so muddle-headed and mistaken?

Relax booklovers! The extract from Steven Berlin Johnson's book
Everything Bad is Good for You
above is intended as an "imagined rendition of what some pompous, self-satisfied gamer would say about books had he never actually sat down and read one." His book argues the case that all those elements of popular culture (e.g video games, television) that are generally assumed to be bad for us are in fact making us smarter.

Now if you were taken in by the extract, you're not alone. When this piece appeared in a New York Times review, Johnson received "innumerable confused responses" from readers unclear on the idea of satire. One wonders if they've been playing too many computer games!

8 comments:

Arth said...

so the author is saying that the new generations are becoming much smarter than the ones back then because all of the modern facilties and tecnologies that we have these days??
I somehow agree with you and the author, i have a nephew who seem to be much more interested in learning math from the computer than the text book from school.Maybe it's more to their interests in new technologies?
But our fast growing technologies has distracted our interest in older ones such as books and radio which are no longer deemed as interesting materials.reading may not be as interesting as video games where graphics and illustrations are being provided so people learn more thru visual and less from imaginations because only thru reading we can use much of our brain power.

Be reminded, The smartest people and prodigys who were around before us like Albert Einstein and many more didnt have the technologies that we have today.

They only had books and imaginations and ideas.

bibliobibuli said...

haven't actually read the book arth, but put it on my wish list ... i'd be interested to see how the guy argues his case

you're quite right about the distraction element ... there's a danger that folks who spend hours with computer games and x-box etc. will have a shorter attentiona span ... but again, have any studies been done?

good point about einstein

dreamer idiot said...

Sharon, thought that might interest you and other readers.

Some cultural theorists term this condition of having short attention span as 'zero consciousness', where sensitivity to subtlety and depth gets replaced by being hyper-activated with constant stimulation (without necessarily feeling fulfilled /satisfied). I would say I myself feel some of the effects of it, having myself stoned in front of the TV for months. I recently got down to my serious reading again... :)

BawangMerah said...

I enjoy both playing games and reading books. Games let me be the hero and actually change the story and the ending. They create a sense of involvement. But then I don't think any game has so far made me contemplate my life after reading a good book. They are different types of fun I guess. And they stay fun as long as they are kept in moderation.

bibliobibuli said...

interesting, dreamer idiot

bawang merah - i'm with you about liking both ... i love to relax with a computer game, but books touch part of me that nothing else ('cept a really good conversation with a witty,beautiful friend) can!

RheLynn said...

I got scared there for a moment! As a kid I couldn't wait to go to the library and check out 20 - 25 books at a time! (children's books)

Books were an entry into a thousand different times and places.

I really wish my nieces would read more!

bibliobibuli said...

rhelynn - hello! i dropped by your blog and got sucked in by that book-meme thing! what is it about book lists that mesmerises so much ...

yes i could echo the same thing about MY nieces

Sarah97 said...

I Have loved reading for a very long time, but I am notising that after I take a break from reading a book, such as I am in the middle of it, but I stop to make dinner. My mood is different, and I feel like a different person. Is something wrong with me? The same thing happens when I watch tv show. I wish or I think as if I wee the character. I have been looking up on google id there are effets of reading that mess with your head. No luck sp far, but if anyone can give me a reason why I get this kinda strange feeling after I stop reading, i would be much obliged.