Wednesday, 25 February 2009

reading rots your brain - allegedly

This Guardian blog post about the relative merits of books and social media is a good example of an informed debate which would sail over the heads of far too many promoters and teachers of books and literature.

Talking to a group of school librarians this week about the future of the book and e-readers, I expected to be intimidated by their knowledge of new media teaching resources etc. but no - for many, their idea of a library was still essentially a room full of publications on shelves, though there was plenty of interest in experiment.


I was reminded when I tried to show them examples of new media pieces made for if:book's education project that YouTube is blocked from educational establishments. This is like having a library with no journals in because they don't fit through the letterbox; a huge chunk of contemporary culture is absent and thus, I fear, disregarded by those who are employed to be its custodians.

I worry that all the work i've been involved with over the years to promote the book has only helped to feed the current obsession with platform over content, and the prejudiced thinking that leads to moral panic and imaginative paralysis when comparing the quality of experiences across different media.

Can you imagine the Head of the Royal Institution suggesting that time spent by children reading and writing in their bedroom was damaging their brains and cutting them off from social interaction? But that's exactly what Susan Greenfield has been doing in relation to social media, as discussed on Newsnight recently.

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