Month: February 2015

Another Post About Ebooks

In English 340 we, collectively, have talked and written quite extensively on the topic of ebooks and digital literature in general. I would like to continue that conversation, but extend it to something we haven’t really discussed— what online literature means for the future of book publishing.

 I am a big fan of noted YA author and videoblogger John Green. More than five years ago, Green wrote an “Internet-based, multimedia book” entitled This is Not Tom, and then wrote an article in the School Library Journal reflecting on this experience. (This article was written in 2010 and its main audience is school librarians, but it’s definitely worth a read.)

The conversation surrounding ebooks/ereaders right now tends to take the shape of an argument as to whether physical paper books or online books are better or more comfortable to read or more conducive to learning, etc. Green argues, and I am inclined to agree, that we are asking the wrong questions. The physical medium of literature is of relatively little importance. Of more immediate concern is what digital literature means for the distribution and publication of future books.

Here is basically how book publishing works right now: Publishers receive millions of manuscripts a year, they agree to publish a tiny fraction of said manuscripts, the authors then spend a lot of time revising the manuscripts with professional editors so that the books are as good as they can be, and they are published and sent to bookstores.

Here is how book publishing could work in the future: Bookstores, which are already in decline, won’t exist. Big-box stores like Wal-Mart will sell only a limited selection of the best selling books. The rest of authors hoping to see their books in print will self-publish and try to sell their books online. These books won’t go through publishers so will be unedited and unmediated. Green compares this world of publishing to YouTube: “Millions of books get a few readers, and a few books get a million readers.”

Walmart

The biggest problem with the latter model is that with only a few books going through publishers, the quality of books will be lesser and the market will be so crowded that it will be near impossible for readers to find what they want to read. Even the books that are sold in Wal-Mart will appeal to the lowest common denominator for lack of a better term, and some may actually start out as self-published (and unedited) ebooks that are then picked up by a major publisher, a la Fifty Shades of Grey. (Think of all the awful books that will be published and turned into awful movies.)

This all sounds very alarming, but it is a debatable topic. Maybe it would be a good thing if traditional publishing were to die out. It might give languishing authors a better chance to find readers. Maybe with our ever-increasing technology, we’ll find a way to make sure books published online are polished to be the best reading experience they can be, and that the best ebooks rise to fame while the worst fall to obscurity.

I don’t know how the future of book publishing will turn out. The digital age might have a lot of exciting innovation in store. It will change the way we read, but exactly how remains to be seen. Maybe every novel we read in the future will be a multi-media experience. But first and foremost, I believe, we need to make sure that future generations will have good books to read, and that future good books will find broad readerships. Green writes, “We must preserve that magical moment when the space between you and me evaporates, and we are all of us making a story real together. Bells and whistles are all fine and good, but the writer must not leave the story behind, and the reader must not be allowed to abandon her responsibility as cocreator: she, and she alone, can make a story real.”

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Here is another article that quickly sums up some of the issues I discussed: http://outthinkgroup.com/the-10-awful-truths-about-book-publishing

 

 

Landscape Artists, Wilderness, and National Parks

In the 1800s there was an art movement called the Hudson River School, this movement included artists like Albert Beirstadt, Thomas Cole, Samuel Colman, and Robert  Duncanson among others. These men painted landscape of the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills, Niagara Falls, and the Oxbow , which was then recreated by Ansel Adams.

The Oxbow by Thomas Cole

 

Tetons and the Snake River by Ansel Adams 1942

 

 

 

 

 

Almost Heaven by Thomas Kinkade
Princess & the Frog by Thomas Kinkade

The influence of the Hudson River School was carried into the mid-19th century by artists like John Frederick Kensett and Martin Johnson Heade, who came to be known as Luminists because of their experiments with the effects of light on water and sky, and by Frederic Edwin Church. Church, who based himself in his panoramic home in the Catskills at Olana, sought more extensive horizons for his canvasses. Like Walt Whitman he tried to contain multitudes. This movement was then brought into our own century by Thomas Kinkade who is famously known for working with Disney.

Why does this movement matter?

It represents “a great hopefulness and a wistful remnicience of the American experiment, a celebration of the primeival American landscape, the entrance of technology into that landscape, and eventually sorrow at its passing, to both a belief in a Provinically ordained destiny and the crisis of the Civil War” (Hogan).  During the 1800s there was the introduction of several new inventions and the boom of the Industrial Revolution shortly after a completely different boom, The Civil War. With this movement the painters set out to establish a romanticism and aesthetically appealing Hudson Valley that was slowly but surely being demolished in favor of towns, cities, and buildings. The wilderness for quite some time has had this illusion of being mysterious, containing awful beasts and savages, yet there is also this lust of returning to nature and our natural state of living off the land. This side of nature is hauntingly beautiful and possibly godlike or even Eden-like. These men set out to portray this side of nature.

This Eden-like ideal can most definitely be seen in Kindred Spirits in which the founding figure of the Hudson River School and William Cullen Bryant are depicted as surveying the scenery of the Catskill Mountains. However, this depiction of the Catskills is unlikely depending upon where this was supposed to be, if it is the area surrounding Route 17 in New York then yes it is highly likely to have a view that looks like this, but if it is a view that is along the Hudson River then that view would be filled with steam ships and other boats carrying cargo to and from bustling New York City.

Did this Influence Teddy Roosevelt?

Teddy Roosevelt is known for his love of nature, even though he was a big game huntsman, and for his political gains in Panama, but would this movement influence his decision to create National Parks? Yes and no, he was most likely aware of Thoreau, the Hudson River School, and the art movement, but it was after a big game hunting trip to North Dakota that influenced him to conserve the wilderness.  “Whenever he managed to spend time in the badlands, he became more and more alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and its wildlife. He witnessed the virtual destruction of some big game species, such as bison and bighorn sheep. Overgrazing destroyed the grasslands and with them the habitats for small mammals and songbirds” (“Theodore Roosevelt National Park”). He also realized that the bison herd and the bid horn sheep herds had been decreased in such large numbers that their populations were scarce. 

“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.”- Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

Thoreau, Hudson River School, and Transcendentalism

“Thoreau, as with the Hudson River School, invites us to find a sense of meaning, of direction and purpose in life through immediate contact with the living creatures, the vicissitudes of the seasons, and the varied textures of the earth” (Oelschlaeger). They both contain the ideal that the wilderness, as mentioned before, is a beautiful place for one to retreat to, to explore, and to enjoy. There was also a wide-held belief among Thoreau and possibly even the members of the Hudson River School called transcendentalism and one of their core beliefs is that there is an inherent goodness in both people and nature. This inherent goodness only adds to the belief that nature is godlike in its untouched state of being, but how can nature be considered untouched when it is an escape for man to go to? It is untouched because it has not been changed by the human hand nor has the landscape, but can this be possible in a time when national parks exist?

National Parks Today

Letchworth National Park
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park Meriwether County, Georgia

The National Parks were created by Teddy Roosevelt as place of conservation of nature that were also meant to be a place of enjoyment for the American people. The National Park have since changed since their creation in 1902, playgrounds have been added, roads have been paved, cabins have been established upon them, sidewalks and trails have been added, bridges have been built- so the nature of the park has been touched by the human hand, but there is still nature to be seen within these parks. Animals and plants still live and thrive there and their populations seem to have gone unchanged and possibly have boomed thanks to their protection. The roads, cabins, sidewalks, and even stairs were put there during the Great Depression by hard working men and women who needed jobs and the parks needed people to take care of them. The parks needed people to take care of them so they would not become like wild untamed gardens or jungles and the men and women needed stable jobs while the economy bounced back to its own ‘natural’ state. The two helped each other in a symbiotic relationship of sorts and many of those walls, sidewalks, roads, cabins, etc are still standing today. Although nature was touched and edited by human hands it is still seen as beautiful and an escape to go to, a place for people to view nature in a somewhat natural state of being.

Was not this the idea from the start: to enjoy nature, soak in her beauty, gaze at her and know what it is like to see God’s own hand at work? Yes, that was the whole frame of mind from the viewpoint of the Hudson River School. This wilderness may have been tamed, but it has not been tarnished. Central Park herself was created by the hand of man, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to be exact, yet people go to Central Park to gaze at, take pictures of it, and some people specifically go to New York City to see this grand park built within the confines of the harsh industrial complex and confines of the city.  Aye there is the rub- how can one enjoy nature in her wild state, yet revel in nature that has been created by man?

Work Cited:

Hogan, Kathleen M. “Introduction.” American Studies at the University of Virginia. University of Virginia, 1 Jan. 1998. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/DETOC/hudson/intro.html>.

Oelschlaeger, Max. “Emerson, Thoreau, and the Hudson River School.” Nature Transformed, TeacherServe©. National Humanities Center. 19 Feb, 2015. <http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nattrans/ntwilderness/essays/preserva.htm>

“Theodore Roosevelt National Park.” National Park Foundation. NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <http://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/theodore-roosevelt-national-park>.

The Fight for Net Neutrality

Considering this is a class focused largely around the use of the computer and all it has to offer, one thing i thought would be important to discuss is the enormous debate surrounding one of the most significant uses for a computer: The Internet.

With the almost exponential growth of social media, search engines, multi-media sites, and the internet in general, there has been a lot of debate recently on whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be able to offer different rates to customers based on their internet-based content or service type.

Under this mentality, ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon would be able to charge their customers different amounts based on the websites they used and how they used them. This tiered internet model would resemble the current cable model, in which a user is charged extra to access certain content like Showtime or HBO. For example, a user who uses the internet for only one purpose, such as researching information on Google, would be charged for less internet speed than a person who used it for several purposes, such as researching and high speed media streaming sites. This would consequently carve the internet into a tiered information highway.

A large contributing factor to this change in mindset, is the growing number of cord cutters, or people who no longer subscribe to cable and instead get their entertainment from streaming websites such as Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube.

When one downloads media from a site such as Hulu, the information arrives in packets, delivered by your ISP. Under the net neutrality concept, all of those packets need to be delivered at the same time, at the same speed. If there was no such thing as net neutrality, Hulu would be able to pay your ISP a certain amount to make sure their packets got delivered more efficiently.

This is significant because it gives your Internet Service Provider an inordinate amount of power over what you are going to consume. Media columnist David Carr is quoted in the New York Times stating, “Who gets to go fast, and who gets to go slow … If my message comes to you really slowly, and another person’s message comes quickly and directly, who is going to be heard?”  And the implications of that run much deeper than just streaming movies from Netflix.

ISPs would be able to slow down your connection to websites that they disagreed with politically, as well as slow down a competitors’ content. This would consequently eliminate the open internet and it’s historical advocacy for free speech.

I feel that this ability to go out into the open internet and be able to research and experience every single thing the internet has to offer ties in closely with Thoreau’s ideology of being an “adventurous student” and focusing on experiential learning. When one goes out into the open internet, they are able to exercise their freedom of speech and right to public knowledge. When one’s options are limited or confined by something, it limits the amount of meaningful experiences they can have, perspectives they can gain and thus their overall knowledge on a topic. This limiting of options is something that i think Thoreau would advise against. While he does have his own elitist views and confines freedoms in his own way, he does believe that being engulfed in an environment without any filters, and with only your experiences is the best way to grow, learn, and truly expand your mind.

The Importance of Accessibility in Education

Accessibility. Accessibility is the beauty of the internet in today’s day and age. Without the burgeoning success of the internet, we would not have as knowledgable a society as we have today. Restraints are taken off of learning with developments such as the DIgital Public Library of America, P2PU, and Open Culture. Never before has such a broad spectrum of people been able to access literature, and educational courses from all around the world.

Open Culture:

What is one of the biggest issues with attending university for four years? One may not be able to explore as wide an array of classes as they so desire due to time constraints, or monetary reasons. With U.C. Berkley, Yale, and Stanford now uploading lecture content to sites such as iTunes, it accommodates student’s desires to learn outside of their major. U.C. Berkley itself has over 120 million uploads of lecture material for their students. This extra access allows for a generally more well rounded student populous. What “Open Culture” itself is, is the largest free educational database developed by Dan Colman PHD (Stanford Graduate 1997). This database offers over 350 free courses, and thousands of hours of educational audio content. This kind of information was much more difficult to garner in the pre-internet era.

“I’m trying to bring the best food ideas to the rest of the world. There currently exists too much of a gap between university world and the general public.”- Dr. Dan Colaman

P2PU: (Peer to Peer University)

“a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements.” – John Britton

John Britton is the developer of P2PU, and a dropout of RPI university. His goal was to develop an open education network on the internet where people could learn from each other. This provides for an open network of people to interact with each-other and share their knowledge. This type of medium is helpful in today’s age of the internet.

Link to P2PU video: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/05/14/how-the-internet-is-revolutionizing-education/

The internet has provided an extensive amount of easily accessible free information for the general public. These new mediums of accessing information gives our society more free opportunities to learn than ever before, which provides for well-rounded people.

 

Can social media engineer emotion?

It’s no secret that the current generation is the most technologically advanced that the human race has ever seen.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the ways in which technology has become integrated into our lives are far more varied and critical than ever before.  Even so, every once in a while we can still learn something knew about our digital world that manages to surprise us.

In one of the most recent episodes of Radiolab, an online radio show sponsored by NPR, the hosts tackle the rising conflict between our online social presence, and human emotion.  By looking at a series of social science studies conducted over the social media site Facebook, they try to answer the question of which is currently more important to us as a society:  true human contact, or the power of the web.

The episode, titled “The Trust Engineers,” reveals that there is a lot more to Facebook than chatting and getting news about your friends.  Over the past years, Facebook has grown not only to be one of the largest communities ever to exist on Earth, it has also become one of the leading centers for social science research.  One of its most commonly pursued topics of study is the way in which human beings use it to communicate.

A lot of people have mixed feelings about news like this.  There are plenty of pros and cons to consider when a social media site starts pulling on our strings in the name of science.  Starting with the pros, Facebook is massive.  According to the podcast, as of March 2014 there were about 1.3 billion active users on Facebook, making it one of the planet’s largest communities even if it is just online.  This gives researchers an immense population to pull from when conducting studies.  On top of its size, Facebook’s population is completely random as well.  It ignores borders of language, country and race, socioeconomic background, religion and sexual identity.  This all but eliminates bias in the research population.

And then there are the cons.  While Facebook is extremely effective as a population for research, it is also a threat to individual privacy.  While many people may assume that Facebook could be using their information to give to advertisers or even in studies such as these, not everyone knows the extent to which this occurs.  According to researchers, every single Facebook user has been used in one of their studies, and on average every active user’s information is being used in about ten different studies at any given moment.  Whether you were aware of it or not, or whether you agree with it or not, you are most likely participating in ten different social experiments right now.

One of Facebook’s most controversial studies came at the beginning of summer in 2014, when it was revealed that Facebook had conducted a wide study of human emotion on several thousands of its users.  Facebook wanted to see if it could manipulate the emotions of its users by showing them an increased number of either positive or negative posts, and measuring how their own posts changed as a result of this.  They wanted to see if they could digitally spread positivity or negativity by manipulating people’s news feeds.  While the results of this experiment were inconclusive, the backlash from users was immense.

Study results

Facebook is two things.  It is an amazing, immense population unlike anything else humans have ever created, capable of changing the way we study ourselves forever.  Unfortunately, it is also a great and threatening concentration of power and control over its users, most of whom are at least partially unaware of the extent to which Facebook is capable of affecting them.  All of this begs the question:  which is more important to us, having information about everything at our fingertips, or keeping information about ourselves away from everyone else?  Technology such as this can be a great aid in our understanding of how human emotion operates, but where do we draw the line between attempting to understand emotion and attempting to replace it?

 

Privacy, Security, and Data Mining In The Digital Age

 

ICloud_iOS7The digital age and the technological revolution has made it almost impossible for us to escape the hands of big businesses as they control the way we use all of our technological devices, whether it be our smartphones, laptops, e-readers, etc.  With that being said, we put a lot of our trust in these companies to keep our private information and data just that, private.  Unfortunately, however there have been security breaches and privacy conflicts, and who could forget the highly publicized, national news scandal, celebrity iCloud hack that happened last year?

So if you’re like me and don’t give it a second thought when agreeing to the terms and conditions of every iTunes update, should we be worried they’re going to sneak something in there that could compromise our security and privacy?

In a recent episode of Parks and Recreation the issue of data mining was brought up and provided an eerie glance into the real world and how that as a society we’ve become so device-obsessed that we often don’t realize how much power the companies that control our devices have.  In fictional Pawnee, Indiana Leslie Knope got an inside look into the all-powerful, Apple equivalent company, Gryzzl, looking for answers to questions regarding the privacy and security of the people of her city.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 11.01.14 PM“So. Roscoe, how does Gryzzl know all the things that someone wants? Are you guys data-mining?” Leslie asked coyly.

Roscoe, Vice President of Cool New Shizz at Gryzzl, replied, “Hellz, yeah, dawg! Our super-rad algorithm searches all your texts, calls, banking, medical records, blah blah blah, to learn what you really want — from snacks to new books and movies!”

Another Gryzzl executive later went on to say, “As you know,the cameras on your phone are always on whether you’re using them or not! This app uses facial-recognition software to track your expressions. It’s always watching!”

This episode definitely brought to light an issue that most of us don’t think about on a daily basis, but effects us every time we use our devices.  Data mining, security, and privacy are all intertwined and it is important for us to remember this before we click our rights away or scroll through the jargon that could give the big businesses even more power over you than they already have.

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Does Social Media have an effect on Studying?

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Just this year I joined the social media rat race. Before, I was an “every once in a while” Facebook user. But my life changed considerably with graduation from high school and my purchase into the smart phone generation. In the beginning I was still not too worried about my social media footprint but I began to realize the benefits and disadvantages of being connected in an environment such as this.

Following this discovery I became an avid member of facebook, twitter, instagram, and snapchat (along with other sites). With these new apps on my phone I began posting, tweeting, adding people, etc. I soon began to spend more time doing this than otMedia 2her things I found important in my life. I felt my control slipping a little bit as studying became less of a priority.

In my case I found the onslaught of social media to be a distinct disadvantage to my studying habits. According to a Nielsen Media Research Study, almost 25% of student’s time on the Internet is spent on social media. This amount may seem small but compared with the other categories (including Netflix/other movie sites, research for classes, etc.) this number is significant. This research also found that two thirds of the students in this study reported using social media during class or homework. These numbers imply that the usage of social media could be considered a detriment to students and faculty, but they don’t have to be.

Although there are many cases in which social media can hurt a student’s progress it also has helped! Many students inside the class and graduated have found that social media has helped in making social/networking connections, providing easier access to knowledge about present and past times, and giving the ability to share their ideas and content. These sites also help get important news tmedia 3o people that may not have been as accessible as before.

Based on research done in the past, 73% of American teens are involved in social media in some shape or form. Is this number a good or bad one? This could mean 27% of teens are not as informed as the other 73%. It could also mean that 27% of teens are better able to study based on the lack of distractions and ability to hold attention for a longer period of time. A follow up survey should, in my opinion, ask these teens their study habits and knowledge about current events as compared to those who do have accounts.

Media 3In many cases both parts of this question are valid: Are we a generation that no longer has the attention spans to study efficiently? Or are we a generation that has so many more opportunities based on the connections we make through these sites?

The answer is up to you!

 

Oberst, L. (2010). The 6S Social Network. Retrieved from: http://sixsentences.ning.com/profile/LindsayOberst

Jacobsen, W. C., & Forste, R. (2011). The Wired Generation: Academic and Social Outcomes of Electronic Media Use Among University Students

Wang, Qingya; Chen, Wei; and Liang, Yu, “The Effectsof Social Media on College Students” (2011). MBA Student Scholarship. Paper http://scholarsarchive.jwu.edu/mba_student/5

 

 

Haters Gonna Hate: A Look at E-Readers as a Viable Option

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Pretentious is not a dirty word!

There are many stereotypes that go along with being an English major.  The “proper” English major has a passion for literature, appreciates poetry, will always correct your grammar and always has a book in hand.  However, it’s important to look at the English major in the digital age.  The trend of e-readers in particular is often looked down upon by those who consider themselves “true” lovers of reading.  I’ve heard this argument for years from some of my best friends, classmates and angry strangers in bookstores, and quite honestly it drives me insane.
There’s no reason why someone who finds it more convenient and accessible to read through digital means should have to feel ashamed or feel like they aren’t “actually reading.”

This isn’t just my individual prejudice, however.  An article I found on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development website called “E-Readers: Powering Up for Engagement” argues that giving students the means to read digitally actually increases their confidence and motivation to read.  Students in today’s day and age are more interested in technology than other “boring” means of reading and learning, so by simply providing the same information through some means of technology, you capture the attention of students who would have otherwise been disinterested.

I have a ten-year-old brother who loves reading, especially because he can do it on his Kindle.  There are parental controls that can allow parents to block the internet and other capabilities on the Kindle, before I’m attacked with the argument that kids don’t have the attention span to keep reading without perusing the Internet.

Benefits of reading digitally goes far beyond the mental benefits offered to those who use it.  There are many more concrete examples to prove that e-readers are superior.  While the initial price of an e-reader, like a Nook or an Amazon tablet may be higher than the cost of a book, but  e-readers are inherently less expensive simply because of lesser production costs.

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A new take on a classic novel.

Another argument against e-readers is the fact that students are missing out on the classics.  This is easily disputed by the fact that on many devices, classic books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick are free or deeply discounted, like this copy of Jane Eyre $0.99 through Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader. There’s no use in arguing that a reduced cost and easier access (you can buy these books with the click of a button!) does not increase to appeal to read more classic novels.

This has turned into more of a rant than an informative post, but I guess I’m just a little passionate.  I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts; I might be passionate, but I’d love a lively debate!

Are we really the “dumbest generation”?

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After coming across a reading in the text “The Broadview Reader In Book History,” I found something that struck me. An article done by N. Katherine Hayles titled “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine,” discusses the fact that in today’s world more and more reading is being done on digital materials than ever before. Because of that, she mentions that “the reading of print books and literary genres has been declining over the last twenty years.”

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Upon reading this article, Hayles brings up an author, Mark Bauerlein, and his article titled “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our future.” Reading that title alone really struck me, and got me thinking, are we really the dumbest generation?

With so much new technology that is always rapidly evolving and bettering itself, it has become very normal for us to lean on that new technology available. You don’t know the answer to something? Google is just a click away and can answer any question you have instead of looking it up in a book. Why read a print copy of something when you can access a digital copy on your kindle or find that article you need to read online? Bauerline argues that there is a link in the decline of reading skills leading directly to a decrease in print reading.

it is very true that we tend to be too immersed in our cellphones and other technologies at times, there are ways in which technology does impact our lives in negative ways in terms of our abilities at face to face communication, using our phones as a way to get rid of idle or quiet time we are not used to.                                                                                 blog5

However, on the other spectrum there have been ways in which technology really has been an asset to us in many positive ways. At Broome Community College where I graduated from before coming to Geneseo, I had the opportunity to be enlightened on some of these positive aspects. Author Clive Thompson came to Broome C.C. last Spring to give a talk about his book “Smarter Than You Think.” I had the opportunity before he came to speak to read that book, and found it to be a very interesting perspective on how technology really is helping us in many ways rather than harming us.

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So obviously there are many different views on this topic that speak to the claim as to whether or not we are the dumbest generation, and it’s up to you to decide for yourself.

What do YOU think?

Are Books Better?

I love books. I love the smell and texture of a fresh page. I love picking out a title from the library just as much as buying a new paperback from Barnes and Noble. I love the art on the covers and the satisfaction of turning page after page until there are none left to turn. And while some may disagree, according to recent science, I am not alone. While at it’s surface reading seems to be only a visual and imaginative process, the physical relationship of a reader to their book is important in many ways. 

According to recent research, there is a “tactile sense of progress” we experience as we read. To put it simply, as we read, we track our progress with the pile of growing pages under our left thumb. To test this, researchers had NorReading_in_Practice_MAwegian teens read from paper and PDFs. The students were dived into separate groups and then they were tested on plot summary. Guess who did better? Of course, it was the paper readers! The use of paper gave them a sense of progress, and although it was unconscious, it helped them map the plot better than those reading from a screen. 

In addition to the tactile benefits of a book, books also tend to elicit a more emotional response in the reader. However, kindle reading has its own benefits. You save space and money by downloading these digital books. Both are perks which I think would persuade Thoreau to be a digital reader himself, had he been given the option. While plot summary may be more difficult coming from a PDF, the same study showed the medium for leisure reading had little to no impact on text digesting ability. Most don’t endorse reading Ulysses on your kindle, but encourage you to download Gone Girl when you’ve got the chance.

While he battle of superior reading experiences seems centered around paper and kindle, there are other contenders. iPads are equipped with an iBooks app, and there are websites dedicated to digitalizing literature. Digital literature is undoubtedly important in immortalizing texts and making them accessible  to everyone. However, reading from a computer screen or a device with a backlight-such as an iPad-can have consequences.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 1.59.05 PMThis observation is by no means a cry to end the digitalization of literature, rather a caution on how and when you use your device to read. Reading in the 2 hours before bed, as 90% of Americans do, is a terrible idea. The backlight on iPads and computers is blue, which we are very sensitive to. Overdosing on this light, which the digital world forces us to do on a daily basis, can decrease our melatonin levels and harm our sleeping cycle, particularly in these hours before bed. Rather than prescribing patients to put down their devices, doctors have started endorsing the use of orange lens glasses while utilizing a backlight screen. The complementary colors supposedly cancel out and minimize the effect of blue backlights. Instead of limiting computer time, we go and get glasses. Progress.

While unlimited titles available online is amazing progress, the health risks are are real step back. In addition to endangered melatonin levels, cortisol levels spike. Risk for obesity, diabetes, and other disorders jump as well. This is, of course, in the extreme case of computer use. I don’t believe digitalizing literature is going to make everyone sick, but considering the time we already spend on our computers, we need to be wary.

Reading, regardless of the platform, is an enriching experience. If you choose to reap the benefits of a digital library, be sure to do so in short bursts of time and carefully monitor your comprehension. Or, you could go old school, and just enjoy a good old book. (x)