Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Reading at risk
The Reading at Risk (pdf) report from the American organisation National Endowment for the Arts describes the decline of literary reading in the United states.

The report has already been exstensively blogged, but I want to point to two responses. Matthew G. Kirschenbaum drafts a response to the report on behalf of the Electronic literature organisation. This is a polite and levelheaded response, pointing out that reading on the screen is reading, too, and that literacy is not necessarily declining just because the reading shifts from the traditional paperbound novel and onto the screen.

A more knee-jerk response is Mia Consalvo's reading of the report, but this is a response I fully sympathise with: Reading is down, let's blame video games. Gaming is being blamed as a too simple solution to the problem of "entertainment".

I would like to know how many of the people who write reports like that
1) read electronic literature
2) play computer games
3) use the computer for keeping up with news
4) use the computer to chat and network

One little thing the report does mention, and this also comes up in their press release:

Contrary to the overall decline in literary reading, the number of people doing creative writing increased by 30 percent, from 11 million in 1982 to more than 14 million in 2002. However, the number of people who reported having taken a creative writing class or lesson decreased by 2.2 million during the same time period.

This indicates that the role of the reader is indeed changing. Perhaps Barthes was more of a visionary than he thought, when he envisioned the death of the author, and we are heading towards a society of participants, as I keep mentioning.

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