Steve Jobs Revolution (The Religious Tech Wave of Decade 2010)
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Sociologist Wendy Griswold pointed out that during the height of the Industrial Revolution reading finally became a widespread leisure activity in Europe and North America. And as the post—industrial information society developed, reading became necessary for many occupations in the skilled labour force. Griswold also argued that the past two centuries have been the golden age for leisure reading, and that readers in most societies have usually been a minority:.
Five years after an initial study suggesting a substantial decline in reading in the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts NEA published its report, Reading on the rise , focusing on literary reading for leisure. Nearly 52 percent of Americans 18—24 years of age, and just over 50 percent of all American adults, read books for pleasure [ 19 ].
Canadian teenagers have reported a level of reading similar to that of their slightly older American counterparts.
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Bibby, et al. Young Canadian readers were more likely to be female than male: 56 percent of those who reported pleasure reading were female, while only 35 percent were male [ 20 ]. In , the publishing industry reported that men in the United States only accounted for 29 percent of purchases made within the adult fiction market, compared to 40 percent of the U. The NEA surveys also consistently suggest that more women read than men: about 42 percent of men are voluntary readers of literature defined as novels, short stories, poems, or plays in print or online , compared to 58 percent of women National Endowment for the Arts, However, men have been beginning to read more — the rate of literary reading amongst men is increasing at more than twice the rate that it is for women National Endowment for the Arts, Unfortunately the NEA studies do not include in—depth reading for work or school.
If this were included, the overall rates and breakdowns by sex might look very different. While these studies suggest that reading is enjoyed by a substantial number of North Americans, on the flip side, about half of the populations surveyed are not readers. Despite the recent increase in leisure reading in the U.
Griswold instead thinks that a highly educated and affluent elite segment of society is emerging, which actually reads more than the average readers of the past. While Griswold believes that a widespread reading culture no longer exists, she has suggested that members of the reading class still place an extremely high value on reading.
Part of the high value placed on reading may have something to do with the intellectual benefits of reading, including leisure reading, which has been long established by research. Predictably, the practice of reading helps to strengthen literacy proficiency — the more you read, the better reader you become. A significant co—relation exits between the frequency of reading books and literacy levels Grenier, et al. Similarly, youth who read or write letters in their leisure time at home score significantly better on literacy scores [ 22 ].
When it comes to college students, students who read for fun as well as for study do better academically than students who do not read beyond what is required for their coursework Burgess and Jones, As students move into the work force, a significant loss in literacy skill level can occur over their life, unless they read at home or away from the job Willms and Murray, There are also various noteworthy relationships between literacy rates and positive social behaviour. For example, there is a co—relation between high youth literacy rates and low crime rates, low unemployment and dependence on social welfare, and low health care expenditures [ 23 ].
Similarly, high levels of adult literacy are associated with higher levels of employment and wages, lifelong learning activities, participation in society, and level of health [ 24 ]. A strong correlation has even been found between literacy levels and the likelihood of time spent in prison National Endowment for the Arts, The NEA has found that the 50 percent of Americans who are readers have far higher levels of cultural and civic engagement than non—readers: they visit more museums, see more plays, attend more concerts, play more sports, exercise more, do more outdoor activities, and they are much more likely to volunteer and vote National Endowment for the Arts, A significant co—relation has also been found between library use and social involvement.
People who frequent libraries have higher levels of trust, are more likely to be involved in their community, and show a high level of civic engagement Johnson, On the other hand, the social benefits of the Internet are an ongoing matter of dispute. Robert Putman, political scientist and author of Bowling alone , first blamed the Internet for the decline of social capital, but then a few years later suggested that an involvement in online communities could lead to greater social engagement Putnam, ; Putnam, et al.
The research of health scientists continues to show a negative relationship between the Internet and social capital, while social scientists have suggested a positive relationship between the two Richards, et al. While research findings are divided concerning the social benefits of Internet use, people around the globe have widely adopted online communication. Younger people tend to be heavy Internet and cell phone users. The example of Canadian youth provides an interesting case study.
In , 98 percent of Canadian high school students aged 15 to 19 were using computers one hour a day or more Bibby, et al. About one half of those teenagers were using their computers at least two hours a day, while another 20 percent were on their computers for three to four hours, and 20 percent used their computers five hours or more each day [ 25 ]. More recently it has been reported that 18—34 year old Canadians are spending an average of 20 hours a week online Ipsos, When it comes to phones, 71 percent of Canadian households have reported having a cellular phone for personal use [ 26 ].
For 95 percent of those households, 13—17 year—olds are the main household phone user [ 27 ]. Yet all this time spent online does not mean that young people have given up the practice of sustained reading. In fact, people who are online also tend to be readers. The amount of time students spend on the Internet has not been found to interfere with the time they report spending on reading for their studies or for leisure [ 28 ]. Griswold and Wright found such a positive co—relation between Internet use and reading, and commented on the double advantage enjoyed by readers who use the Internet:.
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In the NEA concluded a similar thing, suggesting that 84 percent of adults who read literature defined as fiction, poetry, or drama either directly online or downloaded from the Internet, also read books [ 30 ]. A Canadian study using the Statistics Canada General Social Survey found that both heavy and moderate Internet users spend more time reading books than people who do not use the Internet, although people in all three categories of Internet usage read similar numbers of magazines and newspapers [ 31 ].
However, spending time online does not automatically lead to the development of online research or advanced reading skills. Sociological research of the digital divide has suggested online research skills are often not well developed among people who are online Hargittai, There is a relationship between this low level of information literacy skill and academic performance — low—performing students typically have low information literacy skills [ 32 ].
This path—of—least—resistance research behaviour is not distinctive only of students. Indeed, Web site designers know very well that people generally do not read much online. Web site users tend to browse pages rapidly, and read only about 20 percent of the text on an average page Nielsen, ; Weinreich, et al.
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Liu, et al. Yet it is an over—simplification to suggest that this sort of bouncing happens exclusively online. The story of modern research libraries offers a useful example of how profoundly the technological context of academic reading has recently changed. For several millennia, right up until just two decades ago, the central role of a library was to collect and house physical texts: from clay tablets, to scrolls, to printed books Battles, ; Manguel, Just within the last few years, Canadian academic libraries, in a situation similar to libraries throughout the Western world, have reached an interesting tipping point — librarians now spend the majority of their collections budgets on electronic instead of printed texts Canadian Association of College and University Libraries [CACUL] Task Force on Standards in Higher Education, ; Canadian Association of Research Libraries, Libraries are convinced that digital text, now in its infancy, is likely to have a long future.
Not only do they purchase electronic texts, but most academic libraries have also become publishers of electronic texts, whether they are digitizing large portions of their book holdings, or focusing on scanning a relatively small number of archival documents from their unique special collections.
However, the reason for this shift has also been economic, having to do with escalating prices for journal subscriptions and limited library budgets Darnton, Academic libraries first started to take e—journals seriously back in the s when they began to purchase databases of full—text articles provided by aggregator companies. The cost per article was vastly cheaper than the cost of articles within many individual academic journals, subscriptions to which had begun to skyrocket.
Furthermore, the e—journal article, with its relatively short length and focus on newly emerging research, quickly proved to be ideally suited to the digital format. Within the last decade, several information technology changes have coalesced to make e—journal purchases increasingly more and more popular. Most academic journal publishers now directly provide their own digital editions of their journals — allowing libraries to bypass the image quality and access problems which were sometimes experienced when dealing with third—party aggregators.
In addition, increasing Internet bandwidth has helped improve access speeds, high—quality colour laser printers have become more common, while high—quality LCD screens are now standard. All of this has made both end—user printing and on—screen viewing practical and convenient. In Canada, two rounds of national site—licensing programs have also made it financially feasible for many small universities to gain access to enormous high—quality academic e—journal collections, research databases, and other significant electronic resources for the first time Canadian Research Knowledge Network, Academic libraries have also provided access to collections of electronic monographs for several years now.
However, poor e—book interfaces, along with various cumbersome publisher—imposed access restrictions, have helped to make e—books unpopular with libraries and library users Berg, et al. For example, an analytical online activity equivalent to underlining and highlighting text on paper has not yet become popular, even though e—books typically have these features.
For many readers, the technology of print on paper continues to be more suited to analytical in—depth reading than e—books on computer displays. Yet recently a new wave of considerable discussion of e—books and e—book readers has been taking place in the popular press and online, as companies have begun to successfully market popular e—books directly to consumers Tonkin, E—books have finally started to experience some commercial success International Digital Publishing Forum, There is some indication that many of the early adopters of dedicated e—reader devices have been consumers over the age of 50 or between the ages of 18 and 34, although more of the people in the younger category have preferred multiple—purpose devices Gallagher, When it comes to multi—purpose portable devices, the personal computing industry has predicted that sales of tablets such as the iPad will undergo enormous growth over the next few years Paczkowski, It is noteworthy that the highest—selling e—reading device is not a dedicated e—book reader.
As part of its other longstanding and controversial service, Google Books, Google has partnered with academic and other libraries in the U. In fact, it has already been found that 89 percent of college students use search engines to begin an information search while only two percent start from a library Web site De Rosa, et al. For several years now, academic librarians have been in the business of teaching students to dig deeper — to go beyond Google in order to get to the academic content supplied by the library, whether online or in print. While university students operate in a world immersed in digital text, they have not simultaneously abandoned print.
In fact, for their university studies, students prefer to read on paper, although they also want the convenience of online digital text. Liu has found that graduate academic library users like the access provided by online electronic resources, but prefer to print the electronic documents in order to read them Z. Liu, When it comes to course textbooks, a marked student preference for paper over e—books has recently been found Woody, Liu and Huang, While reading has historical, technological, social, and behavioural contexts, it is obviously also a cognitive and neurological activity.
Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the practice of reading digital text is likely to have some neurological implications. While much is still unknown about the human brain, one accepted neuro—scientific fact is that the structure and function of the human brain changes as a result of internal and external stimulation Doidge, Functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI can literally show a picture of the brain changing in developing readers Poldrack and Sandak, ; Yarkoni, et al. While reading has changed the brain, there is a limit to such cerebral plasticity. As cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene notes, the brain did not evolve for culture, but culture evolved to be learnable by the brain.
Through history all writing systems have shared common traits — they tend to be a series of strokes that the brain can be trained to readily interpret. And so over the millennia that humans have been reading, reading technologies have evolved from strokes on clay, to scrolls, to modern—day printed books, in order to meet the limited adaptability of the brain.
The way the brain is adapting to meet the new medium of electronic text is only beginning to become understood. Despite the fact that skimming and jumping around from place to place within text is not limited to online reading, this type of reading appears to be the most common type of reading online.
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Popular writers, such as Nicholas Carr , continue to express concern over its potential neurological affects. Indeed, in recent years researchers have called attention to the substantial differences between reading on screens online and in print, and have been calling for more recognition among educators about the cognitive differences between the two types of reading Burke and Rowsell, ; Leu, et al. While there is not yet enough published scientific research to make many definite conclusions about the effect of online reading on learning and the brain, it is known that the process of reading on screen tends to be cognitively different from the process of reading on paper, in terms of brain activation, the contextual environment, cognitive focus, comprehension, and reading speed.
Searching the Internet on a topic stimulates more neural circuitry than reading about the topic in a linear e—book Small, et al. Linear reading and hypertextual reading are cognitively very different from each other. For example, readers use more cognitive effort when reading an online news story that was selected from a wide array of stories Wise, et al.
Just like their printed counterparts, news Web sites are more likely to get their readers to invest more energy in reading a story if they were stimulated with many story choices on the first page. Another aspect of the cognitive difference between reading on screen and on paper has to do with the context provided by each reading medium. In our interview, Darnton spoke about his own personal interaction with the paratext of print newspapers, comparing this to the paratext of on screen reading:.