Relearning to Read in 2014


So many things change, so much remains the same. New media has presented so many new challenges in all aspects of our lives but perhaps where we are effected most is how we digest written text. It is a constantly changing environment and due to the speed of change a status quo has yet to be established. The way we read has changed at such a remarkable pace in the past decade that there is nothing to say that this process is complete. A full revolution has yet to be completed and within the fulcrum of this change the very way we live our lives is being effected.

I was reading a medium post on the demise of print news journalism and the gradual decline of newspapers as news medium of choice this morning. It was expressed throughout the post that while the future for journalism is drastic, this future is not in fact news of itself, and it has in fact been obvious for so many who cared to even think about it for a moment.

A simple enough survey among anyone will reveal that few if any at all have in fact held and read a newspaper in the past few days, let alone bought one. Then an equally simple survey along the lines of ‘but have your read the news today?’ will reveal that the majority of the same people have in fact read some news articles, and are quite familiar with the main news headlines.

I certainly fall into this category. I don’t buy a newspaper, and I might at most pick up today’s newspaper if I’m in my parent’s house. I get an email every morning from the Irish Times, The Guardian, and the New York Times, all of which I usually open and browse the headlines (the NYT less so as a reaction to what was some pretty atrocious efforts of covering the murder of children in Gaza). I may click a link, but more often than not I don’t. Later on the bus to work I’ll scan through twitter for other news, and here I’ll click some links – some from these papers, and some links from other magazines or papers.

Note that I’m still calling them papers. You can see a lot of people on the same bus as me reading from the same sort of papers. And by papers I mean the medium they source the information from, not the publisher. There is very little paper on modern buses in 2014 as even our tickets are plastic.

We have I suppose come to a point where we are seeing the end of something which for so long was commonplace. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. Of course news media has now expanded into a 24 hour information dispensing factory composed of written text, images, and video encompassing reportage, opinion, and even advertisements selected for you based on the the material you are reading at the time. It is more sophisticated than ever before, but the form that brought it to the end is slowly dying.

If it is saved it will be interesting to see how this happens. It would have to be a fairly awesome machine that can outstrip the smartphone for its ability to bolster the necessity for 24 hour media immersion. We will always say that we don’t need something better, but someone is currently having ideas how to make this better. I can’t imagine what it will be, nor can I imagine when I will actually buy this device myself.

The reliance on smart devices in the media comes up against recent research which purports  that reading on a screen is less immersible than reading on paper. Where this information will do most damage will be in the ebook market, as well as offering much sought after vindication for supporters of books, who have long lauded the joy of touch on the rough paper of the individual page as an important reason for continuing their love affair with books, and shunning modernity in the shape of ebooks.

It is especially significant as this research will hopefully encourage a return to ye olde textbook for school kids, with the removal or reduction of ipads from the classroom. It’s not that I’m against technology in the classroom, in fact I endorse it fully, however replacing digital devices for actual books deserves a few complaints from me.

I’ll complain first about the necessity of only sourcing ipads when any other tablet should be sufficient, and indeed more cost effective. The connection of ipads and education will leave a lasting effect and I think that if we are encouraging kids to use technology in the classroom we should encourage them to be more discerning customers who know how to make informed decisions. I like ipads, in fact I love mine, but I certainly would never encourage someone to buy one over another product. Too each their own I say. Encouraging them in classrooms irks me. If we are to encourage any particular tech it should be, in my opinion, open source. But I shall digress for now.

Another thing I think is important about books in classrooms is that I think they encourage a little more responsibility. Other than dropping and smashing the screen of your device, you can kind of get away with anything. With books you kind of have to make sure not to tear them, spill things on them, and if you’re like me if you’re going to draw pictures and chew the corners you have the true physical and emotional response when your mother finds the state of them when she tries to sell them on second hand the year after you done with them.

Of course what’s most important about books is that you have a four dimensional experience with them. You have to touch the pages, you have to write notes in them (only lightly and in pencil of course), they smell, and you are as much engaged in the content as you are with the environment you are in at that time. You remember more because you experience more through your senses. Screens and devices attempt to replicate this, but they come a cheap second in the long run.

So what does this mean for news media? Well probably not a lot I’d wager. We still want news now, and no other medium other than smart technology and the internet can provide this. Yet. And when this medium arrives, it will be quicker and it will be more invasive in the way that we carry it around with us everywhere, whether it is social media or not.

Print however will not die, it will merely evolve. Can you recall the last time you read a 2000 word article on the bus or train in the morning? In fact I’m sure most readers are like me; a quick scroll to the bottom, check the length, then a scroll to the top and then decide somewhere in between as you scan a paragraph or two whether or not you’ll be bothered reading it. Do you do the same when it’s on paper?

Gone will be the short snappy articles often found in print. In will be a higher quality product, with longer and more in dept analysis focusing on long form journalism, quality photography and images, and a variety of news and analysis which stops us and takes us to another location, thought pattern, and allows us more than a simple report of events.You can already find these parts buried deep inside the features sections of most newspapers, but if there were more of them? Magazines have been doing this all the time, but perhaps we need even of this. It may not have to be daily, but it does need to be present.

As the ticker tape of news flickers by with crisis and disaster and scandal tumbling us into non-existence, this is the kind of material which lures us back. It forces us to stop, sit down, and to take a moment to actually read as we ignore the barrage of information tinkling in our pockets negotiating for our attention.

Perhaps now that we know that we cannot digest digital information as cohesively as we can words on print in time we will witness a rebirth of the printed word. The challenge I believe will be how will we change our lifestyles to adapt to this change, not how will the medium adapt to us.

It’s a nice thought.

 

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‘I Just Want to Scream’ – Reading at PEN Korea Poetry Concert


This picture was shared with me by Alexandra Jade Rodrigues on the ould Facebook. It’s a really touching addition to the poem I kind of haphazardly shared here some weeks back. I say haphazardly as it was a knee-jerk emotional reaction to the tragedy, and it seems to have been a reaction which many empathised with. I’m grateful to Alexandra for sharing this with me, as it is a poigniant image which reflects the continued wait for answers, even when the news of the disaster appears to have left the newsreels of the international media.

As you may be aware, some weeks back I was very fortunate to be invited as a reader at an international poetry concert organised by PEN Korea. The concert took place about a week or so after the tragedy. Initially I was asked to read only one poem, but following the tragedy of the Sewol sinking off the south coast, I contacted the organiser and asked if it was possible that I read my poem which attracted so much attention here, ‘I Just Want to Scream’. I was very fortunate that they ascented, and in the end I read my two poems. The first is a older poem Driving Close to the DMZ which was originally printed in Burning Bush II a couple of years back. This poem was followed by I Just Want to Scream.

In these videos shared with me by the concert organisers you can here me deliver both my poems.

Driving Close to the DMZ

I Just Want to Scream

This particular video includes a shortened and edited version of all the readers at the concert and is also worth your time and consideration.

Thank you again to Alexandra for the image, and to Sun A at PEN Korea for giving me the opportunity to read.

For more on PEN Korea please visit their website: http://www.penkorea.or.kr

The Internet: How Much Time is Too Much Time?


This is kind of an old argument…

If someone told you that you spend too much time on the internet, how would you respond?

Maybe I would say that don’t spend that much time on the actual internet, but I do spend a lot of time using various social network services or websites. I think I wouldn’t say I spend too much time, but I would admit that I am an avid addict of the world of knowing someone else’s business whilst trying to make my own business look, well, fascinating.

Let’s take a little look at where I am:

– Blog (you’re reading it)
Tumblr – reading and posting instagram photographs.
Twitter – reading and sharing, as well as commenting on, well, everything…
Flickr – photographs!
– Instagram – more photographs
Youtube – for videos and slideshows I make…
Linkedin – networking…for work…and looking important…
– Facebook – believe it or not, mostly just for keeping in touch with friends and family – after the big ordeal of getting off Facebook a few years ago, I just said ‘fuck it’ and signed back on. +1 kind of influenced this, but also the fact that I missed what little communication I had with many people I knew. Sad, I know.
– Meetup – Mostly for IAK stuff but can be useful for other events.
– Pinterest – yeah, apparently it’s a bit girly and I’m not sure why I joined it, but we’ll see what happens.

There might be one or two that I’m forgetting (I deleted bebo and haven’t looked at Myspace for at least a year, but if it gets you wet you can read some really old blog posts of mine there)

And I’ve profiles on a whole host of other websites which I comment on or receive daily or weekly updates on in my email, and I read these emails most of the time (I don’t necessarily always click the links).

So I make myself busy on the internet.

I thought that I’d ask this question after a comment from my old man on my last post, ‘Letter From Korea, August 2012’, telling me that if I turned off some of my internet distractions I’d probably get more work done. He’s probably right, but then again he’s probably wrong. You see despite the fact that I have a lot of activity on the internet, it’s worth asking how much of a distraction it really is, because I honestly think that I would be distracted even if I was chained up in a fucking desert.

Despite this notion, there’s been a fair amount of discussion on the viability and destructive nature that social media has on traditional media and the way we find information. I would be of the opinion that if you’re going to sit back and complain about something it will have overtaken you by the time you think you have people listening to you – and perhaps this is how I feel about Facebook. Perhaps.

How much time does it take to read a facebook status update? Or a tweet? And how long does it take to write one? While that’s a short amount of time, if it’s a link to a news or blog post (depending on the site) that is where the benefit comes from. It’s about content. That’s what keeps pulling me back to the internet. You see, when I started using twitter it was, I think, to get a regular feed of different links from whoever was tweeting them out. I’ve never been that interested in reading the links of individual people and their mannerisms (there are exceptions of course). I like to think now that I know more about stuff I never knew before. Things like this make finding this information out a lot easier, and they benefit the suppliers too because it’s easier to be found.

There are more questions that I should ask. I hope that I can answer them. Here I go.

Is it worthwhile being on a social network? Well, yes and no. It all depends on what you’re trying to do and what you’re looking to achieve from it. A lot of people initially start out using these because everyone else is there, and this is especially the case with facebook. Other people start out using them because they are looking to use some of the services for publicity or sharing, such as photographs on flickr. Twitter was destined to be a constant stream of neurotic teenagers tweeting in text language until journalists and the media got onto it, making it more valuable. A bit like much in life, it all boils down to finding out what’s the point of using these things? Knowing your, options, alternatives, and goals can probably help you to know this answer easily. There are many of us who don’t actually need to use social networks or the media.

I’ll give you an example of what social networks can do for someone who is living and working in a place like Korea. They definitely operate as a network where you can connect and hear about events, new restaurants, and news (I suppose), where before you would have had to visit different websites individually, now you can source all your information on one. In Korea, Facebook is definitely the most useful website to use as practically any event that takes place is publicised through facebook, at least in the foreign community here. When I initially deleted my facebook account I found that I had automatically lost my source for event postings and get-togethers (and also it has to be said, a pile of useless and irrelevant stuff). Could I have survived without much of it? Yes. Did I? Yes. Will I continue you to? Surely.

But still I am here and there (and some would say everywhere) online. I have to say that I enjoy it. I do spend quite a lot of time online, perhaps an hour or two every day, but to be honest I know when I spend too much time on social networks – it actually feels like it has been too much time. Sometimes I get a headache, but usually I know when I’ve had enough. I could blame it for distracting me from getting work done, but as I read from an interview from Margaret Atwood recently, essentially it doesn’t matter who are and what you do, you will find distractions when work has to be done and you don’t have a boss beating down on you.

Of course there has been an increase in arguments about why the internet is tearing apart social structures and prescribed practices (esepecially the traditional media), but at the end of the day the internet and all its follicles are here to stay. There are obvious conflicts with common sense, especially when you see how much money is spent on developing internet products and websites. I reckon people who complain about that kind of stuff are just jealous they couldn’t have thought of something as simple.

The amount of benefits can struggle to counter the obvious ridiculous and negative aspects. But like any game it all depends how you play it. I’d like to think that I can utilise it and not turn it into an enemy, and that I can learn to use it to my own benefit – whatever that may be.

So in answer to my initial question, do I spend too much time on the internet. Yes I do. What can you do?

 

After posting this I found this article in my #twitter stream. Very worthwhile read and one the more balanced and well supported arguments. As I said though, what can you do?

What’s in My Bookcase?


This is a permanent collection. There’s a lot going on here. A lot of history. Not that many history books mind you.These shelves contain a few stories in the own right, not to mention so many memories of friends who have left Korea over the years.

The most significant feature in my apartment is probably the bookshelf. It’s a tall double-rowed case five bays high, but we’ve pushed it down on its side and it functions now as a room longth mantle piece where our television and family pictures now sit. Each of the book shelf bays is full, although not completely with books.

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The Poetry Reading


I walked into the dark blue tinted room about thirty minutes late. There were around eight people in scattered groups of twos and threes talking in low voices but occasionally interacting familiarly with the rest of the people in the room.

 

The dark light was spotted with white glowing candle flames sitting on the tables spread evenly about the room. At the back there was a small bar with plenty of different bottles stacked up around it, and beside it a stage was laid out backed by a picture of a wide blue ocean scene warmly illuminated by a single spotlight centred on a single microphone.

 

I walked to a small table in the centre and put my bag down on a chair and walked straight to the bar and shook hands with its occupant, a short but long haired and bearded man wearing a black baseball cap.

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