My penance for missing my deadline on Tuesday was the necessity of coming up with a third item so I could post today (and still have alliteration). Wandering thoughts on Wednesday, no matter how accurate that might have been, just didn’t seem to hold the same promise.
First, more from the front in the War on Reading:
I read with some surprise this article from the New York Times. Anyone who has spent much time at Media Bullseye knows we are great fans of reading here, and that Sarah Wurrey and I cling to our books, while Chip Griffin enjoys his Sony Reader. While I believe that reading is fundamental to good writing, I understand (well, kind of) that not everyone enjoys reading–and that’s fine. A world where everyone possesses the same skill sets would leave some pretty big gaps in many areas. The article examines some educators’ and specialists’ attempts to equate online reading with reading books, and that’s what I’m questioning.
In the article, a 15 year old profiled “spends most of her time on quizilla.com or fanfiction.net, reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies.” Her mother would “prefer” she read books, but is happy that she’s reading anything. Here’s what I find baffling: she’s considering majoring in English in college, and “someday hopes to be published.” I suppose there’s still time for her to discover that English majors have to do quite a bit of reading, and not Fanfic, replete with its grammatical and spelling errors. Fanfic is not a replacement for books, precisely for this reason–if the primary reading material is full of errors, what will an individual’s writing look like?
I suppose I could take some solace in the observations of Jupiter’s David Schatsky, who writes “[…]perhaps the Web creates an opportunity for those of us and our offspring who have retained cognitive skills to out-maneuver the e-nitwits in our competition for the best jobs and richest resources in a dumbed-down world of the future.” But somehow, that just isn’t that comforting.
Second, some thoughts on “community”
This certainly isn’t an earth-shattering notion, but I think that some of the companies considering “building communities” around products and brands need to think about whether or not a brand is logical for a community. There are plenty of products that I use that I’m passionate about, and am absolutely brand-loyal to–just try and get me to stop using Hope in a Jar or Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. I also adore Joe’s Jeans, because they come in petites that actually fit me. But would I join a community based on any of these? No. Why not? Because they are single-experience products. I like them because they do their one function well. A community needs more to talk about than single-experience products–the user has to have a variety of experiences to discuss, or it won’t be a thriving community. Again, I know this isn’t that much of a revelation, but if you have clients trying to build a community around a brand of mouthwash, it had better be able to double as excellent car soap/window cleaner/and clear up diaper rash or something.
Finally, is it time for some perspective, maybe?
First it was the item from the Wall Street Journal about the growing problem of texting injuries, and it wasn’t about “BlackBerry Thumb.” No, people are actually so engrossed in texting they are walking into things and hurting themselves. Then the complaints about Cuil started–the vast majority of which were “Cuil sucks, it couldn’t find me.” And a blog I visited earlier in the week had a post where the blogger recalled an evening recently where she and her husband were sitting next to one another on the couch, both working on laptops, not speaking to one another. From the tone of the piece, I got the distinct sense that this was not an unusual occurrence.
Has social media created a world of “social me”? All of the above items, in my opinion, are equal parts sad and alarming. In the WSJ piece, a guy was texting at a wedding reception and walked smack into the bride. Why was he texting at all? Aren’t there any formal social situations off limits to this behavior? On the second item, okay, so Cuil might not be a great search engine, but it’s telling that people’s first instinct is to see how it locates their web presence–and then render a judgment based on those results.
How much of the world are we missing when we allow gadgets and search engines and the Internet to take up so much of our attention?