Saturday, July 10, 2004

New report from the U.S. claims everybody is reading less...

A new 'crisis' seems to have hit the U.S. in that now it's not just boys who aren't reading (novels) now it's everyone who's not reading (novels). The report, Reading At Risk, was published by the National Endowment for the Arts and is based on data drawn from "The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts," conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2002.

The report is discussed in a New York Times article (you may need to register to read this--but registration is free), and identifies one of the main culprits in this national decline in reading (novels) as (you guessed it) electronic media(i.e., the usual easy target rolled out once again). As one commentator puts it in the NY Times article, "Whatever good things the new electronic media bring, they also seem to be creating a decline in cultural and civic participation," Mr. Gioia said. "Of literary readers, 43 percent perform charity work; only 17 percent of nonreaders do. That's not a subtle difference." This narrow definition of what counts as being a good citizen certainly clashes with what I've seen online and offline in terms of cellphones being used to mobilise voters during national elections (the Philipines), the critique of mainstream media (e.g., Indymedia and Adbusters) and a whole host of other types community projects around the world (e.g., Some examples here).

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