How the book destroyed Community

May 19

I recently attended a session by Rory McGreal at the Tlt Summit. Rory was discussing how video games are often considered to be making us more isolated and how they are destroying students ability to communicate. Rory points to the book as the real culprit.

Before the printed book, people had to flock to a select few scholars who had the knowledge and learning that needed to be shared in the community. This oral tradition meant people had to learn in social ways. The book transformed this and made it possible for people to learn on their own and in private. The scholars and teachers of the day had lost some of their power and significance. People could learn in private. The horror!

I think we’ve seen that the book hasn’t really destroyed community and neither will video games or the web. In fact, as Rory argues, most games cannot be done in private but have to be done together. I’ve observed my son many times yell, scream, laugh and have these seemingly incoherent mumblings on a headset and be in contact with several friends and strangers involved with a scheduled raid on WOW. I don’t totally get it but when I ask if he’s going to get together with his friends, he simply answers, “I already am”. Had he been sitting in a chair reading a book all evening, many would be much more pleased and feel his time is being better spent. I’m not prepared to make a complete judgment.  Yes balance will always be important but there is still a shift here that my 45 year old brain is still working out.

The shift in how we consume content continues to challenge and amaze me. Social reading is something I’m trying to wrap my head around.  Diigo is something I’m recently exploring that facilitates this.  Being able to highlight content, leave sticky notes, see what other parts people have annotated creates a social experience and richness never possible before. Will explains it really well in this post.  As I sit in my easy chair reading online with others many might find that odd. Again, if I had a printed book and was reading alone,  it would likely get more respect.  For many people, sitting in front of a screen is not a social experience.  For my son and I, that’s not the case.

This is certainly not to say that all reading should be social. But as we spend more time working out what learning looks like on the outside, we need to keep this in mind.

So the next time someone blames the web or a video game for destroying community and social interaction, tell them the book started it.
Image: by Yives

To feel most beautifully alive means to be reading something beautiful, ready always to apprehend in the flow of language the sudden flash of poetry

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  • http://speedchange.blogspot.com/ Ira Socol

    It is important to understand that the book DID destroy many things. Almost half the languages of Europe vanish within two centuries (think 10 generations) of Gutenberg. Didn’t get a Bible? Your language was history. And Socrates was right, literacy caused all manner of problems.

    But it’s one of those trade off things. Every advance creates new challenges. I’ve just been battling with Larry Sanger about this.

    Ira Socols last blog post..The Width of the World

  • http://newmiddle-earth.blogspot.com/ Ken Allan

    Kia ora Dean.

    I posted about this YouTube video clip. I admit that I defended the book without even broaching the issue of TV or computer games etc. I got an email reply from Rory (not a comment) who maintains that his ‘comment’ about the book in his speech was a metaphor that he used to springboard to addressing the wider issues to do with games etc.

    But like most technologies (as Ira alludes to in comment) there are always varied aspects to what they bring to community, not all good – the sword, the spear, the arrow, the gun, the guided missile, to list one series of technological development. It is the apportionment of (absolute) blame (Rory uses the word ‘culprit’) to select one item that I wonder about. We’d be as well blaming symbolism for it all.

    Catchya later

    Ken Allans last blog post..How Do You Build A Team?

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    Sorry Ken

    I perhaps didn’t provide the full extent of Rory’s use but was just a conversation starter. That was my intent as well. However I do think it’s important to have some historical perspective to use as we enter a new era of media and culture. This one, I hope, makes us think. I’m not attempting here to resolve much of anything but like many of my posts, stir conversation.

    Dean Shareskis last blog post..Podcast 46 Why Technology? A Follow up to a Follow Up

  • Andrea Nikolaou

    I completely agree with this blog!! For once someone supporting something I have been feeling for years. As a child I worked side-by-side with my brother to figure out and finish some tough video games. It challenges your mind and got me used to working with someone rather than playing by my self. Now today I can play with people around the world. Reading for the purpose of learning something new, ie a textbook, would definetly be more usefull and fun if it were interactive. Of course reading alone is peacefull, but who does not love to find someone reading the same novel so they can talk about what happened in the latest chapter? Interactive reading with posts and highlighting would definetly have been someone I would have loved to have when I was a student struggling with my texts.

  • Chad Galdys

    The first thing is clear. We are victims of habit. Oral tradition used to be way that people were taught. Memorization was the technology being used. We then progressed to books–ah! the culprit! which like both Dean and Rory stated was “terrible” and so like Rory stated books, the current advancing technology, were banned. Now we are progressing to a digital age with computers and live video games and things of the sort–”state-of-the-art” technology. And again we feel some tension. Like Dean said, many feel that sitting silently reading a book is much more academic and scholarly than sitting in front of a screen. But is it? Educational technology is advancing at an alarming rate and we, as a society, are trying to digest the changes. While we may not always understand change, like utilizing screens instead of books, we need to try to understand that the idea of community will not be destroyed. We will never “loose” community. Will it’s role change over the next decade–yes, it will–online communities and social networking is booming and becoming more and more popular. Just remember that before we call it “bad” or “poor” or “noneducational,” we need to answer the question–Is it honestly poor/bad/noneducational or is it simply different? I’m going with different, just because I may not be a gamer and completely understand video games, doesn’t mean that they are any less educational. Thanks for the perspective and giving us “techno food” for thought Dean.

  • http://newmiddle-earth.blogspot.com/ Ken Allan

    Kia ora Dean.

    You said your post was “a conversation starter”.

    I think it did that :-) .

    Catchya later

    Ken Allans last blog post..How Do You Build A Team?

  • http://www.sembolbarkod.com Etiket

    Like Dean said, many feel that sitting silently reading a book is much more academic and scholarly than sitting in front of a screen. But is it? Educational technology is advancing at an alarming rate and we, as a society, are trying to digest the changes. While we may not always understand change, like utilizing screens instead of books, we need to try to understand

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