How the book destroyed Community

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