Thursday, 13 February 2014

#rhizo14 W4: Is books making us stupid?

What’s taken me so long to post this week? Partly – I came over all pithy and just wrote: The trouble with books in HE could be exactly that weight – that sense of reified knowledge – that implacability – and ... the Reading Lists. I have seen students on just one module (of four) expected to read 8-12 books per week before each new seminar. Of course the lecturer probably means ‘dip into’ rather than read in depth – but the task is impossible and makes the students feel like failures every week. It also leaves them in no doubt as to their role: shut up – read this – you have nothing to say here… So – we have this juxtaposed with the more fluid, potential space of the oral – and of the quasi-oral which is the web. It feels more participative, engaging and engaged. Unique among media it invites transmission rather than just consumption. We evoke the camp fire and the tribal elders telling their tales of a shared collective history. An ever-present. Cool. But who gets to tell the tales – and who gets to hear them? These societies also ‘other’ the inconvenient and rebellious…



Just a small point about the task itself: wasn’t Dave in his paraphrasing of the ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ question, not really posing an either/or question – but challenging the peremptory nature of such questions? And wasn’t he also challenging the arrogance of the book-bound with their dismissiveness of all things web? I cannot imagine how many right-wing politicians must have nodded their heads in self-congratulation when they saw the Google = stupid proposition. Nothing seems to terrify them as much as a free and risky web. No, no they say – we need to make it safe – wrap it all up – tame this thing. The only point of ICT are the skills needed by business. Books embody the safe and controllable for them – whilst we know they also ‘light a fire in the mind’… We aren’t the ones who burnt the books but we might be the ones to sail the web as Digital Vikings as Amy Burvall suggests… 
So Karen sang:
And Jenny Mackness said:

And so many replied… The rest is silence ;-)
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