Week 8 Readings – Notes and Thoughts
In my continuing experiment into the best practices for organizing my thoughts about our 450 readings, I’ve decided to forgo writing summaries of the assigned materials. As we’re supposed to “work for the course,” I’m assuming the discussion of my thoughts are far more valuable than any content regurgitation I may be able to offer up. Not to mention it takes a really long time to write those summaries.
Reading Beyond the Book: The Social Practices of Contemporary Literature Culture by Danielle Fuller and DeNel Rehberg Sedo
In approaching this selection in terms of the question “Why is reading together at the same time a good thing?,” I thought I would come away with a much more clear cut answer. What really struck me is that the detractors of Mass Reading Events point to programs such as One Book, One Community as ways to perpetuate “middlebrow” culture. To be honest, I always felt this way about books that had been “Oprah approved.” It seemed like more people were reading prescribed titles based on the need to fit in, more than educate or entertain themselves. But herein lies one of the draws of communal reading- people take their own meanings from the selections.
Reading Beyond the Book also offers many connections between our discussions from the previous weeks, and the concurrent texts assigned for week 8. With the rise in neoliberalism, programs that encourage community engagement with the arts are less likely to receive government funding. This will lead to support for the arts to be more user generated, creating a marketplace for such pursuits. This is obviously a reality of our times, but it’s a little frightening to think what kinds of culture could fall by the wayside if current trends dictate all that’s available.
“Words with Friends”: Socially Networked reading on Goodreads by Lisa Nakumura
I appreciate how Nakumura acknowledges the all-too familiar E-readers debate without letting it become a focal point of the piece. It’s true- people use varied means to read the same things, and discussing the contents of materials matters more than discussing the methods of literary consumption.
When thinking about the act of reading together in terms of social media, the most interesting point this article raises centers around the idea of users displaying their reading “catalogs.” Nakumara uses the example of people setting up bookshelves in their homes to publicize themselves as readers, and how the rise of e-books diminishes this aspect of culture. I believe this to be the most important point, because it relates back to the idea of people having a “feeling for books.”
Many people desire to feel like books say something about them, regardless of how invested they are in the material. But maybe that’s the biggest idea from this week, and a glimpse into the future of literacy. User generated content allows people to have as much or as little say in how they interact with reading materials, while also providing lots of market research for the corporate sponsors that run the sites.
The biggest question both our class discussion and these articles leads me back to is “what is the true aim of encouraging groups of people to be literate?” As a future librarian, I can genuinely say I feel like it’s enough just to have communities interested in engaging literacy materials. But in terms of the discussion of MRE funding, will simply encouraging literacy be enough for the sponsors of these programs? Profitability is the key, and as long as it continues to be mutually beneficial to both users and suppliers, it seems like we’ll see more attempts at communal engagement with the arts.