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wundayatta's avatar

In the visual age, will reading become less important?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) December 17th, 2010

My son, age 10, is not fond of reading. He reads enough to be able to look up things on the internet and find the videos he wants. He’s found videos to teach him how to play songs on the piano, or how to do an aerial, or how to do origami as well as many other things. When he doesn’t understand something, he finds someone to tell him what it says or explain what it means.

I’ve read that humans, for most of our history, have been an oral culture. We pass information on through stories. The bards of yore were able to memorize thousands and thousands of lines of stories and to repeat them word for word in gathering places across the land. They also brought news with them.

Reading and writing are relatively new inventions, and have become mass produced items only since the printing press was invented, just a few hundred years ago.

Now the personal computer has been invented and less than a decade or so after that, we all have audio and video making capabilities at our fingertips. Our children are once again learning how to tell stories using the old techniques that have been made easy by new technology.

Does this represent a sea-change in how we pass information on? Are we going to be recording videos most of the time instead of writing emails? The hand-written letter already seems to be an arcane art. Will reading be relegated to the world of forms and applications and—I was going to say check writing, but that too is growing obsolete—and interactions with governmental agencies?

I find myself writing in a conversational style these days. I’ll say “well” or “so” at the beginning of a paragraph—a trope borrowed from aural culture. Those are the words we use to indicate the beginning of a new thought or “paragraph” when we are speaking.

Is the decline of reading and writing inevitable? Why or why not? If it will decline, how far? Is the rise of video and audio information transfer inevitable? Why or why not? What do you think about these changes, should they occur?

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4 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I am an audio visual person, and don’t particularly like reading books. It drives my father crazy that I am like this. However, I do see great value in books and the written word. I don’t think it is going away. I have argued that the bibe stories are not reliable for many reasons. One, is because the stories were written many years aft the event. Any child who has played telephone knows stories and information change as we verbally tell them from one person to the next. It is important to write things down.

Also, if you really want to learn in depth about a topic, I think the best way still is reading about the topic. I can’t see that changing.

meiosis's avatar

The written word will almost certainly play a diminished role in the centuries to come, but it’s hard to envisage a time where it will not still be performing vital tasks.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

No. The rise of YouTube coincided with the rise of mom-friendly online forums – for every kid out there learning via YouTube, there’s someone who didn’t read or write a whole lot previously but is now chatting and reading away with Facebook, texts, IMs, settling dinner arguments via Wikipedia (is the tomato a fruit or a veggie?). Reading and writing seems more prevalent now than every before, because we are communicating so much with people we aren’t physically around or even really know while still protecting some of our anonymity (which is why we don’t use videochats with strangers more).

Winters's avatar

Possibly among the general populous but I’m fairly sure that the “elites”/those that strive to succeed will definitely continue reading.

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