Dear Doris Lessing: Reading And Writing Online Are Still Reading And Writing

from the no,-seriously dept

Doris Lessing is getting a fair bit of attention for her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature, where she spends a lot of time talking about the hunger for books in Zimbabwe, but then, oddly, blasts computers and the internet as if they're destroying the ability to read and write:
We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers.

What has happened to us is an amazing invention - computers and the internet and TV. It is a revolution. This is not the first revolution the human race has dealt with. The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, transformed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: "What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?" In the same way, we never thought to ask, "How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?"
These statements unfortunately come off as the stereotypical "back in my day!" rantings of someone no longer in touch with society. It's odd in the first paragraph for her to call out "computers" as being part of the "know nothing" generation. Computers have helped countless people learn more, discuss more and engage more. She describes computers like someone who has never used one. The second paragraph then (again, oddly) combines computers with television -- despite the extremely different nature of the two. One is passive, one is active. One is about communication and engagement, the other is about broadcasting and receiving. Furthermore, as she goes on to lament a lack of interest in books as a necessary core for a new generation of writers, she mocks "blogging" which is actually helping more people write more than they would otherwise. It's an elitist stance to suggest that just because it's short-form and online it doesn't matter. It's also wrong. Studies have shown that students these days are much more comfortable writing -- in large part because they spend so much more time communicating via the written word online. It's truly unfortunate that Lessing would use her Nobel speech to incorrectly bash something on which she apparently has little understanding. The rest of her speech is quite interesting, and it's too bad that it's marred by this unfortunate and misplaced attack on modern technology.


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    Trevlac, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 5:03am

    Computers are why I know as much as I do.

     

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    Pope Ratzo, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 5:10am

    Doris, Doris, Doris...

    In my work, I encounter the writing of scores of young people every semester. There is no question in my mind that their writing is improving since the advent of the Internet.

    And the ones who are bloggers tend to be the best writers of the lot more often than not.

    Another old-school writer who doesn't "get" the Inter-tubes. And a former sci-fi writer no less. For shame.

     

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      Jon, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:12am

      Re: Doris, Doris, Doris...

      "...sci-fi writer no less."

      Much of sci-fi is about decrying technology and the awful, tyrannical place it is taking us. In that vein, I'm not surprised.

       

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    Haywood, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 5:14am

    I must agree

    I've seen my previously questionable writing skills improve drastically sparring on internet forums, not that there isn't still room for improvement. My reading comprehension, which was pretty good to begin with, has improved speed wise. I seldom read print any more, and purists find that to be the problem, I was, in the past, an avid reader. I'm sure a lot of horse people felt riding in cars was blasphemy in the beginning of the 20th century, now they take the horses along in trailers pulled behind.

     

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    Trevlac, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 5:25am

    I used to be horrible at writing until I started doing it on the internet. Writing online gives a way of receiving instant feedback on your skill. Normally people only learn how to write in school where they have to worry about a grade on their work. Online you just write and get better. There's no failing, only improving.

     

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    Jim, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 5:29am

    What %

    Actually I think that for the majority of computer user's Doris has a point. How many people create videos and post them to u tube vs simply watch. How many create a web site vs simply browse. For a small percentage of people, computers have become a means of creation. For most it is another passive device, just like TV, or books. Of course I am of that much maligned "older" generation.

     

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    Simon, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 5:30am

    Ha!

    I'm Googling for an appropriate response to send her right now!

     

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    Emilio, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 5:45am

    People who grew up in the TV Era don't realize just how badly it impacted us all. The term 'couch potato' was coined for a reason. You completely shut down all but a small part of your mind for hours at a time, day after day. Then cable gradually infiltrated, and the national rot increased by hundreds of channels.

    All those hours vegging in front of the set, remember? Get home from work, eat supper, sit down in front of the thing and let it pump crap into our heads from 7 until 11:30 or 12. Wake up the next morning, turn it on, and last thing before you walk out the door for work, turn it off again. Yes, occasionally there was some 'news', but mostly there was just junk, not to mention all those advertisers, yelling at us every 5 or 10 minutes, over and over and over...

    The Internet has reversed this trend. We're starting to think and reason and write again. Yes, it may be in smaller bite-sized bursts all day long, on a plethora of subjects. However, the audience is huge even compared to top-selling paper-backs, and the collective understanding of millions of people communicating with each other in this never before possible, near real-time manner is growing. Studies now show that Internet time is actively replacing TV time.

    No, it's not 'Reading and Writing Books' time. But it is at least 'Reading and Writing' time. If TV was 2 steps backward, the Net is 1 step forward again.

     

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    gfish, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 5:59am

    He.

    Nobel prize in literature, questioning the unreasoning speed with which we as a species picked up this 'book' technology. So meta!

    Interestingly enough, if I recall a little history, didn't the reigning authority at the time heavily question this 'book' thing once it started rolling?

    I kind of expect more from such exalted sources.

     

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    Danno, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:00am

    I don't know, I'm not entirely sure she's criticizing the internet as something that's entirely bad:

    "This is not the first revolution the human race has dealt with. The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, transformed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: 'What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?'"

    Rather, I think she might be suggesting that we're not considering how it is changing us. And, to be quite fair, there *is* a lot of purile drivel on the internet (lolcats, orly owls, diet coke and mentos, youtube comment threads, to name a few) that can be quite a drain on someone's time.

    Even Nobel Prize laureates of literature can phrase something in a way that doesn't commute their thoughts properly.

     

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      Matthew, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:31am

      Re:

      I'm not sure you are clearing this up for me. There is a lot of purile drivel on paper as well, so I'm not sure the ratio of quality content, electric vs printed, is much worse.

      The Internet is merely a printing press to which most anyone has access. Some of it is great. Some of it is very bad. Mike's comments suggest to me that Mrs Lessing laments being in an echelon of writers that were consumed by the common folks rather than competing against them. You, Danno, provide a different angle, but I'm not seeing it yet.

      How is it changing us? I have access to world-wide news at a moment's notice. The good thing is that I'm informed. The bad is that I have another subject to worry about, perhaps. I don't have the prespective from times of old, but I see my Grandparents get the Internet being able to keep in touch with friends and family all around the globe. Perhaps they don't travel to these people's houses much, but the price, hassle, and free-time are large obstacles that are overcome by a quick web cam meeting.

      Times are different. Not better. Not worse. Just different.
      Get on board or get left behind.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:11am

    "How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?"

    I think her point is that she doesn't want people to read and write about life, she wants people to live their life. Actually experience the world, not just "research" other places, other activities, but to actually partake in life.

    I agree. Life isn't a spectator sport, it is meant to be experienced.

     

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      Matthew, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:35am

      Re:

      Well that's more like it, but I don't have time to get out there. I can't afford to get out there. I do not want to stand in an airport with shoes in hand to travel. But rather than read a book about it I can read, listen and view all about it. I can talk, in real time, to people there and learn their culture and points of view.

      Does it ruin my imagination? Certainly not.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:41am

    How's this for horrible?

    I googled and come to realize that I've never heard of this writer. But thanks to the Internet I am going to get my eyeballs on some asap.

    Ahh, the bittersweet pill of Irony.

     

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    Anonymous of Course, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:43am

    Same as it ever was...

    I guess the dime novels of the late 1800's,
    sci-fi from the 1950's and 60's and pulp
    fiction from any old time are not brain
    candy because they're printed on dead trees!

    Don't get me wrong, I love books. My house
    is sagging under the weight of them. But
    I also love books on-line. The Gutenberg
    project, Google books and Bibliomania to
    name just a few sites are fantastic treasure
    troves of books.

    It's all a matter of what you seek. If you want
    technical books or romance novels, you can find
    them on the internet. There are reams of porn,
    of course, and even Mark Twain's Following the
    Equator. What will you have?

    The internet offers a wider selection than the
    local library, without the bother of cardfiles
    and the gymnastics of navigating ladders propped
    againt dusty stacks.

    It would be in Doris Lessing's interest to
    invest some time in becoming computer literate.

     

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    am, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:49am

    many commenters around the web are missing the poi

    Her speech condemns the superficiality of the writing on the internet, not the internet as a whole. I think her point is that the internet encourages hasty, unthinking communication, and that is, overall, bad for our ability to reason and analyze.

    I think the more controversial part of her speech is a passing comment in which she claims that Africans' love for books comes from their former white masters.

    Other than that, the speech was good and, in my opinion, exactly right, and I say that as someone who has been reading and writing on the web extensively since the browser of "choice" was Mosaic.

     

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      SteveD, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 7:03am

      Re: many commenters around the web are missing the

      “I think the more controversial part of her speech is a passing comment in which she claims that Africans' love for books comes from their former white masters.”

      I was looking out for a racist slant on this, but given the entirety of the piece I think you’ve reached the wrong interpretation. She’s more implying that the Mugabe regime has done nothing to encourage literacy in the country. This might be considered the least of the man’s crimes however.

      Considering the length of the piece I’m not sure that attacking her for her views on technology are entirely fair. She’s a winner of the Nobel prize for literature; of course she’s going to be slightly romantic about physical books. As ever it seems that journalists (in this case the telegraph) have picked out one controversial message from a lengthy talk about something completely different.

      She seems to be trying to paint an analogy of Africans starving for literature (literally) while the west throw unwanted food away (libraries full of books no one reads).

      What seems to be the heart of the issue is if the net can truly replace books for factual information. In many cases I believe it can.

      In that case, why not ship out all our old books to Africa? Feed the world, man!

       

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        am, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 9:26pm

        Re: Re: many commenters around the web are missing

        Yeah i am not attacking her for her view re white rulers imbuing black Africans with a sense of books, and I see your point about Mugabe, but I think in that part of her speech she is talking about sub-Saharan Africa generally, and not just Zimbabwe under Mugabe.

        I think the passage is notable, that's all.

         

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    chris (profile), Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:58am

    writing... i haz it

    she nedz to STFU! puterz are teh win and i am leet writar and she is like whatever.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 6:59am

    She's pretty dead on about the Internet degrading writing skills of the next generation. I was lucky enough to be in high school during the mainstreaming of the Internet 93-97 so I had already developed a grasp of the English language and only benefited from the wealth of information that I had access to via the internet. I don't see her as claiming that the available knowledge is bad but that children are being cultivated in a world of Youtube comments instead of quality literature. My fiance is a teacher and i see some of the work these kids pass in and it's atrocious even by Internet comments standards. These students actually write "wuz, cuz, btw, ur, etc." and they don't think there is anything wrong with it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 9:13am

      Re:

      AC wrote: These students actually write "wuz, cuz, btw, ur, etc." and they don't think there is anything wrong with it.

      Languages evolve, get over it.

      Or was Shakespeare a semi-illiterate ruffian because he didn't spell the same way that Chaucer did?

       

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      Mike (profile), Dec 10th, 2007 @ 10:26am

      Re:

      She's pretty dead on about the Internet degrading writing skills of the next generation.

      Studies have actually shown that writing skills have improved as the internet has grown in popularity...

       

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    Thom, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 7:06am

    Disagree

    I have to disagree with most of you because I've seen writing skills plummet since 2000. The vast majority of people communicating on the Internet aren't blogging or participating in intelligent debate in online forums - they're chatting and texting.

    Most young people I encounter have minimal vocabulary, they can't spell, they can't write complete sentences and they can't form cohesive thoughts. Sadly most don't even try to move beyond texting. Worse still are the adults who could spell and write at one time. Many of them have all but lost that ability - all because they've spent so much time chatting online and texting that their skills have waned.

    Yes, I do include myself in this assessment. I spent a couple years in the chat rooms and watched my own skills decline tremendously, even though I avoided chat speak and abbreviations. During that time period I didn't have to do any "real" writing so I laughed and joked about the decline I was noticing and blamed it on habit alone. It wasn't until I needed to write something professionally that I discovered my writing had fallen from an A+ college to a C- high school level.

    I'm still terribly behind, because I don't need to write very often in my work, and I don't have the spare time to practice at home. Sigh... I get depressed about it every time I (attempt to) write one of these comments.

     

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      Dolf, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 7:16am

      Re: Disagree

      I've noticed a delcine as well, but it seems that the people that actually can write really do stand out. Most of the grammar out there is atrocious, not to mention vocabulary, but I alos see Pope Ratzo's point. There may be aspects of the internet that have helped improve the writing and overall linguistic skills of people overall.

      Luckily a Nobel Prize doesn't really mean anything any longer. The people winning these things have done little other than make noise.

       

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    Harry Liston, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 7:33am

    Give with one hand, take with the other

    The sad fact is that while governments (like Canada) subsidize the growth of the web, they at the same time repeal citizen's rights to know what is really going on. This slide in the quality of information has not gone unnoticed. Donald Gustein from Simon Frazer University, in his book 'e.con' believes that democracy has erroded terribly in the name of progress.

    What's ironical is that while public money supports the growth of the web, ostensibly to keep us competitive, down at city hall they are debating the closure of one third of the city's libraries. What a shame!

    The conclusion: it's cheaper to keep us sedated with our gimmicky Web 2.0 applications than to provide true access to information.

     

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    Andrew D. Todd, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 7:38am

    Example of What Things Used to be Like

    I would like to second "Pope Ratzo"'s remarks about the improvement in student writing. (#2) Here are some gradebook comments from a sophomore-level course, circa 1990, for which I was a grader. These comments survive because at the time I was experimenting with what it was practical to use the computer for. Grading "blue books" is, in hindsight, a marginal application, and, the following term, I reverted to red-pencilling. What follow are comments from take-home assignments. The students were shown four anthropological films in class over the term, and were expected to turn in a short essay at the following class meeting, reporting certain factual observations from these films. Essentially none of the students turned in typed/word processed papers. Some of them wrote with "magic markers." None actually wrote in crayon, at least. This was at a flagship state university, and the students were fairly good as students go, even if they were not ivy league. Still, I was doing the work of an intellectual boot camp sergeant, teaching college sophomores, juniors, and seniors the things which I myself had been taught in the tenth grade. Obviously, from that level, there was nowhere to go but up.

    ---------------------------------------------

    "Oh, and label the things, It doesn't make my job any easier to have to guess which question you're answering" (to a quiet, clever girl, seemingly from Garrison Keillor's fictional Lake Wobegon, who didn't have to be told anything twice, and eventually got an A).

    "Too little detail on everything. My own handwriting isn't so wonderful that I'm in a position to complain, but could you try for a bit more legibility?"

    "Organize, Organize. And I thought I told you about dull pencil." (to a C student)

    "...mind using lined paper? It makes it much easier to read."

    "Note to the professor - a lot of the people seemed to be answering different questions. Next time, let's prepare a purple horror [a mimeographed hand-out], with more explicitly written questions."

    "Couldn't you have provided more detail? There was no time limit." (to one of these hopeless types-- arrogant boy who didn't work).

    "the content is acceptable, but so help me, if you don't label the sections next time around, I'll knock a point off for neatness." (to a rather earnest girl. I remember her trying to renegotiate her grade after class).

    "Look here man, you had practically unlimited time to do the thing in. Couldn't you do better than this?: 'One that a gobetween is used by the groom to set the amount of tribute is to be paid to the mother of the bride gifts of money are given to the bride and groom by the there familys [sic] and they are separated until the end of the feast.' You simply can't go on like this. I'll give you 50%." (to the absolute turkey of the class, a boy, of course. In desperation, I reproduced his entire "essay.")

    "Tell me specifically who did what. Your answer reads like a question. All this term, you have been consistently writing very, very short answers to questions, which are very, very lean on facts. You simply can't go on like this, period. [I give you] 0%." (later in the term, to the same one, again).

    "Print your name legibly."

    "...more or less acceptable, but your handwriting is not. It's damm near illegible. Learn to type, and soon!"

    ---------------------------------------------------------------

     

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    Kyle, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 8:24am

    Nobel Moron?

    1. Actually, I would equate TV more with books, then with the internet. Send > receive (no interaction between source and destination).

    When is the last time you wrote an author to take issue with their published text? Very few times, I'm sure.

    2. Kids that don't know the difference between net-speak and what is appropriate in school, are morons. Or, they're being taught or raised by morons. Blame who you wish, it certainly isn't the internet's fault the kid acts like a moron.

    Anyone with a room temperature IQ can tell you there are at least two types of communication formal and informal:

    formal: The importance of this literary work is...

    informal: ...lol, d4mn that b1tch has a huge 4ss ROFL...

    3. Teachers/parents complaining about students gives me a big softy. If they writing in a way that differs from what you would like to see, TEACH them better.

    Adapt to this "new" reality or give up the ghost...

    Shame on anyone for deriding a medium such as TV or internet... in both cases YOU determine the interaction.

    If you can't adapt your curriculum to take advantage of available resources, then your a crappy teacher...

    What if you just let kid's run wild in a library and read/do whatever they want? It's doubtful much learning would take place. It's the same with the internet. With a little (qualified) guidance and supervision, the internet is a billion times more valuable than a pile of books.

     

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    Hogan, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 9:04am

    I am just guessing that no one has actually read the article being commented on. Stab in the dark there. The author isn't saying that computers are the source of all evil. She is saying that the days of people being proficient in multiple arenas are long gone. Back in the day a person would be versed in art, literature, science, and whatever else, but point is they would have multiple points of experience whereas today we tend to focus on a single field. The author unfortunately chooses computers as her example which people read as a ding against computers. It was rather, a ding at people for being so linear in our endeavors. We have no depth anymore. I don't necessarily agree with her viewpoint but understand what she is saying. She then goes on to say that computers are the next great revolution to be as influential as writing was when it first appeared in history. How a computer person could find error in that I don't know but by the postings here it appears it does. Might have something to do with the blog author not knowing their ass from a hole in the ground and pulling two paragraphs out of context. Don't know.

     

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      Mike (profile), Dec 10th, 2007 @ 10:32am

      Re:

      I am just guessing that no one has actually read the article being commented on. Stab in the dark there.

      Well, you'd be wrong, but nice try. I read the whole piece three times before starting to write the post.

      She is saying that the days of people being proficient in multiple arenas are long gone. Back in the day a person would be versed in art, literature, science, and whatever else, but point is they would have multiple points of experience whereas today we tend to focus on a single field.

      Again, as I wrote in a comment above, that's a pretty big assertion that doesn't seem connected to reality. It may have been true in certain segments of society, but it appears these days that a lot larger segment of the population is more proficient and versed in a wider arena of information in large part THANKS to the internet that has allowed them to do this. These days it's not uncommon for people to work in multiple fields and to have different careers -- while also learning to appreciate new and different arts/hobbies/sports etc. So while she may be asserting that people are more focused today, I find that hard to support in reality.

      She then goes on to say that computers are the next great revolution to be as influential as writing was when it first appeared in history.

      But she seems to lament that fact... not embrace it.

      How a computer person could find error in that I don't know but by the postings here it appears it does. Might have something to do with the blog author not knowing their ass from a hole in the ground and pulling two paragraphs out of context. Don't know.

      Yes, very convincing to make your argument by throwing a pure insult in. Now I believe you. Either that or perhaps it's not that I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground, but that I have a different interpretation than you had. We can argue interpretations, but to throw around insults isn't particularly convincing. It's the sign of someone who can't actually back up their argument.

       

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    Steve, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 9:10am

    Yet another proof to Ms. Lessing's theory

    All of these comments (including this one), only strengthen Doris' contention that we are risking our ability to experience the world by getting caught up in the "inanities" of the internet.

    I don't see anything in here that says "back in my day" -- in fact, she starts her comment by citing the effect of the first published books which most certainly predates "her day" -- "A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: 'What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?'" I'm sure she'd be able to see the same inanities in the printed page.

    Then she simply states the obvious: "they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?"

    But that's not "politically correct" in the blogosphere, is it? Instead, let's focus on what she is really expounding on: Our fragmenting society "where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other..."

    Go Google the sad state of the knowledge of young men and women in regards to Geography, or scan the comments of any online system for the obvious xenophobic paranoia.

    Are you all so terrified of a little criticism from someone like Ms. Lessing who it appears has earned at least a little of the high ground to criticize from?

     

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    Barrenwaste, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 9:31am

    You missed with this one, Mike.

    While I normaly agree with your editorials, Mike, this one is way off. She isn't blaming computers and the internet for a decline in literary skills in the masses. What she is saying is that it has served to channel peoples skills into one narrow field. She is also saying that when computers were introduced there was little thought as to where the machines might take us. Neither statement is untrue. Computers have brought the basic reading level up, at least in the USA, but they have also brought about a level of technology that demands the full resources of an individual. What this means is that the experts of this day and age have no where near the life experience or lexicon of skills that such people had in earlier ages. This is not necisarily a bad thing, only unexpected.

     

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      Mike (profile), Dec 10th, 2007 @ 10:25am

      Re: You missed with this one, Mike.

      What she is saying is that it has served to channel peoples skills into one narrow field.

      Is there any proof of that? I haven't seen it. It seems to be that computers and the internet have opened up more people to more areas of knowledge than ever before.

      What this means is that the experts of this day and age have no where near the life experience or lexicon of skills that such people had in earlier ages.

      Again, do you have any proof of this or does she provide any? Because in my experience that's not the case at all. In this day and age it's easier than ever to learn and experience a new field. People have many different jobs and careers than in the past, when you were pigeonholed and stuck in a particular career early on.

       

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    Barrenwaste, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 9:52am

    RE: 27

    I'd have to say that Shakespeare was a semi-litterate ruffian that wasn't in a class with Chaucer, but I don't think that had anything to do with changing language. Shakespeare was just a hack, that's all. Most of his work is so pithy and his characters so overblown it isn't even funny. Though, I have to admit, his works aren't completely useless......they make good doorstops.

     

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    Thom, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 10:51am

    Re:

    AC wrote: Languages evolve, get over it.

    The sentence you quoted isn't an example of a language evolving, but of a language self-destructing. That said, I can understand how an ignorant or uneducated person might misidentify such changes as meeting the critera of an evolution in language. There are characteristics in common between evolutions and devolutions - the key difference being that one helps ensure the survival and growth of the language and the other hastens its destruction.

    When your mom chastises you for spending all day playing WOW, wanking to anime, and practicing your leet speak then cries that you're not normal and need a real life what's your reply? "We (basement dwelling, 20-something, geeky, AC posting trolls) define normal, I have a life (trolls rule!), get over it," I bet.

     

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    sigh, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 11:04am

    The speech is not about book, tv, net, etc

    Her speech is about (the hunger for) knowledge.

    The inanities on the web and the books in Africa is just a way of storytelling. She probably can't care less if knowledge is spread by storytelling, books, tv or Internet.

    It's sad she's quoted out of context. It's more sad many are rushing to "defend" the Interent, Blogging and Blugging when she just told a brief harmless joke in one long speech about something else, inanity vs knowledge in the World.

    Mike, read it the fourth time? (Wonder why you read it three times before though...)

     

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    SteveD, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 11:41am

    Radio 4 interview

    Well she's just done an interview on the BBC Radio 4 program Front Row, and came across as little more then a technophobe.

    It was something along the lines of "I don't like the internet, I don't use it, I don't like how people are 'blogging' all the time writing gibberish like '4:45pm, went for tea with friends'. These idiots should know better".

    When it was put to her that many people would be watching the proceedings via streaming online she replied "Why would they want to do that? I'm not there, I'm right here!" (or words to that effect).

    A rather opinionated woman in general it seems, but her stance is all the more ironic as she's considered a science fiction writer.

     

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    Shun, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 11:59am

    At Comment 26

    "Back in the day a person would be versed in art, literature, science, and whatever else,"

    Yes, and the last time this happened was in the Renaissance, which explains the meaning of "Renaissance Man". I like to call them Jack-and-Jill-of-all-trades, since I do not wish my skills to be tied to any particular time period. My blacksmithing skill could use a little work, though.

    "...but point is they would have multiple points of experience whereas today we tend to focus on a single field."

    If you count today as "since the start of the industrial revolution, or sooner" then I'd agree with you. Computers didn't cause specialization. If you really want to get all Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs, and Steel) about it, then Agriculture caused the human species to specialize. Nobody has had a completely well-rounded experience since the start of hierarchies in human society. Sorry, but the experience of a dirt farmer is going to be very different from the experience of a CEO, a Nobel-prize winning literature professor, or an urban street dweller.

    Yes, we tend to focus on a single point of view, because often that point of view is vital to our survival. When we have time to think and reflect, then we can consider other people's perspectives. Often, though, thanks to the complexity of modern society, we don't have the time.

    One thing the internet opens up is a perspective on other people's thoughts. Yes, the people need to be on-line, and they have to spend all day blogging, so not everyone is represented. Still, ya gotta admit, it's a lot more interesting now, when you can sit in front of your computer and experience whatever someone else is doing that day, as opposed to popping down to your local bookstore, coffee shop, or what have you and take in what the gatekeepers think you should experience.

    I don't think you can blame the general problems with literacy on computers, per se. If kids write lol, wtf, and rofl on school papers, there is something wrong with the general atmosphere of their education environment which is "giving them permission" to do that.

    I certainly don't use these terms, all the bloody time, in any context. The great thing about blogging and commenting is that you get instant feedback. You don't have to wait for the teacher to grade your paper. So my suggestion to struggling students: start a blog. Blog about anything. Have your teachers look at it. Have them suggest improvements. Pretty soon, you'll be writing like a pro, or at least, like an English teacher.

     

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    Barrenwaste, Dec 10th, 2007 @ 4:07pm

    Re: 30 (Mike)

    It's easily proven. How long does it take to get a doctorate now? How fast does the field change, requiring the integration of new material and courses? I know an architect, three chemical engineers, and a half dozen programmers, all with initials before thier names. Outside of thier fields they know suprisingly little and generally have to take refresher courses and integrate new technology and laws at least once a year. So, yes, the basic level of education is constantly rising, but with it so does the ranks of the overly specialized. Personally I blame it more on the form of our education system rather than on computers, but there is no denying that computers play a major part. Yes, computers open up more people to more fields, but the effort involved means you exclude most everything but your chosen field. The architect I mentioned can't do anything that doesn't involve his field in some way. The same can be said of the others. Great people, smart people, woefully innocent of anything but thier fields.

     

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    ipanema, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 1:44am

    the power of words...if u don't have it, you can't

    my, my, i thought it was only another writer who jumped into the fire. you know what i see is a good speech if one is looking at how words are played. style as they call it. that's why she got a prize in Literature.

    And yes, she's been stressing all along the hunger for knowledge, that people in Zimbabwe -as per her experience- thirst for books to read.

    And guys, honestly speaking, there are a lot of rubbish on the web. It's not about technology. it's how we use it. her concern is perhaps in this line of thought. that there are those who spend too much time on the net doing unproductive things. it is reality. if you are not doing this, don't get hurt.

    And to answer the post title, yes, online writing is still writing where an online editor is one click away, when spelling can be checked. i would still like to see a student write fluently on paper as they do online where they rely on their talent, what they've learned. what i see in my children's friends' online pages are full of what we call MTV English over here - garbled spelling and sentence structure presented with characters unknown to the English Language as in: "C ya tom @ d tuckshop. ^~^!!!" Or once I had this in an exam paper: "The weather wuz fine as we passed by the station." And another clever one like this: "Sorry teach, I dunno d answer to ur question. Smile!"

    I can understand self-expression. They're bringing their chat and online style of communicating into the classroom. Of course we don't tolerate that. Who's going to be blamed? The school? Teachers? Don't we all have a responsibility in what's going on? Start from the house to the school. Not always the school. Learning starts at home. When parents aren't vigilant enough or relies on disciplining their children to educators, that's a big concern. What is their role?

    Nowadays, there are reports of declining quality of education. It's not all about technology. If we use technology as an educational tool - which is happening aroudn the world [e-learning, OLPP in Nigeria], then it's a good thing.

    Where do some problems start? If parents set a timetable for children to be strictly followed, I guess there will be lesser problems. Limit their online time. Keep them busy with other curricular activities - sports, etc. Yet, there are just people who are so gifted with juggling online life and their studies or work. Provided they aren't hooked to it yet. Once internet addiction sets in, there are consequences, sometimes too hard to bear - family life,health, jobs is at a peril. We don't want this happening to our children, don't we? Perhaps this is Doris Lessing's thoughts.

    What I want to say is that she was harping on thirst for knowledge, importance of reading and eventually improved literacy.

    I would still not exchange a book to online content. No, Not yet.

    Let me share this.

    Not everything in the “blogosphere” is poetry, not every audio “podcast” is a symphony, not every video “vlog” would do well at Sundance, and not every entry on Wikipedia, the free and collaborative online encyclopedia, is 100% correct.

    -
    Jerry Michalski

     

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    ipanema, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 1:47am

    well the title of that comment should be : "the power of words...if u don't have it, u can't get it."

    cheers everyone! it's not an attack on computers, internet and TV. :)

     

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