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if:book: the NEA's misreading of reading:

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum writes an elegant and concise critique of the National Endowment for the Arts' ominously titled new study of American reading trends, "To Read or Not to Read", which is a sequel to their 2004 opus "Reading at Risk." The basic argument is that reading, or what they rather awkwardly refer to as "voluntary reading" (that is, reading done purely for pleasure or self-improvement) is in a precipitious state of decline, especially among the young — a situation which poses a grave threat to our culture, democracy and civic fabric.

Though clearly offered with the best of intentions, the report demonstrates an astonishingly simplistic view of what reading is and where it is and isn't occurring. Overflowing with bar graphs and and charts measuring hours and minutes spent reading within various age brackets, the study tries to let statistics do the persuading, but fails at almost every turn to put these numbers in their proper social or historical context, or to measure them adequately against other widespread forms of reading taking place on computers and the net.

The NEA report is here. And Kirschenbaum's analysis is here.


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A book in progress by

Siva Vaidhyanathan

Siva Vaidhyanathan

This blog, the result of a collaboration between myself and the Institute for the Future of the Book, is dedicated to exploring the process of writing a critical interpretation of the actions and intentions behind the cultural behemoth that is Google, Inc. The book will answer three key questions: What does the world look like through the lens of Google?; How is Google's ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge?; and how has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions, and states? [more]

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» More about me


Like the Mind of God (22 posts)

All the World's Information (26 posts)

What If Big Ads Don't Work (10 posts)

Don't Be Evil (9 posts)

Is Google a Library? (43 posts)

Challenging Big Media (18 posts)

The Dossier (19 posts)

Global Google (3 posts)

Google Earth (3 posts)

A Public Utility? (19 posts)

About this Book (16 posts)

Other books by Siva:


Rewiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)

The Anarchist in the Library (Basic Books, 2004)

Copyrights and copywrongs cover

Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity (New York University Press, 2001)


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