September 20, 2012

Brain scans of Jane Austen readers

From Stanford University news: “The inside of an MRI machine might not seem like the best place to cozy up and concentrate on a good novel, but a team of researchers at Stanford are asking readers to do just that. In an innovative interdisciplinary study, neurobiological experts, radiologists and humanities scholars are working together to explore the relationship between reading, attention and distraction – by reading Jane Austen….

The experiment focuses on literary attention, or more specifically, the cognitive dynamics of the different kinds of focus we bring to reading. This experiment grew out of [literary researcher] Phillips’ ongoing research about Enlightenment writers who were concerned about issues of attention span, or what they called ‘wandering attention.’ …. Critical reading of humanities-oriented texts is recognized for fostering analytical thought, but if such results hold across subjects, Phillips said it would suggest ‘it’s not only what we read – but thinking rigorously about it that’s of value, and that literary study provides a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.’ “

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September 11, 2012

Emma Donoghue reading (Nov 14)

Wednesday, November 14th, 1:00 p.m.

Lunchtime Reading and Conversation
Emma Donoghue (with Darin Strauss)
Location: Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, 58 West 10th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues
September 7, 2012

Survey of reading practices of UK children

From paidContent: “In the UK, 7.8 percent of schoolchildren aged nine and up read e-books outside of class last year, according to new research. That rate is up from 5.6 percent a year earlier, according to the National Literacy Trust’s “Children’s Reading Today” survey (release). The survey of kids from 128 UK schools gives an insight in to how the next generation is using various platforms to read…It shows that: “Since 2005, reading across all formats has fallen – with the exception of text messages.”

August 8, 2012

Quantitative studies of student “knowledge work”

In addition to the NEA studies about reading and the UC San Diego study of information consumption, here is some data from a study of academic performance by college students:

stats from Academically Adrift

Second there is the Academic Time Use Survey for College Students (more data on Bureau of Labor Statistics website):

BLS time use chart

August 8, 2012

Reading perhaps not at risk

From The Atlantic (citing a Gallup servey): “Remember the good old days when everyone read really good books, like, maybe in the post-war years when everyone appreciated a good use of the semi-colon? Everyone’s favorite book was by Faulkner or Woolf or Roth. We were a civilized civilization. This was before the Internet and cable television, and so people had these, like, wholly different desires and attention spans. They just craved, craved, craved the erudition and cultivation of our literary kings and queens. Well, that time never existed. Check out these stats from Gallup surveys…”

August 8, 2012

Sherry Turkle with Colbert

From The Colbert Report (January 17, 2011): in an interview about her new book, Alone Together, Sherry Turkle makes the case for managing our relationship to technology. Turkle: “Some arguments really do take the long form. Some arguments really do take a book.”

August 8, 2012

The Art of Distraction

“What I might have said to my son’s friend is that it is incontrovertible that sometimes things get done better when you’re doing something else. If you’re writing and you get stuck, and you then make tea, while waiting for the kettle to boil the chances are good ideas will occur to you. Seeing that a sentence has to have a particular shape can’t be forced; you have to wait for your own judgment to inform you, and it usually does, in time. Some interruptions are worth having if they create a space for something to work in the fertile unconscious. Indeed, some distractions are more than useful; they might be more like realizations and can be as informative and multilayered as dreams. They might be where the excitement is.”

– from Hanif Kureishi, “The Art of Distraction,” NY Times (February 18, 2012)