Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why is text important?

The title of this blog and the fact that I use my iPad 70% for reading, tells you how important I consider books, text, and reading.

But it's hard to say why. Music and films are so much more intuitive. As soon as a baby can walk, they'll dance. (I remember walking past a kindergarten and seeing inside, all the toddlers like one rocking out to the Danish world-hit Barbie Girl! It was cool.)

And nothing can replicate (hah!) the visual splendor of the film Bladerunner. But then the book it's ostensibly based on, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, has something that nothing else can replicate too (apart from the sheep).

Generally the most important thoughts which have been transferred to me, those which have changed my life, have been from books. Perhaps because there's no music or pictures to occupy certain mental functions, other mental functions can become that much greater? Abstract thought, the ability to make the greater connections about life?

I'm not sure. But I'm sure, and the very existence of this blog (which I started due to low interest my tech posts from the readers of my main blog) shows that, reading is "tonnes" important, even in the age of instant video creation and transmission, and therefore e-reading technology is doubly important, and that this will become more evident over the next couple of decades. I just feels it in me bones.



Update: Will said:

Reading is conceptual; watching video is sensual.
In classical philosophy, the mind is divided into the sense and the intellect. The one deals with sensory input, perceptions, and the images that result from them, and also the images we assemble for ourselves. The latter deals with abstract concepts, which are tied to images but are distinct from them. (You can't think about triangles as a concept without imagining a triangle, but no specific triangle you can imagine perfectly captures what we mean by the concept of triangularity.)
Reading deals with concepts. Often it moves from concepts to images, but not always. Movies and TV are primarily sensual. They suggest concepts, but do not require them. And so in the order of meaning the written word can be much more focussed, more precise, more crystalline than any movie could possibly be.
In short, in movies the images are precise and the meaning is fuzzy; in writing the concepts are precise and the images are fuzzy.


Dave said:
Reading also gives me the chance to ponder. To question. To try out, What if? I can reread a passage that doesn't make immediate sense, over and over. Try that with a movie or sound bite.
-

14 comments:

Will Duquette said...

Reading is conceptual; watching video is sensual.

In classical philosophy, the mind is divided into the sense and the intellect. The one deals with sensory input, perceptions, and the images that result from them, and also the images we assemble for ourselves. The latter deals with abstract concepts, which are tied to images but are distinct from them. (You can't think about triangles as a concept without imagining a triangle, but no specific triangle you can imagine perfectly captures what we mean by the concept of triangularity.)

Reading deals with concepts. Often it moves from concepts to images, but not always. Movies and TV are primarily sensual. They suggest concepts, but do not require them. And so in the order of meaning the written word can be much more focussed, more precise, more crystalline than any movie could possibly be.

In short, in movies the images are precise and the meaning is fuzzy; in writing the concepts are precise and the images are fuzzy. Take your pick.

eolake said...

Thanks, Will.

dave_at_efi said...

I agree with Will -- the only way to get beyond the senses into the realm of abstract is through reading.

Reading also gives me the chance to ponder. To question. To try out, What if? I can reread a passage that doesn't make immediate sense, over and over. Try that with a movie or sound bite.

Movies rarely show the thoughts of people when they are doing something, just the action. Sound bites show even less, well, thought.

Reading forces my imagination in a way that movies never can. Whether my purpose in reading is entertainment, a Lee Child novel, or educational, How Things Work in Your Home, my imagination gets exercised. Reading can include pictures, which can be glanced at or used for visual learning -- my choice.

As far as choosing an iPad or a book to read, no contest there: the book. When the Mac Plus came out, the salesman was thrilled to show me the clarity of the text, 72 dots per inch! I saw a lot of pixels. Still do, now on a Macbook. The test is just plain fuzzy. The clarity of the text of a book is soothing to me, whereas the screen takes more work to parse.

But aren't I missing the news? Good god, yes! "The news" has never, every made me more centered, happier. I check a newspaper website for major headlines. Anything else is ignored, except for the comics.

And my eyes are almost on Medicare...

eolake said...

Good points, Dave.
The thing about going over things, I thought about too, writing this.

If you see pixels on a modern Macbook, your eyes are a lot better than mine.
But even with mine, I like the Retina Display of iPhone 4 a lot better for reading. Have you seen it? If you see pixels there, I think you must be a demon.
--
Will, that split is very interesting, is it from Greek philosophy? (I'm sure I must have heard about it, but never really thought about it in this way.)

Will Duquette said...

Yup, it goes back to Aristotle, at least, and was the common view of things until quite recently, really. I think it still has a great deal to recommend it, as it explains some things that a purely materialist view has trouble with.

eolake said...

Yes, it really does.

I suspect that only a surprisingly small minority of people can really think abstractly.

Will Duquette said...

Depends what you mean. Any child who knows what a triangle is, is thinking abstractly. Any one who says, "I want a good steak" (as opposed to pointing at that steak over there and saying "I want it") is abstracting, at least so far as Aristotle is concerned.

We can't help using abstract concepts; it's how we're made.

eolake said...

Good point.

To sort out the grey areas in this one would get too abstract for me. :-)

dave_at_efi said...

It isn't that I can see pixels themselves on a modern screen. It is rather the fuzziness around the letter edges that makes screen-reading tougher for me. Sorry I wasn't clearer.

eolake said...

OK, I see.

I do get that. Though when I look at a normal screen it seems fine to me, the iPhone 4 screen actually makes reading easier for me, and that's why I look forward to an iPad with a higher screen resolution.

To imagine: the first half year I had a Mac in 1995, with a 17-inch screen, I had it accidentally set on 480x640 pixels, and I never noticed! (It was an oddity, that screen I had (Apple AV with speakers), had to be connected through the keyboard to get max resolution, very strange.)

eolake said...

PS: I mis-read my own comment as saying "I don't get that", the more common expression. But I did mean that I *do* get it, I do understand. :-)

Irv Thomas said...

Hi, Eolake...

Just catching up with some of your words & pix in a spare few minutes...

I wish you'd stay aware of the great distinction between text and books. A great deal of my satisfaction with words has to do with the books that carry them. One of my greatest (and most rewarding) pleasures is gazing at my bookshelves, wherein I continually find reminders of forgotten texts. In fact, often see a few I could not recall ever seeing before! The title by itself is much removed from that sort of satisfaction & reward.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thanks, Irv. It's not like that for me, but I can see the viewpoint for sure.

--
Sorry it took a while for your comment to appear. I had moderation turned on for old posts. Hoped it would catch spam, but it was mainly real comments, and I have not been notified when they came in...

Leslie Lim said...

At last! I found this truly amazing article. I am very happy that I found this very good article of yours. Very good info and very creative post. Thanks.

John
www.imarksweb.org