Monday, February 09, 2009

Chris Hale's Why Reading Matters

Tonight on BBC4 there's a documentary called Why Reading Matters. It's by occasional Thought Experiments commenter Chris Hale. It's brilliant, all about how neuroscience confirms what the best of us knew already - that reading is irreplaceable, that it lies at the very heart of our identity. So put down that sodding Wii, watch and then read.


  1. i once thought that language was absolutely central to human consciousness. However, it's actually a late(ish) development, but it certainly has become central, though we once made do without it. As for writing, which is believed to have originated in Uruk, yes, another thing which has really come to determine human consciousness, though again as with language, it's not absolutely central, we existed before writing as we existed before language.

  2. All ready had it my sky planner. So are you saying that Chomsky hierarchy
    is a done deal? Popper had his doubts but after getting through Pinkers Blank Slate I think he despite his sometimes odd and irresponsible views proberbly deserves the nobel prize?

  3. Fascinating doc. I was expecting the worst (or, rather, the usual) for the videogames part, but was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of the lady talking about Ico to counterbalance Greenfield's predictably uninformed blather. Has she seen a game since Donkey Kong? Unlikely.

    But the part where 'gamers' were interviewed was intellectually lazy, bordering on irresponsible. To address the proposition that games "deny the values of traditional storytelling", she speaks to people playing, erm, a hardcore online deathmatch title - which lacks narrative by design - knowing full well the answer to "what's the aim of it?" is simply "to kill each other".

    "You have to get worked up, right?" she prompted another with glee. Yes, we're all slavering axe murderers-in-the-making. Well done.

    It's the waltz, rock'n'roll, and TV all over again: the ignorance and suspicions of an older generation. The irony being, of course, that we're watching this via a medium that was subjected to the very same paranoid assaults of the next generation up. The concern is legitimate, the analysis irrational.

    A great deal of my time is spent actively challenging these off-the-peg assumptions. No right-minded person would argue that videogames are in any way a substitute for a good book. Or even a bad one. But the implication that books can stimulate imagination and empathy and games cannot seems to me plainly wrong-headed.

    The programme's balanced conclusion was encouraging and refreshing to a professional geek like me; but its condescending portrayal of 'gamers' was anything but.

    Right, I'm off to bed to read my Nintendo DS.

  4. Great Doc, along with swarm, Einstein and Eddington the BBC is halfway to justifying its licence fee.

    All they have to do to get the rest and maybe more, is take an axe to 2/3 of BBC news and spend the cash on more in depth stuff like "why reading matters"

    My wife and the girls, they like story's and tittle tattle, me and the boys we like instruction manuals and taking stuff apart.
    We meet in the kitchen, they think food is love, we think it is chemistry. I think we complement each other.