How We Read

For the weekly create, I looked around at some of the links provided on our blog and ultimately landed on an article by Kevin Kee in The Globe and Mail: “Share your research. That’s what keeps the humanities alive.”

Kee writes about a time not too long ago when PhD students, and all other scholars, were required to use something called a “library” to conduct all their research. Once an article or book was completed, the only option for these scholars was to have it printed. On paper.

Today, though, there are endless resources for both research and publication. Kee went from feeling as though he would never find what he was looking to for to knowing that everything he could ever want to research is at his fingertips. “Today,” he writes, “like everyone else, I am overwhelmed by information.” This is something we’ve discussed in class at times, but it’s worth saying again: there is a wealth of information available to us at any moment in time, and the challenge becomes rifling through it all. It’s hard to know when your research is complete, since you can never reach the end of the Internet.

And more than just new ways to research, scholars also have the luxury of choosing a medium of publication. Kee uses the example of an article about the Holocaust. Years ago, an author would publish this article in a journal. But today, this article can be published online and supplemented with interactive components: videos of Holocaust survivors explaining their experiences, archived photographs, and more.

Therefore, communication is happening more rapidly than ever before. In the humanities, this means that articles are peer-reviewed and published faster than ever, but there are implications for other disciplines, too. For example, if medical articles are published quickly, which allows peer readers to comment on them faster, perhaps medical advancements can also be achieved at a faster pace. Digital publication could lead to breakthroughs that were previously unattainable as a result of the slower movement of information and the limited audiences of a journal.

Kee was a graduate student in the 1990s, and he wrote this article in 2014. This was only two years ago, but I’m wondering… is two years a long time in the digital humanities? Given the fast pace and the abundance of resources, do articles become irrelevant just as quickly as they were made relevant?

Another article that I found particularly interesting was one that I found while clicking around on The Pew Research Center website: “Book Reading 2016.” Author Andrew Perrin reports results of the 2016 book reading survey and finds that “the share of Americans who have read a book in the last 12 months (73%) has remained largely unchanged since 2012.” I find this to be a positive and encouraging statistic, since I was largely under the assumption that book readership decreased every year.

Perrin also claims that people are still more likely to read a print book. He explains, “E-book readership increased by 11-percentage points between 2011 and 2014 (from 17% to 28%) but has seen no change in the last two years. Similarly, the share of American adults who listen to audio books has changed only marginally since Pew Research Center first asked about this topic in 2011.”

In my house, there is a bit of a print book vs. e-book debate. Overall, I feel: by whatever means necessary. But for the sake of argument… like many of you, I am very devoted and attached to my print books; my husband loves his e-reader. I can certainly see the draw for him. He is able to rent e-books from the library at any hour of the day or night without even leaving the couch. They don’t take up any space, and he can comfortably sit or lay without having to manage a heavy book. On the other hand, I find it more difficult to read an e-book comprehensively. I am also very visual, and I like to write all over my books and use Post-it notes or flags to mark text. Moreover, my eyes get very tired of staring at a screen.

Either way, my husband and I are both reading—and talking about books—more than ever. It’s nice to see that Pew Research Center found that book readership is actually not declining, and that the print market is safe… for now.

Works Cited

Andrew Perrin. “Book Reading 2016.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. 1 Sept. 2016, http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/01/book-reading-2016/. Accessed 17 Sept. 2016.

Kee, Kevin. “Share Your Research. That’s What Keeps the Humanities Alive.” The Globe and Mail. 2 Apr. 2014, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/share-your-research-thats-what-keeps-the-humanities-alive/article17758388/. Accessed 17 Sept. 2016.

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3 thoughts on “How We Read

  1. You raise some really great points here about the life-cycle of ideas in DH and how research has changed from hunting for ideas in a climate of scarcity to filtering through ideas in one of abundance. I very briefly studied law librarianship, and your point about how quickly ideas become irrelevant now reminded me of how paralegals and law librarians must constantly search and re-search for case law that becomes outdated almost every day. Perhaps this is a way to create new academic jobs around staying on top of information, and research in the humanities will no longer be a one-man job but a team effort as it is in science or law.

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  2. I read Kevin Kee’s essay/plea as well! Your thought process was much more in depth than mine however. I never thought about how the regeneration of information could lead to a quicker advancements in the world as a whole, not just in the humanities. It’s amazing how the pace of new information generation can/is speeding up just about everything on the planet, including relevance and advancement.

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