Ways of Watching, Ways of Reading

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

I find the psychology of culture fascinating. What is it that we get out of reading an adventure story? Why do people love horror? What’s with collecting books in the digital age? As a result I have another guest piece up on CURNBLOG, looking at cinema as a way of controlling and taming our world, and as I wrote it I obviously think it’s worth your while reading it.

The thing is, the same ideas I’ve applied to films in that article, and that I took from John Berger’s book on art Ways of Seeing, also apply to books. Whether it’s the shelves full of books giving you instant access to accumulated knowledge; reading as a way of understanding and mastering skills; or just reading stories of adventure to make daily life feel safer by comparison, reading is a lot about owning, controlling and taming the maelstrom of ideas and events around us. That means that, in an age of growing complexity, it’s tempting to fall back on ownership as a safe way out, buying the latest toys to feel in control, piling up more books, more DVDs, more games and action figures.

Note to self: don't Google chains again, there is much badness out there

Note to self: don’t Google chains again, there is much badness out there

It’s no accident that we’ve created our current consumer culture.

This is part of why many people aren’t just going to leap on the latest, smartest technologies like e-readers and digitally streamed films. And also part of why some people will – it’s being in control by riding the crest of the cultural and technological wave.

I know I’ve been over this territory before, but if you have any thoughts please share them below. I’m still mulling over the implications of this, and you, smart readers that you are, often help me refine my thinking.


Picture by Jim via Flickr creative commons, of the sculpture Sitting on History by Bill Woodrow.

  1. glenatron says:

    Is the age more complex, or are we just more conscious of the complexity and consequently less able to rely on the intellectual safety harnesses that we strapped ourselves into in the past?

    • Maybe a bit of both. With more people, more technology, more access to information and more choices than ever before, I feel safe in calling this a more complex age. But that extra level of information does also deprive us of the easy certainties many used to rely on.

  2. malwen says:

    I know what you mean about that web search – for work reasons, since they are frequently welded, we have had to search on chains before. We also got into dangerous territory when searching for information on protective leather gloves, as worn by manual welders. Quick call to IT monitoring that we were doing a legitimate search was required.

    • I’ve known people doing investigatory work who’ve had to make arrangements with their IT departments – hard to check if someone’s misusing the internet if you can’t check what they’re looking at on the internet.

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