Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

three definitions of "reader"

From a working library:

The first definition is the most familiar: one who reads, or one who is fond of reading. A young girl tucked under a tree with a book in hand; an old man waiting for the bus, nose pressed into the spine; three little boys sitting on the curb sharing a newspaper, ink smudged on their knees.

The second definition harks back to the single-room schoolhouse: an anthology of texts used for teaching. Here the term passes from the person doing the reading to the object being read, from reading for its own sake to reading with intent. The image of reading remains, but it becomes focused, purposeful; it becomes work.

The third definition shifts from the object to the machine: a device for reading data. No longer human, the reader becomes mechanical, the texts reduced to ones and zeros. There are no stories, only limitless information, each digit as insignificant as the next.


  • That's a beautiful little post -- although it doesn't reaally give me any concrete suggestions about the decisions I need to make about Google Reader every day. How much can I read today? How do I stop the "unread items" count from appearing in my nightmares? What are the topics I should keep up with and the ones I should stop paying attention to: the news? technical stuff that can help me with work? political news? Web 2.0 stuff? research journals? How do I integrate my daily web reading into my work, a substantial part of which is programming? Should I add new feeds or not? It's so hard to know! Something as vague as "think about the meaning of it all and then decide" means either everything or nothing, although perhaps as Heinlen would say, I need to grok it a bit more.

  • Have you seen Fever, Shaun Inman's attempt to solve your problems?


    A geeky and expensive solution, but a really thoughtful one.

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