Friday, November 18, 2005

2B R Nt2B?

Dot mobile, a British mobile phone service that's mainly aimed at students, has announced it will boil down classic literary works into SMS text messages, which the company believes will greatly enhance the whole educational process by streamlining studies and leaving more time for whatever students do with all the homework time they're saving.

An Associated Press story offers a couple of examples of the Dotmobile's summaries:

John Milton's epic poem "Paradise Lost" begins "devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war." ("The devil is kicked out of heaven because he is jealous of Jesus and starts a war.")

The ending to Jane Eyre -- 'MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus.' (Mad wife sets fire to house.)

Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," which describes hunky Mr. Darcy as "fit&loadd" (handsome and wealthy).

Hell, we had Cliff's Notes when I was in college and now things have evolved. Face it, 90% of students will embrace their ignorance and never have any need, as adults, to describe Mr. Darcy to the gals in the Pampered Chef party nor to explain "Paradise Lost" during that uncomfortable lull between strippers.

But the death of reading is real. Despite record numbers of published titles and record sales (thanks to Oprah, B&N and Amazon), the actual breadth of our reading is narrowing. Until Oprah chose "East of Eden," it hadn't ever sold a million copies; Oprah's imprimatur made it sell a million ... even if most of those readers probably never really "got it." Having a book isn't the same as reading it ... and reading only Stephen King isn't really understanding the enormous scope of humankind's storytelling (or even to understand what's possible in the written word.)

I once entertained the fantasy that the Internet would resurrect reading and writing skills. After all, to be successful on the 'Net would require extraordinary written comprehension and communication skills, would it not? Now, when Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick and Elmer Gantry can be summarized on a cellphone screen (presumably) well enough for a college student to pass an exam ... well, this might be the wintr uvR dscntnt.

1 comment:

Justin said...

shame... I'm a student and that's harder for me to read than the real thing.