This NYT article helped me to focus on a broader issue I began thinking about on Saturday.  The local alternative radio station WFPK has a program on Saturday afternoons called Relics.  This week’s theme was “What was the 1st Album Played on your 1st Stereo System?”

The hosts discussed their time growing up and the community built around their music.  Sneaking out at lunch to go to so and so’s house to hear the latest album, etc.   Listening was a shared experience.  They contrasted their own experience as young music listeners to today’s environment of i-Pods and solitary listening.

I think they missed the point on one level in that today’s music industry definitely makes it easier to share music in the global community.  Sure the sound is totally different and we do listen in solitude, but we also connect more easily with others who have our same likes/dislikes in musical taste.

Literacy seems to have a similar debate.  Is reading a novel front to back more educational than reading online and sharing comments and writing your own stories with instant publishing?  Is researching a project more effective by reading several print publications front-to-back than searching for a subject and a particular fact that you need to verify?

Obviously there are advantages to both methods.  Comprehension of a subject is bound to be more complete with a thorough reading of a subject.  However, research can be conducted effectively when retrieving specific facts.  Time efficiency is definitely improved with electronic research.

The social aspect of this experience is not be ignored either.  The ability to connect with other readers/researchers who share your own interest is greatly enhanced with the Internet.  Gratification is instant.  The days of waiting for an ILL to come in so that I can meet my History 488 draft deadline are long gone.

Ongoing projects such as Google Scholar make research more instantaneous.  Linked-In, Twitter, Facebook and more networks certainly make it easier to connect with researchers and experts in the same field.

So the final thought I can offer on this process is that there are advantages to both, in mho.  Comprehension and understanding of the big picture is certainly easier for me when I’ve read several comprehensive works on a subject.  However, I feel confident that I can find answers to specific questions with a thorough research technique employed in an electronic environment.

I’ll still read books to my niece, Isabella in the hopes that she will be a life-long reader.  I’ll still buy CDs and listen to them on my stereo while cleaning the house or having a cocktail to relax rather than through my MP3 player .   I appreciate the convenience and exposure provided by the Internet and will continue to use this tool to find answers and further my education and exposure.  However, when it’s time to be social or relax I’ll pop in the CD or maybe even the vinyl grab up the latest novel and breathe out.