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On that video about non-book reading

on thinking before sharing and thinking about sharing

A few days back I kinda jumped on a social media bandwagon reposting the Jimmy Kimmel video, Can you name a book?

I cringed when I watched that video. And I had an icky feeling when I hit the Tweet button. But I did it anyway.

Kimmel referred to a Pew survey released in March that explored Who Doesn’t Read Books in America?

In his post about the poll, Pew researcher Andrew Perrin shared the finding that,

about a quarter of American adults (24%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form.

The research identified demographic traits correlated with non-book reading and noted that the numbers have fluctuated since Pew began collecting data about non-book reading in 2011.

It’s important to note that the poll asked about books exclusively. It is fair to say that many literate people prefer to read newspapers, journals, blogs, magazines, etc. The poll did not ask what people are reading or in what format they choose to read.

Contending that the number of non-book readers was even higher than 1 in 4, Jimmy Kimmel sent a team out to interview folks on the street with the one question, “Can you name a book?”

Like many in the library community and beyond, I was first appalled by the idea that people couldn’t name a book or that the only author’s name they remembered was Dr. Seuss. We were expected to be shocked by that video and I was.

But after I tweeted, I began to wonder how many people were actually interviewed in total to get this two-minute clip. How much of the footage actually shot was lost in post-production?

Of course, people question the authenticity of these interview experiences. As for Kimmel’s Lie Witness News segments, some interviewees choose to participate in the gags, either knowing that the people behind the camera are joking or because they simply want to be on television.

But I considered how humiliated I would feel if I were the subject of one these caught-of-guard interviews and was captured on a video that got shared virally.

Ironically, I got involved with the media blitz surrounding the royal wedding and I pushed the video and my tweet out of my mind for a bit.

That is, until Renée Hobbs, from whom I am always learning, replied with a tweet reminding me that I might have paid a little more attention to that cringy feeling I felt the other day.

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 4.03.30 PM

I took my tweet down. I know risk promoting it further by writing this, but I felt Renée’s reply was important to share.

In her reply, Renée offered excellent suggestions for deeper reading of this particular text.

Let’s consider how we might use videos like this to engage in conversations.

  • Might we use experiences like this to remind students of the importance of going back to the original source, in this case, the Pew survey and its predecessors, like this one on print vs. digital book reading and this recent one on audio-book reading?
  • In what ways might a local replication of this survey yield meaningful reflection and learning?
  • Why do we find the humiliation of others amusing?
  • Why do we share media that might embarrass others?  Does such sharing display a lack of empathy?
  • Might we take a closer look and consider the intentional construction of the videos we view and share?
Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. mrsfingersfeet says

    Frequently, I also share things……without fully thinking it through. i share things because I found them amusing & think others will too – without thinking about the humiliation factor. I assume that those filmed have seen the footage, or that it is staged…….

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