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My Digital Footprint

John Seely Brown

The web has just begun to have an impact on our lives. As fascinated as we are with it today, we’re still seeing it in its early forms… My belief is that not only will the web be as fundamental to society as electrification but that it will be subject to many of the same diffusion and absorption dynamics as that earlier medium.

Monday
Jun102013

Neil Gaiman - Why fiction is dangerous

What is the value of a strong culture of recreational reading within a school?  In this presentation by author Neil Gaiman at Book Expo America 2013 he explains why the value of reading is critically real and important.  Coming from a successful writer of science fiction, it illustrates what is happening in our minds when we, and our students, are reading.  

You can cut straight to the chase at the 23:46 minute mark of the presentation, although having started there, I know you will go back to the beginning to hear what he says about his own writing, specifically his new books: The Ocean at the end of the lane and Fortunately the milk.

In speaking of writing he says:  'Writing is like driving at night.'  Not knowing what's ahead but recognising it once it's lit up with your imagination.  

In speaking of reading, specifically, Why fiction is dangerous, his words are from the heart. He says, fiction is dangerous because it lets you into other peoples' heads; because it gives you empathy; it shows you that the world doesn't have to be like the one you live in.

He explains this through recounting an experience while attending the first science fiction convention in China in 2007 when he asked a party official what had brought about such a change of heart that the government was now hosting such a convention.  While not illegal, science fiction had been frowned upon in China for a long time.  It was regarded as subversive.  What had changed?

The official explained that in China they are good at making things people bring to them, however, they don't invent.  They went to America and talked to innovative tech companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple asking them what they read as children to be capable now in their adulthood of such innovative and creative ideas.   They all said they read science fiction; they read fantasy.

This is a powerful expression of not only the value but the NEED to take our students into a world that, in many cases, is only available through their English teacher, teacher librarians and passionate librarians.  It doesn't have to be science fiction but we are the ones who give students the opportunity to ignite their imagination through reading.  It is dangerous.  As Gaiman says, it develops creative thought; 'It shows you that the world doesn't have to be like the one you live in.'  Dangerous, but essential.

Focus on the development of creativity has been a priorty for the Chinese government since Gaiman's encounter six years ago.  Much could be said about the complexity of China, however, hosting a Science Fiction Convention was an early step in acknowledging the value of creativity and imagination.

Bibliography: The New Livestream (2013). Neil Gaiman - from BEA Live 1. [online] Retrieved from: http://new.livestream.com/BookExpoAmerica/Stage1/videos/20346789 [Accessed: 13 Jun 2013].

 

 

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