How Not to read (or Occupational disease II)

Do you read a lot for your job, or for other reasons?

Try this:

Walk around town. You will see hundreds of texts, words, letters: advertisements, traffic signs, shop names, bus schedules…

'Piccadilly Circus neon signs', photographed by Billy Hicks. CC-BY-SA 3.0

Can you NOT read this? (‘Piccadilly Circus neon signs’, photographed by Billy Hicks, 2008, CC-BY-SA 3.0.)

Or try looking up something on the Internet. Or in the library. Or even in a dictionary. Words shoot at you from every corner. On some websites they have even acquired a habit of blinking and blipping in and out of sight. Worst of all: seat back advertising in airplanes. (As one ad space seller puts it on its website: ‘cannot miss attention of a traveler.’)

This is what usually happens to me in such a situation: as soon as one of these texts hits my eyes, I read it. Automatically. Whether I am interested or not. My head gets filled with stuff I do not want to know.

Sometimes it gets so bad that I read the words in a picture book before looking at the picture on the page.

Recognise any of this?

Here’s the prescribed treatment:

Look at a word in a script you don’t know. It’s just an abstract picture. No information. Meaningless (if I am allowed to say so). How wonderful.

... but how to read this? (Seal with Cretan hieroglyphs, c. 1800 BCE, photographed by Ingo Pini)

How to read THIS? (Seal with Cretan hieroglyphs, c. 1800 BCE, photographed by Ingo Pini, public domain.)

Hold on to that feeling.

Now look at a word that’s quite common to you, in a language and script that you do know. But do not read it. I repeat: do not read it.

Impossible?

Remember what it was like not to be able to read. You’ll quite simply going to have to unlearn your alphabet. (This should not be attempted in the middle of writing a hfjkaioal sfh fgkj ok got it again).

When you’ve mastered the trick, go out onto the street. Or a library. Or the Internet. And try it out in the wild.

Let me know how you are getting on. (If you got to the end of this piece, you might want to try again.)

This is the second in a series. Earlier: ‘Occupational Disease?’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s