The Kindle VS The Book

It has become one of the hottest topics in the literary world; do you prefer to read from a Kindle or a Book? Since the launch of the first Kindle device in November 2007 there has been an ever increasing debate surrounding the pros and cons of such technology.

Perhaps the most obvious of pros is the storage capabilities that the Kindle provides. The first device of its kind boasted a “250MB storage system” (Wikipedia 2015) that would hold approximately “200 non-illustrated text” (Wikipedia 2015). In 2015 we can access “32 and 64GB of storage” (Wikipedia 2015) on the new tablet forms of Kindle.  From an educational perspective the Kindle offers a lightweight, portable solution if your reading list is particularly hefty. One can also change font sizes and styles making texts readily and easily available for readers of all needs and abilities.

With the invention of the tablet Kindle has merged it is already tablet ready format with the popular personal computer. Now, the Kindle is not simply a vessel for the reading and annotation of text it also has internet capabilities, aptitude for music, pictures and document processing. The Kindle is now a vessel for everyday life, not just for reading, whereas the book has one function.

However, it has been suggested that reading from Kindle damages the reading experience for many users and studies have shown that “paper readers … report[ed] higher on … empathy, transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than with iPad readers” (Guardian 2014). The study in question “gave 50 reader the same short story by Elizabeth George to read” (Guardian 2014), the purpose of which was to discover the differences in reader engagement with the material. It was found that there were “differences in … emotional responses. Kindle readers [also] performed significantly worse on … plot reconstruction … when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order” (Guardian 2014). It has been suggested that the reader of a book can feel the progress they are making through the story with their fingers, by turning the pages. This “sensory offload” (Guardian 2014) enables the reader to fixate and solidify the unfolding and progression of the text.

As well as this hard copy books can be a more effective study tool than the Kindle. Bookmarking places in Kindle E-Books is possible but trying to find them again can take a little more time than it would in a hardcopy edition. Being able to book mark a hard copy with postit notes or paper is an easily visible solution that is less time consuming than finding a Kindle book mark. Obtaining the information you ear marked is easy and straightforward. Also, many page references your tutor gives you will not match up to Kindle page numbers. The ability to change font means that page numbers vary dramatically and finding the section your tutor has directed you to can be quite a challenge.

References:

THE GUARDIAN. (2014) Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds. [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/19/readers-absorb-less-kindles-paper-study-plot-ereader-digitisation. [Accessed 30th January 2015]

WIKIPEDIA. (2015) Amazon Kindle [Online] Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Kindle. [Accessed 30th January 2015)

Shining out the Clearer.

evrydayfeminism-24_600

how-to-avoid-rape

one-billion-rising

rosie-riveter

Yesterday I committed one of the biggest internet sins; I self diagnosed. To my horror I discovered I had a disease commonly known as Feminism. I’ve been suffering the most terrible symptoms: desire for equality, freedom of expression and a chronic case of “isolating [myself] from mainstream society”.1 No matter how I try I can’t seem to find a cure for this terrible disease, however the more I come to think of the more I begin to wonder if I need a cure.

 

Since the first coining of the phrase “feminist” in 1837 by philosopher Charles Fourier women have consistently and tirelessly been fighting for the right to an equal society.2 Make no mistake about it patriarchy is alive and well, its function within society is still as focused and driven as it has been in previous years. There is well rounded and documented evidence to suggest that this phenomena has been tackled to some extent; to argue otherwise would be foolish. We have obviously progressed forward from the tight constraints of thousands of years of history. However the question that I often find myself asking is: does feminism sill have a place in contemporary society?

 

The only logical answer seems to be yes. Before we begin to look at mirco examples within society the existence of such groups as ‘Everyday Feminism’ and ‘Ten Million Rising’ demonstrate a need for a continued push of feminist ideals. Those who are perhaps arguing that feminism is a dud cause may argue that such groups are minority collectives, obsolete and small in number. At the time of this publication ‘Everyday Feminism’ had 40,514 likes on its Facebook page,3 with a general interest page entitled ‘Feminism’ clocking up 103,549 likes.4 I can assure any doubters out there that there are many people willing to push forward to fight for equal rights and freedom of expression. The idea that it is a “small minority” is now greatly outdated.

 

There are so many ongoing issues that relate directly back to gender issues that I cannot possibly discuss them all here. Therefore I have chosen to focus on a time weary debate and perhaps some of you will groan to hear; women and self image.

 

Some of you may ask why I would want to rake back over something so completely battered to death. Everyone has heard the consistent arguments against photo editing and the exposure of young girls to overly sexualised ideals. All of this is greatly important to me on a personal level. Being a young woman who at least once an annum for approximately six years has had to deal with inappropriate behaviour from male acquaintances or friends, I want to know what it is that has created this phenomena.

 

For a long time I believed as many others will on a first reading of the above statement, that I somehow “deserved” or “encouraged” whatever I happened to be on the receiving end of. We’ve all seen the pictures ‘how to avoid rape/sexual harassment’ in which the voice of wisdom tells us a woman must not dress provocatively, drink to excess or even most absurdly, not to wear her hair in a pony tail for fear of it being used against her in an attack. Instead of arguing against all of these points, I want to explore how society makes us feel as though we need to achieve these things and then strip them away from us.

 

For example, we are taught through advertising, peer pressure and the societal values that we need to be beautiful and more often than not sexualised to boot. We all scramble over having flawless skin, perfect hair, a short skirt, the perfect bikini body and a push up bra, I’m generalising of course but I feel most heterosexual women I have had the pleasure to meet have felt this pressure to conform to societal expectations at some point in their lives. Generally speaking one can argue that this is a form of competition; we must be the most beautiful in order to attract our desired mate over all of the other women he could choose from. Therefore at the core of this I deduce that a great majority of this behaviour is to attract a life and sexual partner.

 

How is it then, that in order to avoid unwanted male attention we must cease to do all of these things? We’ve done what society told us to do in order to find that caring, loving man of our dreams that we so desperately seek. When we find men who are more than eager to take advantage of our susceptibility to conformation suddenly we are in the wrong for simply fulfilling societies criteria? I must look a certain way if I don’t want to die a lonely cat lady but the minute some odd guy begins to bother me someone will always say, “well you must have done something to encourage the boy.” Why would I want to do that? No one enjoys being the subject of unwanted attraction, especially when it pushes the boundaries into stalking. So are people so instant on the fact that I did something to encourage the man?

 

Surely it is derogatory to the man to take this point of view? Is no man capable of thinking for himself? Is no man capable of stopping himself? They all have a brain and reason; in my personal experience there have been multiple times I could not have made it more clear that the behaviour that I was witnessing concerned me deeply. In times past a man has asked if he could “beat up my boyfriend” in order to get me to date him. Anyone in their right mind knows that this kind of behaviour is wrong. As many a feminist has claimed: “no means no,not convince me”, it seems to be this doctrine that certain people find difficult to comprehend. I’m beginning to think that some men do understand this and are simply ignoring it. It may be simpler to just blame the woman’s behaviour but surely this means that a man has no free will. It seems to almost suggest that they are victim to their hormones that we women tease and drive wild on purpose with our tempting sexualised bodies; helpless in the gripping vice of the evil woman.

 

I personally believe that we are all taught from a young age that women can be and by and large are sexualised objects. In almost every advert, in almost every movie, in almost every publication there is a women in a sexual sense playing a part. Has this blurred the lines? Are women now merging into one huge representation, a piece of plastic without a face? Are we all one and the same to these kinds of men? No personalities, no differentiations, just women and women mean sex. We allow this to happen, we fulfil our own prophecy, we allow men to wolf whistle at us, ask to see our breasts and such and pass it off as “banter”, an all too common argument I have heard.

 

Not one to shirk a giant, cheesy quote of deep and meaningful proportions, I feel that this quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ to be most appropriate to most situations I come across in life.

 It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

When I read this in terms of feminism and the failing gender equality that I experience I find it to be incredibly inspirational and moving. Try it, I hope you’ll derive the same meaning out of it as I do.

 

In no way are the perceptions I have detailed here relevant to everyone, nor are they meant as an attack on all men. I use the word ‘men’ here in relation to the men I have met personally in my life and not all men.

A Big White Sham?

ImageWhat is the fascination with the traditional white wedding? As a student currently exploring ideas of gender roles, separations and expectations I find the ideals of the perfect wedding quite an interesting phenomena. Unlike many other traditional ceremonies a marriage has retained key elements and stood the test of time. Why is this? What is our pre-occupation with the big white dress, the large wedding cake and our transformations into princesses? In a society where almost nothing lasts forever and divorce is rife is there still a place for such ideals?

Traditionally a wedding has been seen as a day for women to be transformed, to become princesses and beautiful beacons of virginal innocence. White, veiled beauties graced many an isle demonstrating their virtue by wearing white as symbolism of their virtue and virginity akin to that of the Virgin Mary who is often shown in similar attire. Their veiled faces a hint of their humility; their beauty hidden and kept safe only for their husband’s eyes. Even the sharing of the wedding cake or fruit’s a symbol of their ability to share life’s bounty.

In recent times I sometimes catch myself wondering if the idea of a wedding hasn’t become rather over commercialised. At the base of these ceremonies is the love and care that two people have for each other, however it seems to me that often many couples become overwhelmed with the need to fulfil social conventions and expectations.

Why do we desire to fulfil these criteria, is there a need to portray ourselves in a certain way to our family and friends or is it to ourselves? There seems to be high levels of anxiety over to way a wedding day is perceived by those outside of the union. Recent television shows such as ‘Four Weddings’ and ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’  provoke and encourage scrutiny of the day people put together. Suddenly a wedding doesn’t become a deeply personal ceremony between two people, it invokes a whole new set of complications and expectations. Why do we put ourselves under such scrutiny and I feel the answer to be social pressure.

Arguably one of the most focal elements of a wedding in modern times is the dress. In an age where holding onto one’s virginity and purity is not seen to be as key as previous years and rightly, so is the need to wear white so necessary? Today we do not expect to be disowned and shamed at the loss of virginity before our wedding day, we even have the option to live with our partners before marriage, why therefore is white so key? I attended a renewal of vows recently and although this was undertaken in a foreign country away from British ideals and expectations to have a white, traditional wedding, the dress was the most important factor for that bride. She had never had the chance to wear the “dress of her dreams” at her first ceremony and her deepest desire was to wear her perfect dress, white and billowing on her renewal day. It almost seems ingrained, if we do not wear white, if we do not appear to be that virginal and pristine young lady walking down the isle we have somehow failed. Has our wedding day been somewhat of a sham; not up to standard? On occasion dresses of different colours have appeared on ‘Four Weddings’ often to be met with scorn and a huffy “well I wouldn’t have done it that way” criticism muttered in the corners of the reception hall.

Even if we dare to be different, strike out and go for a different tone the wedding suddenly warps into a ‘quirky’ affair that people believes removes the serious tone it needs. Why do we need to have such stringent affairs? Why is ridicule so necessary? We hold to these old fashioned values and judge couples upon them even though most of us would agree that they have mostly become void in our modern society.

Often I feel a great degree of sympathy for the woman who is suddenly thrust into the spotlight; under everyone’s magnifying glass. There is such emphasis on how a woman and her bridesmaids look. Most are happy to be the centre of attention and very rightly so on their special day, but if a woman were to turn up in a tracksuit and no make up does this make her any less of a princess on her wedding day? She’s a princess to her fiancée and should also be so to those friends and family attending the wedding. What are we trying so very hard to prove?

To me it seems like such utter madness, I’d like to hope that when it comes to my wedding day that I shan’t fall victim to the same social pressures. However can I escape it, can I escape the sense of success and desire to fulfil social expectations? Can I stop myself from spending a small fortune, from dressing myself up to be something I’m not and most importantly can I retain the sense and atmosphere of commitment and love that brought me to my wedding day in the first place?

The Wonder of Greed

ImageBoxing Day, 2004 was to many people the same as any other; turkey sandwiches and the tail end of Christmas movies. However for a small island in the Indian Ocean it was a day of tragedy, one that it would struggle to recover from.

Even eight years on the destruction and plight that the country still suffers from is still glaringly obvious. Buildings barely stand, three of their four walls missing and scaring the otherwise beautiful landscapes. Animals limbs are missing and distorted from the raging water that smashed their frail frames against rocks and buildings. But it is the people of Sri Lanka that really drive home to a western traveller the cost of such a momentous act of God. Wherever one travels the sight of poverty, disfigurement and desperation is rife, but, oddly it is coupled with the most inspiring and moving determination and upbeat perseverance that one only sees in the very desperate.

The contrast between our comfortable, western society and the run down areas of the very poor are stark. The city of Colombo where my tourist group landed is a mash of well built, new structures that would not look out of place in any city in the UK, sitting snugly against run down shacks of corrugated iron sheeting and wood. It was in these dingy buildings that meat was hung and flung onto wooden slats, baking in the mid-day sun. Dogs ran in and out climbing through stock piles and children play in the dirt by their parent’s feet.

The further into Sri Lanka one gets the more desperate the situation appears to become. With small shells of buildings left over from the tsunami patched up as well as can be expected. Boards cover the holes where windows once were and in most circumstances the same materials served as walls that were otherwise missing. The landscape is parched, nothing can be grown in some areas and the struggles of everyday life are evident.

During our time there we were under the direction of  guide, a young man name Sam. As we toured around the country he told us many insightful stories of the plight of the inhabitants, in 2004 and today. Before the tsunami hit his country had been on the up. Tourism was high and souvenirs were easily manufactured, facilities were good and money was coming in. After the disaster a great deal of their working population were killed or severely injured, leaving many families destitute and without a breadwinner to supply them with the money they needed to recover their health and properties. Sam himself had lost family members and as a result his elderly mother and other members of his extended family had to move in with him and his young wife and daughter. The extra strain soon become difficult to bare, his taxi had been washed away in the current and destroyed leaving him to survive on what little seasonal tourism work, labouring and tips brought in. They have no shower or toilet; buckets sufficing for both. One quickly realised the stark differences between our lives, the great chasm that we otherwise would like to ignore. The native Sri Lankan battles constantly against poverty, often we and other westerners would be followed down the street in the hopes that we may tip a little something at the end of the journey. Their desperation does not need to be voiced it so clear and so raw it cannot help but hit you between the eyes.

Sam had often asked  if any of us had donated to the humanitarian aid programme that sent billions of dollars to the affected countries; of course most of us had contributed in some way. He confirmed what we had suspected since we had landed, that our 14 billion dollars had mostly been siphoned up by the fat cats in government while they allowed the people below to suffer in the mud. As a westerner the thought that my money lined the pockets of those who are stealing from people in need, the people I believed I had aided, is a difficult pill to swallow.

On our travels we visited many an animal sanctuary attempting to care for creatures that had lost their parents or suffered severe and crippling injuries during the tsunami.  In a dark corner of one of the out buildings a small elephant was chained to the floor, barely able to stand upright. His front leg had been badly broken and healed at an appalling angle, while the other was missing a foot. He had been swept up in the waves and battered so badly one could not help but wonder if it would have been kinder to let the creature die. Turtles we saw had limbs missing and dented shells from being buffeted up against buildings and debris in the carnage. Even the elderly man who ran the shelter had scars across his body from the same event. His connection to these animals made even stronger by their shared experiences.

On one of our last days in the country we were taken to Kandy, a town on the coast of the island. Here we came across the most serene sand beach; deserted except for our small party. It was here that the tsunami hit first, crashing over the small nature reserve and killing many animals. However nothing was more tragic than the remains of a small café that had once stood on the shore, it’s walls missing and parts of the floor still scattered under about under the sand. The steps and the foundations were all that remained, a haunting reminder of what had once been. The café had been full of tourist groups who’s bodies were never recovered. The artistic metal waves and plaque made of the old floor tilling that has been erected there the only reminder of the human life lost on that very spot.

Sri Lanka is a fantastic and beautiful country. It’s people warm, open and accepting and better hospitality I have failed to find anywhere else. This only aids to make their plight all the more distressing to me.  Eight years after such a disaster and those people who still bare the scars mentally and physically of that tragedy are being short changed by the rest of the world. A tip here and there can only do so much, something bigger is needed, desperately needed and maybe we should be the ones to give that something.