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Trajectories of time spent reading as a primary activity: a comparison of the Netherlands, Norway, France, UK and USA since the 1970s Dale Southerton,

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Presentation on theme: "Trajectories of time spent reading as a primary activity: a comparison of the Netherlands, Norway, France, UK and USA since the 1970s Dale Southerton,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Trajectories of time spent reading as a primary activity: a comparison of the Netherlands, Norway, France, UK and USA since the 1970s Dale Southerton, Shu-Li Cheng, Alan Warde, Wendy Olsen (University of Manchester) Presentation to Comparative Studies of Consumption Conference, Manchester University, November, 2005.

2 Introduction Using time diary data to analyse reading printed material as a primary activity, we examine four commonly held assumptions: time spent reading has declined in all countries; book reading has declined to a greater extent than it has for magazines and newspapers; reading is increasingly concentrated in a small minority of the populations in all countries; there is cross-national convergence of consumer behaviour in the practice of reading.

3 Reading and de-reading (1) Debates about reading centre around concerns over standards of literacy Reading is held in high esteem: people believe they should read more than they currently do Many reports indicate that it is a practice in decline – especially amongst young adults The decline of reading is amongst casual readers

4 Reading and de-reading (2) Competition from other forms of media Television substitutes for reading Television programme formulas affect media expectations: they present information in point form, based around spectacular fragments and dramatic highlights Decline of committed readers and the emergence of a reading class Griswold et al. (2005) - a fundamental cleavage in the USA between those who read and who do not A reading class who embrace literature, serious non-fiction, and the quality press as an esteemed, cultivated, supported practice of an educated elite (ibid. 139) has emerged.

5 Time diary data and reading USA selected as most readily associated with consumer culture. European countries selected on basis of data requirements. Year of study selected based on availability of comparable data Data weighted to correct for sample bias Look only at reading as a primary activity and conducted for leisure – reading for work or educational purposes excluded

6 All reading FranceNetherlandsNorwayUKUSA Mean minutes, survey population Mean minutes, participants only Participation rate 44%35%97%90%60%63%66%58%40%25% All reading - mean minutes for survey population, participants only and participations rates, aged 16+

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8 Reading books FranceNetherlandsNorwayUKUSA Mean minutes, survey population Mean minutes, participants only Participation rate 16%25%49%41%10%16%13%17%5%8% Reading books - mean minutes for survey population, participants only and participations rates, aged 16+

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10 Reading magazines and newspapers FranceNetherlandsNorwayUKUSA Mean minutes, survey population Mean minutes, participants only Participation rate 33%14%95%87%55%57%64%52%37%19% Reading magazines and newspapers- mean minutes for survey population, participants only and participations rates, aged 16+

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12 Degrees of commitment to the practice of reading FranceNetherlandsNorwayUKUSA All reading <15 minutes – 59 minutes > minutes Books <15 minutes – 59 minutes > minutes Magazines and newspapers <15 minutes – 59 minutes > minutes Heavy, casual and light readers, percentage of survey population aged 16+

13 Conclusions (1) Comparative research is important for placing national trends in their international context That all countries have increased time spent and the number of participants reading books over the period, with the exception of the Netherlands, undermines theories claiming that shifting media formats are responsible for de-reading

14 Conclusions (2) The evidence regarding an emerging reading class is mixed If a book reading class exists it is expanding and there are no signs of polarisation between casual and heavy readers. Clearer signs of polarisation between casual and heavy magazine and newspaper readers are evident in France, the Netherlands and the USA – where we see de-reading we also generally see signs of a distinct reading class emerging.

15 Conclusions (3) There are few signs of cross-national convergence. We do see: Book reading increases in those countries where it was comparatively low in the 1970s, and decline in countries where it was high; There are signs of an emerging magazine and newspaper reading class in three of the five countries; Women are more committed to book reading and men to magazine and newspaper reading.

16 Conclusions (4) But we also see: In France, magazine and newspaper reading has declined and book reading increased comparatively dramatically. Reading is becoming more widespread in Norway. The UK reveals a growth of book reading and while less people read magazines and newspapers in the latter year, those who did remain committed to the practice. Reading is more socially stratified in France and the UK than in the other countries.

17 Conclusions (5) On balance, processes of global consumer culture appear to have different impacts in different countries such that degrees and extent of change vary across social groups and components of any given practice within national contexts. Generic trends of the growing popularity of the minority practice of book reading and de-reading of magazine and newspapers mask the nuances of trajectories of reading within each country.


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