Welcome to Reading Work. Here you’ll find ideas, tools, and examples that explore two core issues:
- The experience and meaning of work in American culture
- How critical reading strategies can help you better understand many different types of sources
Reading Work will help you develop critical, complex perspectives on the social structure, cultural significance, and personal experience of work in contemporary America, while also improving your skills as a critical reader.
As we explain in Thinking About Work, work is at once a central, often a defining element of contemporary life and, increasingly, the primary focus of college education. Most adults devote a considerable portion of their lives to work, and most will find that their work shapes not only their economic position but also their family and community relationships, their use of time, and their identities. For most students today, college represents an essential step in preparing for employment. Yet even as you expect college to prepare you for the workplace, you probably don’t spend much time in school thinking critically about how work will affect your life. This project aims to address this gap.
At the same time, even as our daily experience is framed by various media – television, the internet, popular music, advertising, images of all kinds – too many of us take in the images, stories, and ideas swirling around us without analyzing them. We miss important patterns and slants, in part because of the sheer quantity of information available. While some students learn critical reading skills in college writing courses, too often such courses focus only on reading traditional written texts. As important as such reading is, it is no longer sufficient. In Reading Work, we examine sources of all kinds, applying a fairly simple but useful set of questions that can help users become more attentive readers of our multimedia world.
How to Use This Website
We suggest that you begin Reading Work with two sections that introduce the two key themes of the book. Thinking About Work provides an overview of key ideas in the history and sociology of work, and Why Reading Matters introduces central issues in critical reading. The rest of the website is divided into sections addressing various types of resources: written texts, visual images, statistical data, songs, videos and games, and landscapes and work sites. You could read these in any order.
Within each section, you’ll find links that will take you to other websites that provide more information, as well as exercises and discussion questions. Your instructor may ask you to respond to these as part of your class, and you can use them on your own to practice using the ideas and methods presented here.
You may post comments on any page on this site. If you have comments on anything you read or see, or if you want to share your own ideas about work and representations of work, feel free to join the discussion by using the comment feature.