October 24, 2017, BY Beth Kaszuba

Two young women read in Bertrand Library.
Olivia Kalb '18 and Caitlyn Manahan '20 read in Bertrand Library. Photo by Emily Paine, Division of Communications

Could you unplug from electronics — and engage with the mind of an author, using an old-fashioned book — for eight straight hours? Or even four?

Encouraging Bucknell students, faculty and staff to immerse themselves in bound texts without touching their laptops, phones or tablets was the goal of this year's Dancing Mind Challenge, an event sponsored by the Griot Institute for Africana Studies, in partnership with Library & Information Technology.

Held Saturday, Oct. 21, the challenge asked participants to read steadily for blocks of either four or eight hours. The time frame, and the challenge's name, are derived from a 1996 speech, "The Dancing Mind," delivered by American novelist Toni Morrison, according to Professor Carmen GillespieEnglish, director of the Griot Institute.

In her remarks, Morrison lamented modern individuals' inability to spend significant amounts of time in solitude, reading — an activity that promotes "the extraordinary experience of imagining," Gillespie said. "When you read, you create, in part, what happens."

Gillespie noted that technology has become even more intrusive, and people more distracted, in the 21 years that have passed since Morrison delivered her address. "I'm dismayed by what I see as the disintegration of our ability to communicate with one another" without modern technology, she said.

Gillespie added that taking the challenge can be especially eye-opening for students, who often find disengaging from electronics and focusing on printed pages more difficult than anticipated. However, 38 members of the Bucknell community made the pledge to unplug this year.

"I just like the idea of taking time to read for fun," said participant Olivia Kalb '18, English-literary studies. "If I'm trying to read and my phone buzzes, I usually look at it. Hopefully, the Dancing Mind will inspire me to put away my phone more, on my own."

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