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Digital Reading: Where are we headed?

Presentation for the UC Berkeley Lecturer Teaching Fellows, 11/12/13

Mike Larkin

on 11 November 2013

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Transcript of Digital Reading: Where are we headed?

Digital Reading: Where are we headed?
Text shorthand for

“Too Long Didn’t Read”

(Totally Love Digital Reading?)

How is reading changing?
Wait a minute…
Hayles argues that while Carr is “generally conscientious in reporting research results,” he sometimes “tilt[s] the evidence to support his view” (71), and that “deep and hyperattention each have distinctive advantages” (72).
Lecturer Teaching Fellows
U.C. Berkeley
November 12, 2013
Donnett Flash & Michael Larkin

Anxieties about where we’re headed…
“If serious reading dwindles to near nothingness, it will probably mean that the thing we’re talking about when we use the word ‘identity’ has reached an end.”

--Don DeLillo (qtd. in Franzen 96)

Anxieties about where we’re headed…
“[H]ere are some of the kinds of developments we might watch for as our ‘proto-electronic’ era yields to an all-electronic future:

1. Language erosion
2. Flattening of historical perspectives
3. The waning of the private self”

--Sven Birkerts,
The Gutenberg Elegies
Anxieties about where we're headed...
"[T]he N.E.A. reports that readers are more likely than non-readers to play sports, exercise, visit art museums, attend theatre, paint, go to music events, take photographs…volunteer….[and] vote. Perhaps readers venture so readily outside because what they experience in solitude gives them confidence. Perhaps reading is a prototype of independence….Such a habit might be quite dangerous for a democracy to lose."

--Caleb Crain (“Twilight of the Books”)

Similar anxieties go farther back…

The faculty of attention has utterly vanished from the general anglo-saxon mind, extinguished at its source by the big blatant Bayadere of Journalism, of the newspaper and the picture (above all) magazine; who keeps screaming; 'Look at me, I am the thing, and I only, the thing that will keep you in relation with me all the time without your having to attend one minute of the time'. . . Illustrations, loud simplifications and grossissements, the big buildings ... the 'mounted' play, the prose that is careful to be in the tone of, and with the distinction of a newspaper or bill-poster advertisement-these, and these only meseems, 'stand a chance.'

--Henry James, from a 1902 letter to William Dean Howells (qtd. in Greenslade 99)

And even farther:
“OMG! Writing is totally going to ruin memory, learning, and culture that have been fostered so beautifully by the oral tradition!”

(paraphrase approximate because of TLDR: “Too Little [time]…Didn’t Research”)

The March of the Digital
“Young people, who vote with their feet in college, are marching in…the digital direction. No doubt those who already read well will take classes based on close reading and benefit from them, but what about others whose print-reading skills are not as highly developed? To reach them, we must start close to where they are, rather than where we imagine or hope they might be” (65).

--N. Katherine Hayles

What do students think?
Um, OK.
What do students think?
A common reaction:

“Ultimately, I enjoy reading a lot more if I have the physical work that I can write on rather than if I read on a digital [laptop] copy.”

--Cal freshman, Fall 2013
“Although aware of the dissimilarities between digital and traditional reading, I really do not have a preference for one over another. With today’s technology the difference between the two will only get smaller and they will eventually be more similar tomorrow than today. Just as one could effortlessly annotate a physical book, one could highlight, bookmark, underline and comment on eReaders with the same ease. To me, the only crucial difference is that the smell of laptops, Kindles, Nooks or iPads would never remind me of the numerous trees being cut to pave way for civilization and our knowledge development.”

--Cal Freshman, Spring 2013

What do students think?
From a Fall 2010 survey of 82 undergraduates at a midsized private university:

Though students appreciated the lower cost, easier access, and convenience of onscreen readings, “[R]eading in hard copy was clearly perceived as having better cognitive or pedagogical outcomes than reading onscreen….78% of the subjects specifically addressed the cognitive and pedagogical benefits as what they ‘liked most’ about reading in hard copy. At the same time, 91% spontaneously mentioned the cognitive and pedagogical drawbacks as what they ‘liked least’ about reading onscreen” (Baron 215).

How do we read when we’re online?
One study suggests
That we tend
to read web
in an

How do we read when we’re online?
Nicholas Carr, "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains":

“The ecosystem of interruption technologies"
(Doctorow) on the Internet encourages:

-Shortened attention span

-Less careful reading
(skimming/reading for gist becomes all we do)

And this, Carr says, leads to:
-Harder time integrating memory for learning

-More conventional, shallower, less careful thinking

-Lowered capacity for empathy

Was Socrates just a bit early?
“Socrates may have been mistaken about the effects of writing, but he was wise to warn us against taking memory’s treasures for granted. His prophecy of a tool that would ‘implant forgetfulness’ in the mind…has gained new currency with the coming of the Web. The prediction may turn out to have been merely premature, not wrong” (Carr 195).
A New Way of Reading?
Richer reading may result from a combination of overlapping strategies:

-Traditional close/careful interpretive reading

-Hyperreading (skimming digitally/efficiently)

-Machine reading (using algorithms to detect patterns)

(Hayles 74-75)

A New Way of Reading?
“Reading has always been constituted through complex and diverse practices. Now it is time to rethink what reading is and how it works in the rich mixtures of words and images, sounds and animations, graphics and letters that constitute the environments of twenty-first-century literacies” (Hayles 78).
Do we even need books?
Mark Prensky, who coined the term “digital natives,” wonders.

To view the short video interview with Prensky, press the "Escape" button on your keyboard (if you're viewing in full screen), and then click on the link below. The video will open in a new window. After you watch the video, come on back here to continue with the last bit of the Prezi.
And yet…
Again from that Fall 2010 study of undergraduates

Reading in print meant:

“--A greater likelihood of rereading a text

--A greater likelihood of remembering what has been read,

--A much lower likelihood of multitasking,

--A greater ability to focus on and absorb what was being

--Greater ease in annotating…”

(Baron 218-219)

Reading onscreen meant:

“--Greater ease in finding a specific word or passage,

--The ability to look up additional information [online] while reading,

--Portability, and

--Being more resource friendly (both ecologically and monetarily)”

(Baron 219)

Can we have the best of both?
Brilliant novelist (and avid Twitter user) Margaret Atwood sounds hopeful in a speech at the Nashville Public Library:

Where to go from here?
“The crucial questions are these: how to convert the increased digital reading into increased reading ability and how to make effective bridges between digital reading and the literacy traditionally associated with print” (62).

--N. Katherine Hayles

We welcome your thoughts and further questions…
"In [reading texts in] short form, [digital tools offer the virtues of] speed and ubiquity for small narrative bites. [Then in] long form, people split into three groups:

Number one: 'I wouldn’t read online if you held a gun to my head.'

Number three: 'You’re a troglodyte and live in a cave unless you tear up all your paper books and do nothing but read online.'

And most people are in the middle, and they say, 'We want both.' "
Atwood, Margaret. Nashville Public Library Literary Award Winner 2012. Video. You
Tube. Nashville Library. 4 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.

Baron, Naomi S. “Reading in Print or Onscreen: Better, Worse, or About the Same?”
Discourse 2.0. Eds. Deborah Tannen and Anna Marie Trester. Washington D.C.: Georgetown U. Press, 2013. 201-224. Print.

Birkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. New
York: Fawcett Columbine, 1994. Print.

Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows. New York: Norton, 2010. Print.

Crain, Caleb. “Twilight of the Books.” The New Yorker. 24 Dec. 2007. Web. 30 Oct.

Doctorow, Cory. “Writing in the Age of Distraction.” Locus. 7 Jan. 2009. Web. 3 Nov.

“Do You Still Read Books? Students Respond.” Video. You Tube. Digital Nation. 4 Feb.
2010. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.

Franzen, Jonathan. How to Be Alone. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

Greenslade, William. “The Power of Advertising: Chad Newsome and the Meaning of
Paris in the Ambassadors.” ELH 49. 1 (Spring 1982): 99-122, Jstor. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.

Hayles, N. Katherine. “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.” ADE Bulletin. 150
(2010): 62-79. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.

Nielsen, Jakob. “F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content.” Nngroup.com. Nielsen
Norman Group, 17 April 2006. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.

Prensky, Mark. “Do Books Have a Future?” Video. PBS.org. Frontline. Digital Nation.
18 May 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
Works Cited
BTW, we were TLDR ("Totally Lying, Did Research" that quote from Socrates):

“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.”

--From Plato, "Phaedrus"
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