Paper or pixels? Does the medium affect the way people read?
Andrew Dillon Ph.D., the dean of the Graduate School of Information Science at the University of Texas has written a very interesting blog post on the nuances of online reading.
Reading beyond cognition
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m interested in the topic of thinking on a holistic level. I consider systems thinking and embodied cognition milestones towards the goal of holistic thinking. Given that interest, I found Mr. Dillon’s comment at #2 in the list below a good reminder to what reading requires:
2) The act of reading involves all levels of human activity: physical, perceptual, cognitive and social. We tend to think of it only as a perceptual and cognitive act but materials must be located and handled, and the forms of information we share reflect cultural and behavioral norms of groups which manifest as genres and types. Any significant act of reading moves seamlessly among these levels of engagement.
The medium matters
Not all types of content should be consumed on the same medium. The medium matters. Your goals behind consuming the content also matters. Consider the following comment from the same article:
With most of the material we read during the working day and online, we often aren’t willing to commit to the full range and stop after scanning. Content providers know this and produce accordingly. Add to this the delivery of digital material on a platform that is constantly refreshing, updating and allows users to multi-task across applications, and the results are a series of short acts involving the perusal and reaction to messages and short form texts that break up the normal progression through deep reading tasks.
Is this bad? Not if your goal is to keep on top of changing contexts and identify facts. Yes if you want to read a novel or really study a technical report.
Read the whole article
This excerpt doesn’t do the original post any justice. I recommend reading the entire article: “Reading Online is Ruining My Life…” Graduate School of Information – University of Texas, blog post by Andrew Dillon Ph.D. Downloaded April 10, 2014 from: http://blogs.ischool.utexas.edu/infomatters/2014/04/10/reading-online-is-ruining-my-life
Listen to a related podcast
I also recommend listening to a recent NPR radio affiliate interview with Mr. Dillon titled: “Is reading online affecting your ability to learn?“. SCPR.org “Airtalk” by Larry Mantle, Downloaded on April 10, 2014.http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2014/04/10/36878/is-reading-online-affecting-our-ability-to-learn/