Observations about reading online

  1. I found myself a little impatient about not being able to get started right away due to having to wait for all the content to load.
  2. I found myself agitated a second time, when I was immediately roadblocked from entering by a pop-up ad that had to be clicked to close.
  3. I tried to make sense of the illustrated banner, but I couldn't tell what it was a picture of, and I wasn't sure if it belonged to the article or the online journal, so I moved on.
  4. I noticed the tags: Culture and Neuroscience and wondered if the article would be difficult to read and/or boring. These tags put up expectations.
  5. Then I saw the attribution to the illustrator, making me aware that the picture was in fact part of the article, but I still didn't know what the image was.
  6. As I began reading, I felt the constant pull on my eyes to look at the colorful thumbnails along the right-hand side, but I resisted and continued to focus on the text.
  7. With each need to scroll down, my eyes also felt that same pull - only downward to see the picture or the next thing.
  8. Part way into the article, I saw the whole illustration. It made sense now. Boy read traditional book - has a very limited and closed in experience. Girl reads non-traditionally and her universe is opened up. If I had been reading this article in print, I would have seen the picture in its entirely first - or if I was in the practice of scrolling for a preview before reading.
  9. After the picture, I check the sidebar to see how far into the article I am - and to see how much longer it is. I don't know if the picture itself interrupted my brain and made it harder to maintain concentration, but I was a little discouraged to see I was only about 1/4 of the way in.
  10. I readjusted my position to lean in to the screen a bit closer for the long haul.
  11. I was surprised when the article ended. I thought I had over half to go based on the sidebar.
*It sounds like maybe I was trying to do this assignment before I had my morning coffee, but I really wasn't so impatient and disgruntled about it as these observations make it appear. I did find the content very interesting, and I'll address that in the notes to follow. I do, however, think I tend to have less patience with digital material because I have less control. I have to wait for the page to load or scroll or open, etc... I think I just feel a little more at ease when I can control a text.

Notes on Lafarge's Essay

Lafarge is obviously optimistic about what digital reading can do for humanity.
He cites Wolf's book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, in which Wolf mentions a study that showed the capacity of human brains to develop in new ways. When readers were presented with hypertext, they were able to read deeper and dive in farther into topics, making connections as they went.
I tend to be one of the cynics. I work with many adult students whose reading skills are still at a 2nd-5th grade level. Even for students who read at a high school level, I'm skeptical that they will apply themselves to this level of reading. I agree it's possible, but I worry about the probability. To read this way requires readers to have a strong grasp on literacy, to be critical thinkers, to be self-disciplined, and to want to. I don't think that description fits too many readers today.
Lafarge brings up the historical book wheel as an early form of deep reading by connecting several stories or publications at one time.
I thought this was a good illustration because most modern online readers have multiple windows open at one time. The main difference is that most of the windows probably do not have any real connection to each other. The user is just multi-tasking.
Lafarge writes about the debate of whether students comprehend better when reading from print or on screen. Most studies indicate students do better when reading print, but researchers wonder if these results reflect brain activity or the attitude that students bring with them when encountering each medium.
Destefano and Lefevre's study in 2005 concluded that hyperlinked text creates overload for reader's brain causing comprehension and recall decline.
However, other studies showed some exceptions to this if the readers were expected to muddle through or engage with the material to learn something or solve a problem.
I agree with this. When the reading is done in isolation - perhaps just one article is assigned - a student will read it and be disengaged with the hypertext, but if the article PLUS the hypertext is assigned, the student may be committed to the project.
Lafarge is optimistic about new technologies taking reading to a new level. He explained how digital reading now incorporates video, audio and interactive elements. He points out how this adds pleasure and enjoyment too reading, and he thinks that's important.
I again am a bit cynical. I worry about the constant need to be entertained or to find thins pleasurable because most of the modern pleasures seem to be on an extrinsic reward system rather than an intrinsic one. These new digital novels might reward a reader by opening up a new video when the reader interacts a certain way, but these types of interactions are passive and submissive. The reader is replicating the experience that the creator anticipated for them. Maybe that's true of print too, but I like the rewarding feeling I get from imagining a character or a setting. I don't feel much satisfaction in having those details revealed to me through some visual.
Lafarge thinks as long as we make a concerted effort to plunge rather than skim, we will discover even more of what it means to be human.
I agree that this is possible with concerted effort, but I don't share his upbeat attitude. I fear that the re-wiring of our brains to need the instant gratification will always have the upper hand. I see a generation of students who need to be entertained, who need to be rewarded and whose attention span and self-discipline is lacking. That's not to say everyone is like that, but I worry it's just getting worse when I watch my youngest son's interaction with technology.
To Summarize
While I tried to read the article intently, I noticed disruptions and little obstacles getting in my way of focusing on the actual content. I have noticed this when reading online for other things. I like the way one article can lead to another and take me on a longer journey with more scenic detours, at the same time, I feel a little more stressed while reading because I have to navigate so many things. I feel like the driver on a road trip rather than a passenger who can just sit back and take it all in. I like the role of passenger in most things in life. Although I do like the role of backseat driver because I want the vehicle to go where I want it to.
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