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A Note to be followed up on later

Being a Better Online Reader

Of course, as Wolf is quick to point out, there’s still no longitudinal data about digital reading. As she put it, “We’re in a place of apprehension rather than comprehension.” And it’s quite possible that the apprehension is misplaced: perhaps digital reading isn’t worse so much as different than print reading. Julie Coiro, who studies digital reading comprehension in elementary- and middle-school students at the University of Rhode Island, has found that good reading in print doesn’t necessarily translate to good reading on-screen. The students do not only differ in their abilities and preferences; they also need different sorts of training to excel at each medium. The online world, she argues, may require students to exercise much greater self-control than a physical book. “In reading on paper, you may have to monitor yourself once, to actually pick up the book,” she says. “On the Internet, that monitoring and self-regulation cycle happens again and again. And if you’re the kind of person who’s naturally good at self-monitoring, you don’t have a problem. But if you’re a reader who hasn’t been trained to pay attention, each time you click a link, you’re constructing your own text. And when you’re asked comprehension questions, it’s like you picked up the wrong book.”

Maybe the decline of deep reading isn’t due to reading skill atrophy but to the need to develop a very different sort of skill, that of teaching yourself to focus your attention. (Interestingly, Cairo found that gamers were often better online readers: they were more comfortable in the medium and better able to stay on task.) In a study comparing digital and print comprehension of a short nonfiction text, Rakefet Ackerman and Morris Goldsmith found that students fared equally well on a post-reading multiple-choice test when they were given a fixed amount of time to read, but that their digital performance plummeted when they had to regulate their time themselves. The digital deficit, they suggest, isn’t a result of the medium as such but rather of a failure of self-knowledge and self-control: we don’t realize that digital comprehension may take just as much time as reading a book.


An interesting article with interesting questions. However, I'd like to point out that some of the most in-depth and critical textual analyses I've ever seen? Have been on Tumblr. And Livejournal. And other e-forums where people discuss genre and popular texts. This could also of course point to a different type of reader; I've long maintained that genre fans can safely be likened to medieval scholars based on their predilections towards intensive readings. But I am struck by this notion of this ability to "construct your own text." In fandom, we call this head!canon--your personal "correct reading" of a text. I'm always struck by how we compare "digital reading" with "real" or "print reading" much in the way we differentiate genres--literary vs. popular and whatnot. I wonder what arguments might be made about different types of readers if we elided the print/digital divide with the literary/popular divide.

Comments

( 2 comments — Add your .02 )
browngirl
Jul. 19th, 2014 03:21 pm (UTC)
*takes notes*

(I do love your essays even when I don't manage to say so.)
caitri
Jul. 21st, 2014 05:01 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks, bb!!!!!!!!! **squishes**
( 2 comments — Add your .02 )

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