[Humanist] 31.372 sustained reading from screen

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Oct 21 09:05:09 CEST 2017


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 372.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>     (87)
        Subject: Re:  31.371 sustained reading from screen?

  [2]   From:    Gabriel Egan <mail at gabrielegan.com>                       (37)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 31.371 sustained reading from screen?

  [3]   From:    "William L. Benzon" <bbenzon at mindspring.com>              (56)
        Subject: Re:  31.371 sustained reading from screen?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 08:51:06 +0000
        From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>
        Subject: Re:  31.371 sustained reading from screen?
        In-Reply-To: <20171020055252.B2A9B7CD7 at s16382816.onlinehome-server.info>


Dear Willard,

I almost exclusively read from screen these days, and have been doing so
now for the better part of 6 or 7 years. The reasons for this are purely
pragmatic as far as I can see. The two obvious ones are that I only need to
carry around my tablet to have all my literature with me at any time and
that the house has reached its limits to what it can hold as to physical
books without them becoming an enduring annoyance. On the
epistemological-pragmatical side of things there’s the added reason that I
can divide my laptop screen in a reading and a note taking half. For me
this means prolonged concentration without turning from the printed
material to the screen and from finger or pencil to keyboard. This avoids
the ever so tiny but nevertheless exhausting-like-a-thousand-tiny-cuts
constant medium switches. It also means all my notes end up being digital
and thus searchable, which is a must for a person with the curse of
astoundingly bad memory like me that is heavily dependent on externalizing
thinking.

As usual there is nothing in this that could not have been accomplished by
non-digital means, but the digital variant boosts convenience and
productivity. I cannot really say I miss books. I have no romantic
inclination towards reading from paper by candlelight. And I certainly do
not miss the weird stench of that particular newer type of half-glossy
printing paper, nor the choking dust clouds produced by early 20th century
cheap prints or 1970s pockets. What I do not miss, because I still make
sure I get these experiences by putting my hands on physical codices at
times, is the magnificent esthetic and material pleasure of books and
manuscripts that have been made with love and craftsmanship: the codices
that are consciously created as both intellectual and material pieces of
art or knowledge. Obviously there are lots of these from medieval times as
well as just in print who’s particular makeup do simply not survive a
transition to the digital medium fully completely, simply because they were
not intended for that medium. On the other hand books are impressively bad
at reproducing embedded multimedia. But mainstream novels and scientific
articles that have no highly specific medial properties, what’s the use of
having these in print clogging my space?

You are no doubt aware of the studies that argue that handwriting is better
for memory, that reading from screen is terrible for recall, and that using
digital technology will unlearn us the very utility of thinking. A trope
since Socrates at least, as you know. The results of those studies are more
a signal of practices and preferences in transition, I think, than of
intrinsic truths. I wonder if the same results would come up if those
experiments would be repeated by different researchers, or in ten years.

I guess the bottom line as always is: if it works for you, use it, just
don’t be dogmatic about it. All styles have their esthetics and utility, to
be appreciated and applied.

Yours
--Joris

On Fri, 20 Oct 2017 at 07:53, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 371.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>         Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 06:42:18 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: sustained reading from screen?
>
>
> Who does sustained reading from screen under what conditions?
>
> My own reading habits go something like this. If the reading is of
> articles from which I need to extract basics of the argument, then I
> skim the text on screen and sometimes take notes. If I want to immerse
> myself in the argument and assimilate the author's way of thinking, then
> it has to be from a codex. (As a result of this my library grows with
> alarming rapidity.) I am forced to make an exception when the book isn't
> available but can be found online.
>
> I should note that the screens I read from, when I must, are of the
> high-resolution kind. I should also note that I can read from a
> high-definition tablet but seldom do so unless away from home. And
> I do have comfortable places to sit with said tablet.
>
> Are these habits a function of age? Do those who have learned to read
> from screen differ?
>
> Comments welcome, as usual.
>
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of
> Digital Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western
> Sydney University and North Carolina State University; Editor,
> Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 10:17:18 +0100
        From: Gabriel Egan <mail at gabrielegan.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 31.371 sustained reading from screen?
        In-Reply-To: <20171020055252.B2A9B7CD7 at s16382816.onlinehome-server.info>

Willard asks about reading from the screen, the "function
of age" and about how "those who have learned to read
from screen differ".

I didn't "learn to read" from screen (I'm too old),
but I did learn to read seriously as a professional
from the screen.

I first read all the works of Shakespeare not from a
book but from a screen, using the floppy disk version
of the 1986-7 Wells & Taylor Oxford Shakespeare,
created by Lou Burnard in 1989. I was amazed to
watch my fellow undergraduates type out quotations
of Shakespeare from printed books (and get them
slightly wrong) when I could cut and paste them
on screen. Why would they prefer this? Also, to
take notes they had to put down the book and move
their hands over to the keyboard, while my hands
were already on the keyboard and I only had to
switch from one window (the text) to another (my
notes) on the screen. Again, I could not understand
why anyone would work this way unless they simply
didn't have a digital version of the text they wanted
to read.

15 years ago I got my entire library digitized and
now I never need to faff about with paper. But as
the eyes get older (I'm in my 50s), it gets harder
to focus on a screen that is 2-3 feet away. The
solution was cheap and simple: project the image
onto a wall 10-12 feet away. The image is huge
and middle-aged eyes can focus at that distance
all day without strain.

Regards

Gabriel Egan

________________________________________________________________________
Professor Gabriel Egan, De Montfort University. www.gabrielegan.com
Director of the Centre for Textual Studies http://cts.dmu.ac.uk
National Teaching Fellow http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ntfs
Gen. Ed. New Oxford Shakespeare http://www.oxfordpresents.com/ms/nos



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 07:14:51 -0400
        From: "William L. Benzon" <bbenzon at mindspring.com>
        Subject: Re:  31.371 sustained reading from screen?
        In-Reply-To: <20171020055252.B2A9B7CD7 at s16382816.onlinehome-server.info>


Hi Willard,

Can’t say that I do much “sustained” reading from the screen, but that’s how I do most of my reading these days. For one thing, most of my library is in storage. For another, I mostly read articles rather than books. And I like to mark the articles. Marking them on a PDF is not quite as convenient as marking them on a printed page, but it’s OK. And, of course, it’s far more convenient to cut and past quoted passage from an online article than it is to type from paper.

If I do find a book I want to study, however, I try to get ahold of a codex. The same if I’m reading for, you know, “pleasure”. These days a get most of my fiction and fantasy in the form of movies and TV, and that’s mostly online.

Oh, and, yes, I have high resolution screens to read from.

Best,

Bill B


Bill Benzon
bbenzon at mindspring.com

646-599-3232

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