[Humanist] 29.416 physicality of reading: a digital alternative

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Oct 23 07:24:15 CEST 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 416.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 22 Oct 2015 10:14:50 +0100
        From: Gabriel Egan <mail at gabrielegan.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.413 no index (but a TOC); if not online?
        In-Reply-To: <20151022054038.74D946C2B at digitalhumanities.org>

Willard asks us to think about the physicality of

> Only when forced by circumstance do I read
> at length from a screen. . . . Physically
> painful, headache-inducing eye-strain [from
> [certain decisions about ink and paper] anyone?
> . . . So, when us scholarly digirati take a
> straight look at what we actually do, what does
> the present (never mind the future) look like?
> And when we think about possible futures, what
>  do we want our working environment to be like?

I'm always disappointed that this debate comes down to screen-versus-paper
when there is a readily available third option that most of us encounter
every day and that no-one I know apart from myself seems to use for daily
reading: the data projector throwing its image on a ordinary painted wall.

Reflected light is much less strain-inducing than light coming directly from
a glowing source. By projecting onto a wall one's eyes are focussed at 8-15
feet rather than 2-3 feet, which is much more comfortable. Given a large
enough wall one can fill as much as 70% of one's field of vision without
being close to the image and of course the writing can be made as large as
one likes.

All this encourages one to lean back instead of forward, which is beneficial
to one's spine and shoulders. It's just that damned QWERTY keyboard that
messes things up. You still need to hunch over that, and probably keep it on
a flat surface in front of you, tying you to that office chair and desk.
Solution? Ditch the QWERTY keyboard and get something else you can type on
that keeps your arms comfortably in your lap, like an AlphaGrip 
http://www.alphagrips.com  or a Twiddler http://twiddler.tekgear.com .
(Obviously I have no connexion with these companies beyond being a satisfied
customer of AlphaGrip.)

If Virginia Woolf were writing today on the practical desiderata for
pursuing the intellectual life, I hope she'd call her essay "A Wall of One's
Own". Throw in a sheet-feeding scanner and guillotine (paper-cutter to
Americans) to free the words of those printed books from their paper
prisons, and you've got everything you need.


Professor Gabriel Egan, De Montfort University. www.gabrielegan.com
Director of the Centre for Textual Studies http://cts.dmu.ac.uk
National Teaching Fellow 2014-17 http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ntfs
New book: Shakespeare and Ecocritical Theory:

More information about the Humanist mailing list