On reading

At some point, two different things about reading ended up in my “tabs to read” window – one about skim reading and the other about reading with a pencil.

In the first, Maryanne Wolf (Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at UCLA) talks about how our brains’ ability to read is changing as we read on electronic devices more:

My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight. Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential “deep reading” processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading.

She goes on to talk about we have less “patience to read longer, denser, more difficult texts” and along with that potentially comes less ability to apply higher levels of critical analysis to such texts (or perhaps also in texts we come across in every day life like contracts or wills).

The whole article is worth reading (especially how the change in reading is coming with a change in empathy) but the main thing that interested me was how reading on physically printed media instead of a digital device kind of added “a spatial ‘thereness’ for text” and readers have a better sense of where they are in what they are reading – a place “to go back, to check and evaluate one’s understanding of a text.”

The second tab I’ve had open – the one from Austin Kleon’s blog about reading with a pencil made me really think about how I read. I don’t think I could ever actually write IN a book, which is also interesting to me – there are people who freely write in books they own and then there are people who would never dream of it and is there anyone in between?

Marginalia means to me that I’ve paid attention to the thing that I was reading – for the essays and such that I’ve written in the past, I’ve always had to print out papers (in part to highlight them and make notes) rather than attempt to read them in a digital format. Even though I can’t bring myself to write notes in a book, the books I used for my dissertation were RIDDLED with post-it notes with various scribbles and arrows on them.

I feel like I don’t read as much as I used to – I certainly don’t get through as many books as I once did. However, when I really think about it, I wonder if I am really reading less or is it that reading in a digital format somehow counts less? Instead of zipping through novels, I read fanfic, journal articles, meta, Twitter, newsletters (the satisfaction of reading a blog with the ease of it being right there in my inbox, though I never forsook RSS), the odd Livejournal/Dreamwidth entry… so am I really reading less? Or is it that I don’t have the patience for long things anymore?  I know I don’t understand how anyone can binge-watch a series – I can watch two episodes tops before I have to switch to a different series.

Anyway. It is a thing I have been thinking about.

Other stuff:

Author: Rachel

half-girl, half-robot

One thought on “On reading”

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