As a college student I am assigned mountains of reading, most of which I admittedly do not read. I try, I swear I do! I just find that for one reason or another I have a very hard time staying focused and interested. I like to think that it has to do with the topic or how the writer has composed their thoughts and arguments. I can follow well written documents easier than streams of consciousness. I would say that's obvious but maybe not. I also notice a difference between the medium on which I am reading. Whether it is print or digital seems to make a difference too. I have found that I read more and longer when I use the digital form for a variety of reasons. One is that books always want to close. I have to constantly fight the pages to stay open and to hold the book in a certain position. Printing it out on paper removes those complaints but it adds another issue. It is intimidating to see my weekly reading stacked 4 or 5 inches high, not to mention the cost of it. Online reading eliminates holding pages, is cheap and I can't see how much material is really there. I just read it one page at a time.
Online reading may present another problem, one which I presume I don't readily recognize because I have been reading online for over 15 years. In an article written by Nicholas Carr entitled Is Google Making Us Stupid?, the argument is made that online reading engages the human mind in fundamentally different ways than traditional print reading does. Carr suggests that the way the mind engages traditional print text is different than the way it engages digital text in that print requires the reader to engage deeply and almost passively while following the long and artfully written texts of pros, rhetorical research papers and so on where as the digital version, while that type of engagement is still possible when print is digitized, it is much harder to remain focussed when footnotes become hyperlinks, offering the reader a path to something else easily attainable, when popup ads interrupt and when animation resides on the side of the screen repeatedly trying to capture the readers attention to sell them something.
While digital reading may be easier for me and appears to be more and more a popular trend in the classroom, maybe it isn't the best way to disseminate information. Yes, it is easier to access in many ways, it is cheaper than printing it out, it changes the way that the reader thinks Carr suggests. The brain is very malleable and is highly trainable even into our adult years. Digital forms of media, those adopted from print and the emerging style of digital writing may be less effective than traditional reading. If this is true, digital styles are less effective, the current trend is training our brain to read in this fashion and thus we are soon to loose our ability to read long works of pros and argument papers, I know I have.
In another article written by Michael Agger, Lazy Eyes, the new style of digital writing is summarized and critiqued. It offers an example of the changes needed to write captivating digital articles and I suggest it offers a high contrast analogy between the way the brain engages traditional print and new digital media. The differences are obvious between the lengthy, artful and complete styles of most print media versus the over simplified, fragmented, incomplete and inundated with capitalist advertisement writing of digital medias. Is this a reflection of how our brains operate in each mode? Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. It sounds like a theoretical model for Alzheimer's decease.