Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lamenting Loss of the Linear?

From: Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Education Online: Bit by bit, computers alter how we read"
"Unlike generations before them who trudged to the campus library, college students these days can read a Shakespearean sonnet or an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel without ever cracking the spine of a book. With a few computer keystrokes in their dorm room, they can tap into more volumes than a scholar could finish in a lifetime, a vast reservoir of literature, history and scholarly journals, all of it online.
It's fast and convenient -- so much so that they can do it in their pajamas.

But is something subtle being lost in this rush of the written word?
Even as academics applaud what the Internet and digitization have done for research and classroom learning, some also express concern that the technology has changed the way students read..."
Read the full article:

It seems to me that just a few years back many of us thought that one of the great, unexpected pluses of how the Internet changes the way people read is that through the use of hyperlinks the human species was freed from linear presentation of information. In just a few short years this perception apparently has shifted yet again. This article quotes some very smart people, professors in fact, who see something being lost...and much of that something has to do with linear text.

Luddites? I was tempted to go there too. But no, these are some very tech savvy brains weighing in here. And much of what they say is true, the question though is "how much does it matter?" and above all, in our tech changed paradigm of post 'EITHER/OR' thinking, is it really a loss or is it a loss/gain?

These "book-centric" heavy Internet users also talk about "...the tone of a writer's voice and the continuousness of things." - "...what gets lost in the digitazation of knowledge are the feel of the leather and the smell of the paper." -

Is it true as one Literature prof states speaking of his students "...They simply don't read ... Some of them are excellent readers -- faster than me. That's not the issue. It's the capacity to pay attention and sustain that attention." ?

And then, of course, there are the ways that these professors cope with this sort of change. One states "I ask them to bring me back a Xerox of the opening page of the journal article." (imagine that, a professor who requires proof produced on an outmoded technology, that reading was accomplished strictly via hard copy and NOT through a digital display!), but another states "I can only see an upside."

Hey, no one ever said paradigms shift easily! :)


No comments: