The New Reading

The experience of reading is expanding and the idea that only the act of processing words on the printed page (or screen) qualifies as ‘reading’ has been upended in the face of interactive technology that blurs the distinction between reading and other modes of processing information.   Greg Toppo writes in The Atlantic how new technologies are allowing students a more immersive experience.

Today, publishers are opting for works that combine video and audio components as part of the reading experience.  Rich graphics and embedded URLs are as much a part of the reading experience as the printed words on the page.  The most compelling example of the way new technology is transforming the reading experience is Inanimate Alice:

Created by the British novelist Kate Pullinger and British-Canadian multimedia artist Chris Joseph, Alice is a book that blinks, buzzes, hums, sings, jitterbugs, plays games, and, on occasion, rains and snows. Using her laptop, Fleming projected the first Alice story onto a library whiteboard … and her fifth-graders went nuts. The story was immersive like little else, the first piece of fiction that helped them see life through a character’s eyes. A few students approached her afterwards to thank her, tears glistening in their eyes.

Welcome to the brave new world of reading: the clickable, interactive future of books. Just as digital technology is transforming people’s work, social lives, and family ties, it’s naturally transforming the slow, solitary act of reading. Think beyond paper versus pixels—this technology cuts to the very core of what it means to read a book.

There is still much debate on whether such enhancements actually support the text or simply serve as flashy distractions.  But as more research emerges on the specific features that best support a text, we’re more likely to see an increase in the number of interactive texts.  That’s a good thing.  For reluctant readers, anything that brings them to the page and keeps them there is likely to do more good than harm.  And these new text types may just help reluctant readers become passionate about books, or more precisely, information.

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