The Mario Blog
04.16.2013—3am
A conversation about differences of reading on screen versus paper

TAKEAWAY: It is a conversation that should never be missing from media conferences, seminars, and college communication classes: how does reading on screens differ from reading on paper? A Scientific American article summarizes the issue and supports it with splendid research on this new topic. Read about it here as I touch upon the main themes of the piece. Part One: Does the new technology change the way we read?

TAKEAWAY: It is a conversation that should never be missing from media conferences, seminars, and college communication classes: how does reading on screens differ from reading on paper? A Scientific American article summarizes the issue and supports it with splendid research on this new topic. Read about it here as I touch upon the main themes of the piece. Part One: Does the new technology change the way we read?

Ink on Paper, Words on Screens

blog post image
Image courtesy of www.marketingprofs.com

I grabbed one of my grandchildren’s school backpack recently and it was heavy.

I opened it to discover, to my surprise, that it was full of textbooks, as in printed books, the kind I also used in school when I was a child decades ago when reading on a screen would have been considered science fiction.

Gee, how nice. They are still reading textbooks, ink on paper, in the elementary schools of today, I said to myself.

But, how long will that be the case? Or, as I suspect, will it be a combination of reading on paper and on screens in the foreseeable future? My daughter tells me that, although textbooks are very much a daily part of the students’ lives in her kids’ classes, there are also desktop computers and even tablet devices for each child in the class.

All of this thinking provokes the question: will my grandchildren’s generation (ages 3 to 14 today) be at ease reading in both paper and screen? Will they prefer one over the other? I would like to think that, because print is eternal, there will always be a special type of content that they will prefer on paper, while there may be many others for which the potential benefits of the screen make it the choice.

The Scientific American article

I have outlined six main themes in the Scientific American article dealing with how reading on text and/or screen may result in significant levels of differences in our behavior towards the platform and the content of what we read. These are the six main topics, which I plan to discuss in the blog during the next three days, two topics per day.

The article has explained this content superbly well, so my blog posts will be interpretations of the thoughts presented, with an emphasis on how we as storytellers and designers can learn from the study as we apply it to our work.

1. How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read? How reading on screens differs from reading on paper

2. As digital texts and technologies become more prevalent, we gain new and more mobile ways of reading—but are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly?

3. Does screen reading drain our resources more than reading on paper?

4. Are we less reflective when reading on screen than on paper?

5. The physicality of text; the human brain may also perceive a text in its entirety as a kind of physical landscape

6.Text is not the only way to read

Today: are these differences so crucial?

One of the statements from the article that first impressed me as important was this:

As digital texts and technologies become more prevalent, we gain new and more mobile ways of reading—but are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly? How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper? Should we be worried about dividing our attention between pixels and ink or is the validity of such concerns paper-thin?

More and more screens we use are touch-enabled—notably, with the new Windows 8, many desktop and laptop screens are able to be controlled by the mouse or hand alike. Readers of this blog and those who attend my workshops know that, in my view, while we primarily design for the brain and the eye in print, we designers creating for the screen must also concern ourselves with the finger—and all things tactile.

The finger must be happy, I always say. This study seems to support the notion that, indeed, the expectations for those reading text on a screen go beyond the turning of the pages.

However, I also stopped when reading the question posed by the author:

Are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly?

Furthermore, there is another reason for contemplation: some of the studies cited in the Scientific American piece tend to support that there is a parallel line of research which focuses on people’s attitudes toward different kinds of media and states that many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper.

So, my question: is reading a long narrative about a serious topic, but one in which the editor/designer have populated the piece for tablet consumption with several pop up moments, appealing to the senses, such as audio, animated graphics, videos, going to subtract importance to the piece?

Will such a piece appear to be more authoritative and serious if rendered as text on a printed page, without the more exciting tactile experience that pop ups bring to the reading experience?

Or, is our level of digital and technological sophistication such that we don’t rest seriousness to a piece because it engages us at the tactile level?

I don’t think anyone has the answer to this, but, based on my own experience, I believe that we come to even the most serious of publications today expecting this level of engagement. I, for one, am happy to see that The New York Times’ tablet edition is getting better at going beyond headlines, photos and text to amplify the offer, as in such recent examples of an animated graphic of The New York City mayoral candidates, which was informative and fun. In addition, for a piece about the return of Bette Midler to Broadway, not just an in-depth interview with the star, but also a very spontaneous video version of the interview,as well as video coverage of the Venezuelan election and for a review of the new musical, Kinky Shoes.

In each case, those stories were enhanced tremendously, and we, the digital audience, were quite satisfied with the results, which we would have not enjoyed if we only read the printed edition.

Tomorrow: The physicality of text versus screen. Plus: Let’s reinforce the point about “text is not the only way to tell the story”.

Read Scientific Article piece here:

The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=reading-paper-screens

TheMarioBlog post #1238
Blog Post09.22.2017—4am
Mexican earthquake: front pages tell the story
Blog Post09.21.2017—1am
Saying adios to The Village Voice in print
Blog Post09.20.2017—1am
Vogue in print: “point of view, attitude”
Blog Post09.19.2017—1am
The Boston Scene
Blog Post09.18.2017—1am
Thoughts on print: still here, still full of surprises, worthy of attention
Blog Post09.15.2017—1am
New report: For publishers, Facebook is no revenue panacea
Blog Post09.14.2017—1am
Smartphones and web traffic: where the action is
Blog Post09.13.2017—1am
Paris Match: a good visit and big plans
Blog Post09.12.2017—1am
Irma: the morning after
Blog Post09.11.2017—3am
Irma: the bad girl on every front page
Blog Post09.08.2017—1am
Type Magazine: the new Roger Black project
Blog Post09.06.2017—1am
Linear storytelling for mobile: a good example
Blog Post09.05.2017—1am
For Le Journal de Montreal: article page acts like home page, sort of
Blog Post09.01.2017—1am
Facebook the new front page?
Blog Post08.31.2017—1am
When it comes to news, “designer labels” can make the difference
Blog Post08.30.2017—1am
Those fabulous print glossy ads
Blog Post08.29.2017—1am
From here and there: what the email basket brings
Blog Post08.28.2017—1am
Why I would show this Times Mag cover to my class
Blog Post08.24.2017—1am
A caricature for the ages
Blog Post08.23.2017—1am
It was the day Americans looked up!
Blog Post08.22.2017—1am
It was all about the solar eclipse of the century
Blog Post08.21.2017—1am
A day without local news? In Minnesota, readers experience it
Blog Post08.18.2017—1am
The good news about print (in the USA)
Blog Post08.17.2017—1am
What’s your lead story right this minute?
Blog Post08.16.2017—1am
Panama’s La Prensa: workshop digital media, day 2
Blog Post08.15.2017—1am
Panama’s La Prensa: digital workshop
Blog Post08.14.2017—1am
Millennials still like their Facebook
Blog Post08.11.2017—1am
All about the Eclipse: the Times nailed it.
Blog Post08.10.2017—1am
It’s the Monocle printed newspaper again
Blog Post08.09.2017—1am
Who pays for news, and who believes the news? Report tells us
Blog Post08.08.2017—1am
Workshops: linear visual storytelling
Blog Post08.07.2017—1am
For newspaper print editions: the power of the headline
Blog Post08.04.2017—1am
Behold the iPad: it’s still part of the media quintet
Blog Post08.03.2017—1am
At the NYTimes: push for customized content moves forward
Blog Post08.02.2017—1am
The Mooch’s quick departure on the front pages
Blog Post08.01.2017—1am
At The New York Times: aggressively pushing digital subscriptions
Blog Post07.31.2017—1am
Thoughts while on vacation
Blog Post07.14.2017—1am
Local newspapers, new digital strategies that work
Blog Post07.13.2017—1am
The Donald Jr. Russian story: It’s somewhere on that front page
Blog Post07.12.2017—1am
Ecuador: where print still dominates
Contact us with speaking requests, questions or to discuss a project.