Friday, September 19, 2008

Web reading: short takes from the Chronicle

News flash from The Chronicle: "Not all young people are tech-savvy" by Siva Vaidhyanathan.

They aren't? You mean five years' worth of bloggers' comments to this effect are correct? You mean that "digital natives" are a myth? Oh, the humanity!

In other news, Mark Bauerlein channels Nicholas Carr, but he also cites an interesting study from Jakob Nielsen:

Nielsen has gauged user habits and screen experiences for years, charting people's online navigations and aims, using eye-tracking tools to map how vision moves and rests. In this study, he found that people took in hundreds of pages "in a pattern that's very different from what you learned in school." It looks like a capital letter F. At the top, users read all the way across, but as they proceed their descent quickens and horizontal sight contracts, with a slowdown around the middle of the page. Near the bottom, eyes move almost vertically, the lower-right corner of the page largely ignored. It happens quickly, too. "F for fast," Nielsen wrote in a column. "That's how users read your precious content." . . .

In the eye-tracking test, only one in six subjects read Web pages linearly, sentence by sentence. The rest jumped around chasing keywords, bullet points, visuals, and color and typeface variations. In another experiment on how people read e-newsletters, informational e-mail messages, and news feeds, Nielsen exclaimed, "'Reading' is not even the right word." The subjects usually read only the first two words in headlines, and they ignored the introductory sections. They wanted the "nut" and nothing else.
Bauerlein, like Carr, concludes that "reading" web texts, Twitter, etc. is not "reading" as in reading Kafka or Tolstoy. Bauerlein's solution is a little more drastic, however: "
Digital technology has become an imperial force, and it should meet more antagonists. Educators must keep a portion of the undergraduate experience disconnected, unplugged, and logged off."

I am not sure that digital technology is an imperial force. I mean, does it have a flag? Bauerlein has a point, though, about the rush to digitization. Can't we have both kinds of reading? Maybe the paper kind of reading needs a new motto.

"Read different."

Yeah, that's the ticket.


Anonymous said...

They're not all tech savvy, and they do like actual books.

They don't all like those loose leaf textbooks, either, or xeroxed readers.

[Rant: My peeve du jour: everyone now sends all announcements as flyers by attachments, it seems. You have to open it up to see what it is. They used to put a little description of what it was in the body of the e-mail. Now many seem to have stopped - and to make their flyers in all sorts of strange proprietary formats I don't necessarily have the software to open. If I complain, I'll bet I'll be called digital non native, but really I'm more tech savvy because I know theirs is not the best strategy.]

Michael LeVan said...

I had the same immediate reaction about the digital natives myth.

undine said...

profacero, I hate hate hate the .pdf flyer thing. If there's no description, I often discard it. If I'm having an especially grumpy day, I use the spam filter software to bounce it back--just another case of techno-civil disobedience.

m(mmm)--I wonder how many of us had that reaction: "Yo, Siva--where have you been looking all these years?" I guess no one pays attention to what we say about the emperor and his clothes unless we're in the CHE, though.