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Reading and its future

14 Jun

In The New York Review of books, Tim Parks writes about how our new techno-cultural environment makes it more difficult to read:

 

“What I’m talking about is the state of constant distraction we live in and how that affects the very special energies required for tackling a substantial work of fiction—for immersing oneself in it and then coming back and back to it on numerous occasions over what could be days, weeks, or months, each time picking up the threads of the story or stories, the patterning of internal reference, the positioning of the work within the context of other novels and indeed the larger world.”

Parks shares this anecdote:

Only yesterday a smart young Ph.D. student told me his supreme goal was to keep himself from checking his email more than once an hour, though he doubted he would achieve such iron discipline in the near future.

To the rescue is Aman at The Confession of a Readaholic Blog with Five Habits of an Efficient Reader.

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Text versus screen reading: A case for bi-literacy

25 Apr

A piece in The Washington Post tells us:

‘Several English department chairs from around the country have e-mailed her to say their students are having trouble reading the classics.

“They cannot read ‘Middlemarch.’ They cannot read William James or Henry James,” Wolf said. “I can’t tell you how many people have written to me about this phenomenon. The students no longer will or are perhaps incapable of dealing with the convoluted syntax and construction of George Eliot and Henry James.””

and:

“Researchers say that the differences between text and screen reading should be studied more thoroughly and that the differences should be dealt with in education, particularly with school-aged children. There are advantages to both ways of reading. There is potential for a bi-literate brain.”

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Speed reading claim called into question

23 Apr

I have always wanted to believe that speed reading is possible and that, some day, I could obtain this ability. One of the claims made in speed reading courses and books is that regression, going back and rereading words, contributes to slow reading and can be eliminated.

Now, a paper published in Psychological Science reports evidence that regression is necessary for comprehension. Here is the abstract:

 

Recent Web apps have spurred excitement around the prospect of achieving speed reading by eliminating eye movements (i.e., with rapid serial visual presentation, or RSVP, in which words are presented briefly one at a time and  sequentially). Our experiment using a novel trailing-mask paradigm contradicts these claims. Subjects read normally or while the display of text was manipulated such that each word was masked once the reader’s eyes moved past it. This manipulation created a scenario similar to RSVP: The reader could read each word only once; regressions (i.e., rereadings of words), which are a natural part of the reading process, were functionally eliminated. Crucially, the inability to regress affected comprehension negatively. Furthermore, this effect was not confined to ambiguous sentences. These data suggest that regressions contribute to the ability to understand what one has read and call into question the viability of speed-reading apps that eliminate eye movements (e.g., those that use RSVP).

Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that there is trade off between reading speed and comprehension.

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Speedreading: Does it work?

7 Apr

This weekend, I managed to listen to two podcasts on speedreading.  One by Brian Dunning and the other by Ross and Cary at OhNO. Dunning’ podcast is shorter and gives a better review of the research, but if you are interested in this topic, both are worth listening to.

 

 

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Spritz: A speed reading breakthrough?

27 Feb

I have always wanted to be a faster reader. I have taken speed reading courses and read speed reading books. While I think I gained some benefits from these programs, my overall improvement has only been marginal. Above and beyond my anecdotal experience, the research on speed reading has not been very encouraging.

Yesterday, I discovered Spritz with its innovative approach to increasing reading speed. You can try a prototype at the website. It’s too early to pass judgement on this approach, but I am intrigued.

Here’s video about the technology:

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