Losing The Plot


I believe that reading, in its original essence, [is] that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.
–Marcel Proust

I’ve always loved books. I love the way they feel in your hands, the heft of them, and their quiet, perfect solidity. I love the clean, tempting smell of a new book, the whisper of magic and the promise of untold secrets, or again, the dusty, elderly tomes one finds in little-known bookshops where a surprise discovery is always guaranteed. I suppose this love of ‘real’ books, as I’ve come to call them, makes me ill-disposed to digital reading, and perhaps it’s a bias I carry with me into the research I propose to conduct. This may make for a difficult start.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m still at the ‘idea’ stage of my research, as I feel that I have not read enough to be certain of the direction that I want to take, or in fact, if this would even make for a viable research project. I feel inadequate that I haven’t, as yet, hit upon a more conclusive visualization of my research, but I believe in being honest. To this end, here’s a statement of fact: I firmly believe that our reading habits have changed dramatically since we entered the digital age. We are now more accustomed to reading on iPads, e-readers, smart-phones, and other devices than from ‘real’ books and physical documents. I believe, in fact, that we retain less information overall when we read information on a screen than if we were to read it in the traditional way. I’d like to find out what it is exactly that makes reading on screens so very different from the traditional form we know and love, and whether or not there is a specific reason behind the disparity. I have not yet thought through the methodology needed for such a study, nor the tools I might use to explore this idea further. Further reading is needed to allow me to reach those conclusions.

As I’ve already mentioned, this proposal is not absolute by any means, and I do have a contingency plan in case it rains. I am reluctant, however, to discuss this in any detail until I find out a little more about the viability of the idea, as it may turn to dust. You will, I’m sure, forgive my reticence in this matter. 🙂


Reading in the Digital Age

As a digital native coming from a background in English literature and Computer science, I’m interested in exploring how the digital age has impacted the way we as a society read and engage with literature.

I will pursue research that aims to examine the ways in which society’s reading has transformed since the digital age. In the article How We Read Now: Close, Hyper, Machine N. Katherine Hayles notes how, in the past twenty years, reading of print has significantly declined. I wish to expand on Hayles’ theories by conducting thorough research into the ways in which the hypertext and the mass availability of digital sources have facilitated a swift decline in the reading of traditional print sources. Owing to this, my research will explore how the vast amount of information available to us through hypertext encourages skim-reading as opposed to the traditional method of close-reading when engaging with a printed text.

Moreover, I will analyse how the vast popularity of smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices such as laptops have changed the ways in which we engage with literature and film; it is not uncommon for an individual immersed in the digital age to watch television while playing computer games, participating in social media, reading online articles, and/or texting and I wish to study the impact this has on the way we read. As opposed to using digital tools to research literature, I wish to examine the ways in which digital tools have impacted how we engage with literature as a whole.