Digital Life: Ever Wonder If Online Is Really Reading?
Trish Fischer in Digital Life, digital literacy, inbound marketing

digital life: photo of hands on a computer keyboardIf you're an inbound marketing pro you are most likely on the computer the majority of your work day. Did you ever ponder whether reading email and web pages actually qualifies as reading in the true sense of the word? Not a day goes by in our culture that most of us do not access digital, networked information with an increasing amount of time spent on “reading” email, website pages and other multimedia materials. My gut feeling has always been that this type of reading is not the same as sitting down and reading a good old-fashioned printed book, or even a printed magazine or newspaper.

A 10/14/09 New York Times column titled Does the Brain Like E-Books seems to support my theory. According to one of the column’s contributors, Alan Liu who is chairman and professor of English at the University of California at Santa Barbara, research into the relationship between literature and information culture is worth pursuing. He is head of the Transliteracies U.C. Multi-Campus Reasearch Group on online reading practices and technologies.

In the column, Professor Liu makes the following observations:

Initially, any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs balance between focal and peripheral attention. It takes time and adaptation before a balance can be restored.

Current forms of digital media behave nothing like “books” or “libraries,” and cause users to swing between two kinds of bad reading. We suffer tunnel vision, as when reading a single page, paragraph, or even “keyword in context”without an organized sense of the whole. Or we suffer marginal distraction, as when feeds or blogrolls in the margin (“sidebar”) of a blog let the whole blogosphere in.

No wonder I still get a headache when I spend exteneded time reading online. No wonder I often opt to review the uncluttered  “printer friendly” version.  Based on Professor Liu’s insights, a better term may be “reader friendly” version. 

Article originally appeared on Trish Fischer-SEO content writer and printed projects copywriter (
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