Screen Reading Impacting Attention

To me, screen reading does include multimedia aspects and hyperlinks. Much of the reading or research I do for school involves web searches and interactivity. If I were to read a Wikipedia webpage, I expect to see the blue hyperlinks that I can click on to learn more about other topics. While these are what I am used to and having more information accessible at a click is convenient, it can also lead me down a rabbit hole of information. This can cause a distraction and lead me away from my initial research. With a traditional book, I would have no choice but to continue reading the content on the pages because there is no opportunity for me to go to a different course.

With mobile and web reading, I find myself wanting a quick read compared to reading something with 50 pages. A short article that gets straight to the point and gives me all of the information I need so I can continue to something else is what I prefer. In the scholarly text Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes, author N. Katherine Hayles explains different types of attention. “Hyper attention is characterized by switching focus rapidly among different tasks, preferring multiple information streams, seeking a high level of stimulation, and having a low tolerance for boredom”, while  “deep attention, the cognitive style traditionally associated with the humanities, is characterized by concentrating on a single object for long periods (say, a novel by Dickens), ignoring outside stimuli while so engaged, preferring a single information stream, and having a high tolerance for long focus times” (187). While reading this section, I recognized that I have hyper-attention. There is also mention of having other stimuli while working, such as music, which is familiar to me. I always listen to music while I am working on homework or drawing.

To help me engage with digital books, I think that continuing to have certain words connected to dictionary definitions is helpful. It saves time so rather than going to look up the word, it is an easy click. This also pushes me to learn to look at definitions because there aren’t multiple steps. Having links to other parts of the book is helpful as well. In the table of contents, I prefer to be able to click on what chapter I need to go to.

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