“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.” (Hayles)
Hyper-attention is important when talking about screen reading in a sense that distractions are inevitable. Every device has multiple capabilities that enable the reader to interact with an outside source. We have grown accustomed to the ability to multitask. Not always as efficient or detailed as we need to be but nonetheless, we survive. With today’s screen reading broadly being web based on a device that has active notifications, we do not share the same type of focus as do the older generations.
Essential parts of text today evolve around the technology or medium in which we read. Hyperlinks and interactivity are expected and used in modern learning environments because it gives the reader a deeper understanding of the text. When focusing on a task that involves deeper attention, such as reading music, all distractions seem to fade out.
With web and mobile devices being the primary medium of a text book, I’ve developed the habit of scanning more effectively than I would a physical book. Physical textbooks come with study guides, margin notes, bullet points, and review questions. As a digital textbook, you get all of that plus added audio and visual elements. The text is also a means to link to other resources rather than walking into a library and checking out a book.
The analogy I thought of when reading this essay. When you’re driving in a car with the music up loud. You are lost and decide to turn down the volume to find your destination. You immediately go from hyper-attentive to deep-attentive.
Hayles, N. Katherine. “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes.” Profession, 2007.