Aasof on Reading
This week on Facebook: The article that it is claimed everyone has been talking about doesn’t include me, I only came across ‘What the Internet is doing to our brains’ when I began researching what and why we read. Last week I posted a link to an audio recording of the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, this was quite interesting as in the English version on Librivox, each chapter of the novel was (for the most part) read by different contributor.
Whether the reader was male or female was of little consequence, what was of significance was the interpretation that each reader put on the chapter by the manner and tenor of their voice. It seems to me that this alone could have great influence on how a listener would interpret the chapter being read.
Does it matter that the Librivox recording of Les Misérables that is entirely in French is by the same person or that the reader is male (as is the author)?
The following (long) article adds to the rest of my thoughts on reading and makes me wonder if there should be a book on ‘faking’ (see Friday’s article) with the title “How to Talk About Web-Sites I have Bounced Off”¹.
Website visors are found to exhibit “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. Typically reading no more than one or two pages of an article or book before bouncing. Sometimes saving a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever actually read it. Is Google Making Us Stupid?
(Monday) When We Read, We Recognise Words as Pictures and Hear Them Spoken Aloud: As your eyes scan these words, your brain seems to derive their meaning instantaneously. How are we able to recognize and interpret marks on a page so rapidly? A small new study confirms that a specialized brain area recognizes printed words as pictures rather than by their meaning.
(Tuesday) Your Brain on Books — 10 Things That Happen to Our Minds When We Read: Any book lover can tell you: diving into a great novel is an immersive experience that can make your brain come alive with imagery and emotions and even turn on your senses. It sounds romantic, but there’s real, hard evidence that supports these things happening to your brain when you read books. In reading, we can actually physically change our brain structure, become more empathetic, and even trick our brains into thinking we’ve experienced what we’ve only read in novels.
(Wednesday) The Deep Space of Digital Reading: There’s no question that digital technology presents challenges to the reading brain, but, seen from a historical perspective, these look like differences of degree, rather than of kind. To the extent that digital reading represents something new, its potential cuts both ways. Done badly (which is to say, done cynically), the Internet reduces us to mindless clickers, racing numbly to the bottom of a bottomless feed; but done well, it has the potential to expand and augment the very contemplative space that we have prized in ourselves ever since we learned to read without moving our lips.
(Thursday) Reading stories creates universal patterns in the brain: Telling and listening to stories is a pastime that spans all cultures. From crime novels to bedtime stories and from ancient legends to spicy romances, humanity loves a good book. We are all very used to the idea of stories, but the processes at work in the brain are more complex than it seems.
(Friday) Faking It: It seems hard to believe that a book called “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” would hit the best-seller lists in France, where books are still regarded as sacred objects and the writer occupies a social position somewhere between the priest and the rock star. The ostensible anti-intellectualism of the title seems more Anglo-Saxon than Gallic, an impression reinforced by the epigram from Oscar Wilde: “I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so.”
¹A long read — click image below: I’m going to keep this brief, because you’re not going to stick around for long. I’ve already lost a bunch of you. For every 161 people who landed on this page, about 61 of you—38 percent—are already gone. You “bounced” in Web traffic jargon, meaning you spent no time “engaging” with this page at all.
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