Aasof on the deep reading brain


This week on Facebook: I have to go away and think about how we will develop as a species when global digitisation become prevalent. Does the book Fahrenheit 451 become a reality? Is there to be a new global history in which a new enlightenment, or age of reason, becomes a prominent feature of global digitisation? Perhaps, as the article posted last Sunday suggests, the effects of this new global digitised society will be profound¹. The two remaining  references suggest that deep reading²­·³ has become the necessary adjunct to an education that has changed since I was at school and deep reading was taken for granted.

European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented as part of a movement referred to by its participants as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers in Britain, in France and throughout Europe questioned traditional authority and embraced the notion that humanity could be improved through rational change. The Enlightenment produced numerous books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars and revolutions.  Enlightenment – HISTORY

Perhaps Thomas Jefferson’s vision of happiness  “rags to riches” version of the good life has been long misunderstood. One reason is that we have misunderstood the Greek thinker Epicurus, who, as it turns out, had a major impact on his thinking. If he was around now, you wouldn’t see Epicurus on Wall Street. He was not a proponent of the “rags to riches” view of happiness. Simply put, if you cultivated close friendships, limited your desires to the essential necessities of life, and rejoiced in the moment, happiness was yours to keep.

There are no doubt as many conceptualisations of the good life as there are lives that aspire to it, but surely one of the most important pathways to its achievement begins with the desire to seek what is good — for the self, for those we love, for “our neighbour,” for our earth. Such a pathway involves the developing capacity to discern what is good—and just and true—at any moment, under all the circumstances of our lives. The Deep-Reading Brain and the Good Life

click image

As digital texts and technologies become more prevalent, we gain new and more mobile ways of reading—but are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly? How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper? Should we be worried about dividing our attention between pixels and ink or is the validity of such concerns paper-thin? The Reading Brain in the Digital Age — The Science of Paper versus Screens


1. A neuroscientist explains what tech does to the reading brain: When we have any function, whether it’s language or vision or cognitive functions like memory, we aren’t dealing with a straight line to the brain that says, “This is what I do.” The brain builds a network of connections, a network of neurons that have a particular role in that function. So when we have a new cognitive function, like literacy, it doesn’t have a preset network. Rather, it makes new connections among older networks, and that whole collection of networks becomes a circuit. It’s a connected scaffolding of parts.

2. The Reading Brain (Why Your Brain Needs You to Read Every Day): Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we rearranged the very organization of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species. . . . Our ancestors’ invention could come about only because of the human brain’s extraordinary ability to make new connections among its existing structures, a process made possible by the brain’s ability to be reshaped by experience.

3. Our ‘Deep Reading’ Brain — Its Digital Evolution Poses Questions: The challenges surrounding how we learn to think about what we read raise profound questions. They have implications for us intellectually, socially and ethically. Whether an immersion in digitally dominated forms of reading will change the capacity to think deeply, reflectively and in an intellectually autonomous manner when we read is a question well worth raising. But it isn’t one I can answer now, given how early we are in the transition to digital content.

4. How reading rewires your brain for greater intelligence and empathy: Reading, of course, requires patience, diligence, and determination. Scanning headlines and retweeting quips is not going to make much cognitive difference. If anything, such sweet nothings are dangerous, the literary equivalent of sugar addiction. Information gathering in under 140 characters is lazy. The benefits of contemplation through narrative offer another story.

5. The Reading Brain: The closest we can get to . . . entrance into another person’s psyche is through reading. Reading is the mental arena where different thought styles, tough and tender, and the ideas generated by them become more apparent. We have access to a  stranger’s internal narrator. Reading, after all, is a way of living inside another person’s words. His or her voice becomes my narrator for the duration. Of course, I retain my own critical faculties, pausing to say to myself, Yes, he’s right about that or No, he’s forgotten this point entirely or That’s a clichéd character, but the more compelling the voice on the page is, the more I lose my own. I am seduced and give myself up to the other person’s words.


Referenced Articles Books & Definitions:

  • A bold text subscript above and preceding a title below (¹·²·³), refers to a book, pdf, podcast, video, slide show and a download url that is usually free.
  • Brackets containing a number e.g. (1) reference a particular included article (1-5).
  • A link (url), which usually includes the title, are to an included source.
  • The intended context of words, idioms, phrases, have their links in italics.
  • A long read url* (when used below) is followed by a superscript asterisk.
  • Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
  • JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.

¹The Digital Landscape — What’s Next for News? (url/download pdf): Explore the emerging realms of digital territory where news and information reside—or will soon. It’s a place where game playing thrives and augmented reality tugs at possibilities. It’s where video excels, while the appetite for long-form text and the experience of “deep reading” is diminished, and it’s where the allure of multitasking greets the crush of information. 

²The power of deep reading and mindful literacy (pdf): Unlike many other contemporary approaches in education, deep reading draws upon the involvement of the whole body and mind. Deep reading provides a conduit for stretching the human capacity for imaginative thought, shows promise for developing cognition, quiets the chaos of a distracted society, and, overall, serves to humanise the educational process.

³The Importance of Deep Reading (pdf): Deep reading, as other contemplative practices, requires persons to go inside, to find meaning, to know themselves, and to connect to others. Unlike many other contemporary approaches in education, deep reading draws upon the involvement of the whole body and mind. Deep reading provides a conduit for stretching the human capacity for imaginative thought, shows promise for developing cognition, quiets the chaos of a distracted society, and, overall, serves to humanise the educational process.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Martin Widlake's Yet Another Oracle Blog

Oracle performance, Oracle statistics and VLDBs

The Land Is Ours

a Landrights campaign for Britain

The Bulletin

This site was created for members and friends of My Telegraph blog site, but anyone is welcome to comment, and thereafter apply to become an author.

TCWG Short Stories

Join our monthly competition and share story ideas...

The Real Economy

Blogs and stuff from Ed Conway

Public Law for Everyone

Professor Mark Elliott

Martin Widlake's Yet Another Oracle Blog

Oracle performance, Oracle statistics and VLDBs

The Land Is Ours

a Landrights campaign for Britain

The Bulletin

This site was created for members and friends of My Telegraph blog site, but anyone is welcome to comment, and thereafter apply to become an author.

TCWG Short Stories

Join our monthly competition and share story ideas...

The Real Economy

Blogs and stuff from Ed Conway

Public Law for Everyone

Professor Mark Elliott

%d bloggers like this: