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Old 10-30-2009, 11:06 PM   #1
danbloom
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Professor sees e-reading "changing the very nature of humanity"

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Old 10-30-2009, 11:14 PM   #2
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I disagree on one fundamental thing--For most of us, our brains are getting updated all the time....We do it through learning and practice. Even learning to read is a major software upgrade that everyone on this forum did when they were five years old or so. The pace of upgrades slows down for most people after their late teens, but for many of us (and I suspect most of the people in this forum) it never permanently stops while we are alive and conscious! If there is a disadvantage to reading on screen, I suspect our brains will learn to do better at it if we keep practicing.

Nits aside, I have to agree that when I write things, I seem to do a better job of editing and catching faux pas when I am looking at paper rather than a computer screen. I've never thought about how reading on my Kindle might be a different experience. I certainly feel like I get as much out of the book as I do on paper, but who knows....?
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Old 10-30-2009, 11:28 PM   #3
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Old 10-30-2009, 11:36 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danbloom View Post
"Also, the human brain, for argument's sake, is about 40,000 years old.
In all this time it has not been updated. In other words, whereas hardware and software on our computers gets updated on a continual basis, our brains have remained basically the same for a long time."
I see.

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"I am an optimist about the future, because I think we will adapt. We are amidst such change, we cannot know how the brain will change and what form it will take in the next 50 years. By 2050, it might be 90 percent non-biological."
Wait what? Contradict yourself much. Oh, wait he say's the brain will change because we become cyborgs in 50 years. I don't think so.

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Old 10-31-2009, 12:05 AM   #5
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Unlike paper text, when the brain attempts to read electronic text it is distracted by the technology. The requirements of clicking and waiting. The possibilities of choice (links and ads, for example) also serve to confuse the brain and interfere with the reading process online or on any kind of screen-reading platform.

I agree with this statement when we are talking about eBook readers with E-ink screen.
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Old 10-31-2009, 12:31 AM   #6
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*Yawn*

Guterman's opinions would be much more impressive if they were based in actual research (e.g. FMRI scans) rather than opinion. I'm sure he's quite intelligent, but facts > opinion.

It doesn't help that he cites Kurzweil as a resource. RK is a very smart individual, but his ideas about the Singularity are tech-optimistic nearly to the point of lunacy.

He also doesn't seem to distinguish between the ebook experience (which is static, and almost as distraction-free as paper) and the screen experience (which is loaded with distractions).

So Dan, are you just going to spend all your time looking for people to agree with you that reading in any electronic form is somehow "different?"
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Old 10-31-2009, 12:56 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danbloom View Post
"I am an optimist about the future, because I think we will adapt. We are amidst such change, we cannot know how the brain will change and what form it will take in the next 50 years. By 2050, it might be 90 percent non-biological."
If I became a cyborg then I wouldn't need to e-read.
Wouldn't need a reader.
Just plug the sd card into the side of my head and the data will transfer.
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Old 10-31-2009, 01:00 AM   #8
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Old 10-31-2009, 01:08 AM   #9
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Okay, what's the deal with 'real books,' here. Sure, the medium affects the message. Shifting from scrolls to pages changed the way reading happened. So did the migration from clay tablets to papyrus, and from caligraphy to print. But when was the last time you heard someone mourning for that scroll, so they could just roll through the book without having to take their eyes off the page?

eBooks are real books. They just don't kill trees.

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Old 10-31-2009, 02:33 AM   #10
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Quote:
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Good points, above, HC, re how our brain updates all along the life curve (hopefully) -- although -- SIGH -- they say brain begins to lose brain cells after age 19 !!! -- ......

One quick question for you, re "I have to agree that when I write things, I seem to do a better job of editing and catching faux pas when I am looking at paper rather than a computer screen"...

Why do you think that is? I experience the same thing, too. But I cannot explain it. Any ideas?

I don't have any better ideas than to fall back on the reasons cited for eInk allegedly being better than computer screens for electronic books--Perhaps the brain has to work a little harder on a backlit screen, and our reading comprehension suffers because of the distraction.

I'm old enough (same age as Madonna and Michael Jackson!) that I had firmly learned my reading habits long before I ever dreamed of reading on a computer screen. It may be that for younger people who grew up reading regularly on a screen, they don't have that issue. Anyone under 30 out there who wants to give their experience?
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Old 10-31-2009, 03:17 AM   #11
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Okay, what's the deal with 'real books,' here. Sure, the medium affects the message. Shifting from scrolls to pages changed the way reading happened. So did the migration from clay tablets to papyrus, and from caligraphy to print. But when was the last time you heard someone mourning for that scroll, so they could just roll through the book without having to take their eyes off the page?

eBooks are real books. They just don't kill trees.

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Publisher, BooksForABuck.com
Yep... that's what I was going to say... and before the scrolls people read in the sand, read the clouds etc. etc..

I read books for the content, and the e-reader is perfect for me... When I find a book I really like, I like to read it again and again... Paper books just doesn't last...

... and then there was a talk about borrowing books from the library... disgusting!
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Old 10-31-2009, 06:35 AM   #12
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Nits aside, I have to agree that when I write things, I seem to do a better job of editing and catching faux pas when I am looking at paper rather than a computer screen. I've never thought about how reading on my Kindle might be a different experience. I certainly feel like I get as much out of the book as I do on paper, but who knows....?
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Why do you think that is? I experience the same thing, too. But I cannot explain it. Any ideas?
I don't know if it's the whole reason, but a large part is simply that your brain gets so familiar with the document as you work on it on the computer that you stop reading/seeing details. Format shifting, like printing it out, makes it appear fresh and new. It would probably help your on-screen proofreading if you changed the look of the document; for example two columns instead on one, dark background and light text, a radically different font, etc.

Apart from this, I would guess that we have become used to reading differently on the screen. When I read web pages for example, I skim more than when reading a book, and that habit might carry over.
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Old 10-31-2009, 08:33 AM   #13
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... I seem to do a better job of editing and catching faux pas when I am looking at paper rather than a computer screen. I've never thought about how reading on my Kindle might be a different experience. I certainly feel like I get as much out of the book as I do on paper, but who knows....?
As to proof-checking; I find that simply looking at what I have written in a different medium can be almost as advantageous as printing something out. For example; sometimes I compose my posts to these forums in MS Word. After I copy, paste, and hit the Preview Post button, I often find errors I missed when viewing the post in Word alone.

Of course, the easiest way for me to catch all my errors is to post online first, then re-read my post a week or so later -- after the world has had a chance to see how big idiot I can be!
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Old 10-31-2009, 08:56 AM   #14
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"Not having expertise in brain science and biology, I cannot explain..."

Although somewhat interesting and thought-provoking, I believe most of this article is bogus. Something that I, a former English major in college, might have written after I had eaten a potato with a spot of mustard on it...
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Old 10-31-2009, 08:56 AM   #15
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As to proof-checking; I find that simply looking at what I have written in a different medium can be almost as advantageous as printing something out. For example; sometimes I compose my posts to these forums in MS Word. After I copy, paste, and hit the Preview Post button, I often find errors I missed when viewing the post in Word alone.
Why stop there? Why not switch from a visual medium to an audio one?

By far the most effective way I've found to proofread my writing is to activate some kind text-to-speech system on my computer and have it read what I've written back to me. Usually, I'll read the thing at the same time. Mistakes are very easy to find when a misspelled work is mispronounced, or a missing word is skipped when spoken. Reading along also slows me down, since the Text-to-speech system reads fairly slowly. Otherwise, it's too easy to read your own writing too quickly, since it's so familiar.

My e-reader doesn't have this capability--I use my computer--but if I had a Kindle 2+, I could do this portably, thereby exploiting the technology to make editing easier.

Anyway, if you don't have this feature on your device, recent versions of Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader usually have a menu item to read a PDF for you. (The text-to-speech system it calls is not from it, though, but just the default one on your computer. I use Festival with some of the Festvox on my linux system, but I begrudgingly admit that Microsoft Anna, whom you'll get on Vista and Win7, is a pretty nice voice--Microsoft Sam on XP is not nearly as nice. No clue what there is for mac.)

The article is sheer windbaggery. I'm a philosophy professor myself, so I've got a finely tuned windbaggery detector, since it's unfortunately so common in academia. He makes grandiose claims, all based on one example. Maybe the rest of it is true, maybe it isn't, but you can't be justified in drawing such fantastical conclusions on the basis of one thing, using only your own personal experience. In my own experience, switching from screen to e-Ink has the same advantages of switching to paper.

Last edited by frabjous; 10-31-2009 at 09:12 AM. Reason: should have done it for this post!
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