I am immersed in technology, and being in graduate school, I also have a mountain of reading to do. Ergo, my frame of mind is to maximize the time spent while driving, (which is averages to about 14 hours per week) and listen to some of the course readings selections instead of reading them all.
Another issue of practicality has been carrying around a large purse (more like a carry-on!), a laptop, and a third bag for several course books = sore shoulders + lower back pain. (Whew!) I have purchased the course books in hard copy form, but I have to say, due to sore shoulders and lower back pain, an iPad, Kindle,or Nook was looking pretty darn good.
So, what did this experience do for my research project? It got me thinking in the direction of the psychology and human behavior studies of transitioning from reading and interacting with text in the hard copy form, to reading and interacting with it in a digital form.
We love the accessibility and convenience of our favorite reads available on electronic readers. But how much, and in what ways do we miss the feeling of a well-worn book in our hands? How about thumbing through the slick pages of a colorful magazine? I can say that I have a bond with my favorite books. (And I have lots of “favorite books”–actually bookshelves full.)
I argue with myself that perhaps I should give them away or sell them, but I just can’t. I have grown too fond of them! I love to look over at my bookshelf and scan through all my rows of books, each row having a different topic that I’ve collected on. I know their different sizes, weights, typefaces, and dust-covers. I know where some are dog-eared, underlined in ink, and highlighted. In some I can see fluorescent Post-It notes still peeking out from where I had made notes.
You see, in each book there is a history of my interaction with it.
A bread crumb of my own personal history is reflected in each book. They are tangible artifacts of personal journeys, topic studies, and intellectual, emotional, psychological and spiritual growth in my life. The dog-eared pages, notations, underlining, circling, and highlighting all reflect the internal dialogue with information that I have had throughout the years. There is an element of human bonding through the relationship of discourse, even though it was all in my mind.
Do they merely represent information that could otherwise be more efficiently stored on an electronic device?
No. To me, the book is much more than sheets of text bound and glued together. The book is a tangible link to the experience I had as I progressed through reading it. Contained is not only what the author had to say, but what I thought and concluded about it as I progressed–a “little universe” if you will.
My favorite part is when I go to revisit the thoughts contained in these “universes” that have been constructed by the author and myself, and I have something tangible to build upon. I love the flip back to old book-marked pages and read my notes scrawled in the margins. Oftentimes the words trigger insights or questions I had at the time, and am now able to expound on.
Additionally, I would like to assert that there is the simple, but very powerful element of human touch.
Of course, I could easily download many of these books and make clean, crisp notations on a screen and use a mouse to highlight areas of interest. I could add links here and there, and even embolden a pull-quote or two. The possibilities are almost limitless, and I’m sure they would surpass by far in efficiency what “notes” I manage to take in the hard copy version. Yet, to me, the bond and relationship would be missing.
Nooks, Kindles and iPads are fantastic, yet there is something cold and sterile about them. To me, they lack warmth. But, does everyone feel that way?
If we are all about efficiency, why don’t we just slowly eliminate hard-copy reads and go with their digital counterparts?
Are we already doing that, or instead simply making digital counterparts for convenience? (So that grad students like myself will not physical therapy for shoulder and back problems!) What changes, if anything, for people who use more electronic versions of their books than hard copies?
What is it exactly about books that humans so love? I have a hunch it has something to do with relationship, bonding and physical touch, at least it does for me. And it is this topic of information processing and human interaction that I would like to look into further.
I plan to explore this research topic in the creative nonfiction genre, but may wonder outside of those parameters to include some other genres as well, depending upon the direction my research takes me.
I feel that the creative nonfiction genre is the best fit overall, as opposed to another genre like narrative journalism, because creative nonfiction affords me a richer description and the ability to incorporate reflection. I will also be doing a lot of interviewing and am looking forward to building in-depth profiles of the people I will be observing. Additionally, most of my training is in journalism and news reporting, so taking on a genre that is relatively new should be a stretch–but in a good way.
In my search for publishing outlets, I was excited to come across Fourth Genre.
Fourth Genre is published twice annually by Michigan State University Press, the publication is a literary journal that explores the boundaries of contemporary creative/literary nonfiction. The editors invite works that are lyrical, self-interrogative, meditative, and reflective, as well as expository, analytical, exploratory, or whimsical. The Fourth Genre journal encourages a writer-to-reader conversation, one that explores the markers and boundaries of literary/creative nonfiction. (I also love that Fourth Genre has a Facebook page.)
In my research I hope to discover findings that will highlight the current pulse of literary interaction with readers, both in electronic media and traditional print medium for students and educators, children and teens, as well as those who read for recreation or topic exploration.
The next publication I explored was The Futurist. I am intrigued by their unusual niche as they, “cover a wide range of subject areas–virtually everything that will affect our future or will be affected by the changes the future will bring.” Past articles that they have been published are focused on technology, planning, resources, economics, religion, the arts, values, and health. They look for articles should have something new and significant to say about the future. A couple of recent titles of their current pieces are, “The iPad and the Future of the TV,” and “6 Exponential Technologies of Tomorrow”.
In my research project, I will be looking at the relationship humans are building with technology by the way we interaction with products such as the Kindle, iPad, the Nook, etc., for personal reading and learning. As I explore cross-generational interaction with technology, I will also be simultaneously looking at what our relationship with the traditional print media has been, (i.e., books and magazines). As I progress in my research, I will be researching how interaction with technology has also changed the younger generation, (since interaction with technology has become much more prevalent for them than previous generations.) As I progress in my research I look forward to offering future projections as to the evolution of technology based on our current interaction with it and our expectation of what it can deliver.
When I came across Coffeehouse Digest, I immediately thought of the countless times I’ve nestled into a comfy, vintage chair with a great book, chai tea in hand, in a coffeehouse. Now, notice I said with a book.
I can’t help but wonder how many people come into a coffeehouse with a book or a magazine, and how many come in with a laptop or a Kindle? A facet of my research will involve exploring what kinds of things people are looking for when they interact with an electronic reader. Are they looking to get the same experience out of it as they would a book? Another aspect I will explore is if they are also multitasking as they read, perhaps Twittering, blogging, etc. It used to be that when you curled up with a book, you were looking to be engrossed in the material. It was a time to be alone, a time for reflection. So for the coffeehouse crowd, indeed, this could be right up their alley.
Coffeehouse Digest has transitioned from print to online, and is currently working on getting their website up. However, they state that they are looking for, “cutting edge articles to interest everyone who may walk into a coffee-house.” They are open to an eclectic mix of topics and offer suggestion such as, reviews of coffeehouse music, books, electronic gadgets, product tests, and the like.
The last publication I explored submitting to was Flaunt magazine. Flaunt’s content, “is mirrored in the sophisticated, interactive format of the magazine, using advanced printing techniques, fold-out articles, beautiful papers and inserts to create a visually stimulating, surprisingly readable, and intelligent book that pushes the magazine into the realm of art-object.” The publication also claims to represent a hybrid of all that is interesting in entertainment, fashion, music, design, film, art and literature.
Depending on the evolutionary process my research takes, my project may take on a form that will enable me to incorporate multiple genres. As my work takes shape through the research process, I would like to leave it open-ended enough to leave room to incorporate elements of creative innovation—such as poetry, photography, and narrative, in addition to creative nonfiction.