September 19, 2008

You're Not Reading This

Jakob Nielsen researches on-line reading habits. And his studies show that we don’t read Web pages.

That is, after reading a couple of words at the top of a page, our gaze quickly plummets downwards, and our eyes dive down.

We'll glance at a graphic here or a table but there won't be any left-to-right eye motion. Odds are that we won’t stop at the bottom right-hand corner of a Web page, as we would in a book or magazine. We’ll never make it that far!

Is that a lot of skipping around? It's ALL skipping around! And Nielsen finds that while teenagers skip material even faster than adults, they do so with less efficiency.

Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Mark Bauerlein says that teens and college students “race across the surface, dicing language and ideas into bullets and graphics, seeking what they already want and shunning the rest.”

Bauerlein goes on to argue that this ain’t the kind of reading that fosters concentration, thoughtfulness, or flexible minds. And it saps initiative. Saps it, I say! (Well, he says.) Bauerlein maintains that “screen scanning” hardly qualifies as reading at all, and it’s a potentially counter-productive in that it reduces the mind’s ability to engage in critical, academic reading.

Of course, Bauerlein may be grinding his ax so hard because he has a horse in this race. (Ooh, I mixed a metaphor!) That is, he has a book: Our Dumbest Generation. Guess what that’s about?

Now leave me alone. I gots to do some on-line social nitwitting. (Oh, but I have to Twitter an update first.)
Quote/photo mash-up by Dean Shareski

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