The history of publication in the modern age can be categorized into three different stages, the first two being verbal communication and print. The third stage we are currently still experiencing, and seeing evolve and expand around us; the age of digital publication. The move from physical to digital print is one that comes with a whole wealth of intricacies. As discussed in the last post, the freedom to edit and adapt publications online opens up a great many doors, especially in regards to the speed at which we are able to acquire information. However, this accessibility has led to changes in attention – specifically to the length of time people are willing to invest in reading.
Tony Haile’s article, ‘What you think you know about the web is wrong’, outlines a shocking statistic: 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds on any given web page. Haile suggests this improves somewhat when the data is limited to just articles, but it is nonetheless a bleak figure. Additionally, he says “If they do stick around and scroll down the page, fewer than one-third of those people will read beyond the first one-third of the article”. As an aspiring English teacher, I find this particularly distressing. If so few people can bring themselves to read a simple article, what hope do I have of motivating students to spend the requisite amount of hours chipping away at a novel? There’s a reason vines and tweets are fast becoming a modern equivalent to films and books; the age of convenience is one of instant gratification, with little concern for the bearing of short term decisions on long term well-being.
Will Self gives an excellent insight into this issue in his article ‘The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)’. He says (very astutely) that “the hallmark of our contemporary culture is an active resistance to difficulty in all its aesthetic manifestations, accompanied by a sense of grievance that conflates it with political elitism”. I’m inclined to agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment. Has the freedom of convenience made us lax academically? I think so. You need only consider that, in an age where there are countless free online education sources, we spend most of our time watching funny cat videos (which I admittedly can’t disparage too much; I’m prone to watching them myself). The point remains that with all these vast resources quite literally at our fingertips, we choose the easy option all too often.
[online] Haile, Tony (2014) ‘What you think you know about the web is wrong’, Time.com, March 9, <http://time.com/12933/what-you-think-you-know-about-the-web-is-wrong/>>
Self, Will (2014) ‘The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)’, The Guardian, May 2, <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/02/will-self-novel-dead-literary-fiction>
[First published 9 August 2015]