Sukovic, S. 2015. 'Transliterate reading', Scholarly and Research Communication, 2015, 6(4), 11pp
Are babies becoming hard-wired for interacting with content onscreen in a way unatainable for us, older generations? Or, are comprehension, immersion and healthy reading habits seriously undermined by electronic devices? The answer would depend on whom you are asking. A few studies stressing the importance of interaction with the book for retention and a sense of orientation in the text, have taken a prominent place in conversations about reading in media and at schools. While this line of research is important, focusing on comparisons with the print is taking our attention away from new reading practices emerging from our daily interactions with digital technology.
In my article Transliterate Reading, published last week in the Scholarly and Research Communication, I consider results from three research projects showing common threads in the behaviour of vary different groups of people – academics in the humanities, high school students and the community as users of a historical website (historyofaboriginalsydney.edu.au). A disappearing line between user, reader and creator emerges as a common theme from data about behaviours of the three groups of users. Even the distinction between print and digital is not as clear as it firstly appears. In the environment where searching, browsing, communication, and skim and focused reading quickly replace each other, the pattern of behaviour is as important as its particular aspects. The concept of ‘transliterate reading’ points towards ‘the practice of reading across a range of texts when the reader seamlessly switches between different platforms, modalities, types of reading, and genres’.
In the article I consider a range of behaviours to illustrate the concept of transliterate reading. Particularly interesting to me are creative aspects of reading, which emerge from ‘reading across’ and juxtaposition of ideas. An academic study participant explains the experience:
… when you’ve got your computer going and you’ve got a couple of different documents open and you’re cutting and pasting or you’re toggling between two or three documents… you’re just feeling ideas come out of this idea, idea number one and idea number two. When they pop up against each other often completely other idea, idea number 25 will, sort of, turn up out of that.
We don’t know yet what sort of ideas and skills will pop out of transliterate reading, but there is evidence that practices are changing. Academics and teenagers are both unsure about the right way to interact with digital texts as there is very little in traditional education that has prepared them for transliterate using-reading-creating. Librarians and teachers have an excellent vantage point to observe the change and gather evidence for new programs and devices, which will enable fluid reading across texts and technologies.