Narratives in a Digital Age
"How I Read"
(*Bed sheet photo credit: Dornob)
There are more ways to read now than ever. From cell phone, to book, to tablet, to laptop, reading has become a multi-platform experience. This week, LJ Digital features essays from writers and readers, discussing reading habits, and how they experience the written word today.
A Day in the Life of Words With Julia
By Julia Koenig
Beep beep beep beep! An arm extends towards the mahogany nightstand settled next to a twin-sized sleigh bed, a Sponge Bob Square Pants blanket with the words “Today Was a Great Day” printed on the bottom right hand corner. Fingers flailing around until they latch onto an iphone 4. My eyes struggle to open as I read the phrase I had programmed as my alarm the night before, “ 6:00 AM Wake Up. School!”
I tap the red Snooze and close my eyes. Beep beep beep beep beeeeeeep! “6:40 AM hahah NO SERIOUSLY WAKE UP!!!!!” I read the phrase, turn the alarm to OFF and let out a sigh as I prop myself up and stretch in bed. I look back at my phone, clicking the home key and searching for the Safari App. The home page is set to Yahoo news. I scroll through the headlines: “Is a business degree worth it?” I skip over this one quickly, definitely not a business major, I think to myself.
“Do microwaves kill nutrients?” Well, obviously, I don’t even bother to click on the link.
“Quietest place on Earth: The near-absolute silence in this chamber actually causes the brain to hallucinate.” Weird, I like it. I click on the highlighted link: Mutes 99.9% of all sound. Writer Mike Wehner from Tecca explains how the anechoic chamber at Orfiled Laboratories in Minnesota mutes sound, holding the current Guinness World Record as the quietest place on the planet. NASA researchers tested the acoustic capabilities on humans where the noiselessness stimulates the silence of space. They found that when all outside noise is removed, humans capture the sound of their own heartbeat at a greatly amplified volume and the human mind begins to hallucinate. The longest a person has lasted is 45 minutes. As I remove the ear plugs I sleep with every night, I contemplate how long I would last in such a state.
After washing my face and making my usual egg white omelet breakfast, I reach for my I-Pad and tap on my Zot Mobile application. I find myself clicking on My Schedule and reading through the list of classes I need to take. Mental note: check the class websites and syllabus for any reading I may have missed. Just as I assumed, I click on History 114, Professor Kai Evers, Representing The Holocaust.
Before breakfast, I delightfully discover I have to read 12 pages of a PDF scanned copy of Primo Levi’s, The Drowned and The Saved. I click on the PDF attachment to download it to the My Books app on the iPad. Thankfully, I have the technology available to download the reading in a matter of seconds. By the time I finish half of my omelet, I have discovered that the prisoners in Nazi concentration camps had actually formed a hierarchy within the camp based on who had lived in the camps longer and who had connections to the prison guards.
My passion for historical information assures that I will retain this information, as well as the fact that I looked up the syllabus online and realized I have a quiz on the material in 2 hours.
As I finish the reading I compulsively check my twitter feed on my iPhone TweetDeck app:
@CapriceCrane “Adulthood is the freedom to eat breakfast for dinner whenever you damn well please”
@deepakchopra “ Existence is awareness without boundaries. Perception is awareness without boundaries #spiritualsolutions”
@shitgirlssay “She could be pretty if she really wanted to.”
@Disneywords: When you believe in a thing, believe in it al the way, implicitly and unquestionably.-Walt Disney”
I usually enjoy reading short snippets of inspirational quotes, with a dose of good humor sprinkled in.
Scrolling past the trending topics… Sometimes I question the population on Twitter and why I bother having an account.
As I arrive to class, I make sure to bring my iPad, iPhone and laptop with me where I have multiple tabs open: Byliner, Women’s Health Magazine, JustJared, UCI’s My EEE.
Coffee and a Real Book
My world consists of a continuous stream of digital reading material, mixed with visuals such as photos and pictures to enhance my reading experience. However, every day at 3 p.m. I find myself in the fiction section of Barnes and Noble, coffee, with an extra shot of espresso, in hand, skimming through book titles and reading back covers.
Today I pick out East Wind, West Wind, by Pearl S. Buck, and flip to where I left off yesterday, on page 93. A quote resonates in my mind, “Ah, how does the cold Earth know when the sun at spring-tide draws out her heart into blossoming? How does the sea feel the moon compelling her to him? I do not know how the days passed. Only I knew that I ceased to be alone.”
I love the feeling of opening a physical copy of a book, flipping the pages, and seeing the left side get progressively thicker. It’s magical.
In “The New, New Journalism-circa 2011,” Robert Boynton stated that newspapers and magazines must learn to hustle like freelancers “because no writer, or journalism organization, can sustain itself with a single business model.” Boynton also made the prediction, “In the future, journalism will be either very short, or very long. Nothing in the middle will survive.” This is an interesting statement that got me thinking about the ways in which I read.
As I compiled a list, I realized I read mostly short snippets of information online and save the longer versions of novels or articles to read on My Books iPad App. I wonder what his definition of “middle” is?
It seems as if people are reading different forms of literature as well. According to Alexis Madrigal’s chart in The Atlantic, people seem to have an idealized, romanticized version of America’s past. We envision previous generations of Americans engulfed in literature, reading and discussing Faulkner, or Hemingway, with friends, rather than browsing the internet or watching television in today’s world. With the internet and abundance of television programming, it may seem like we don’t read.
However, according to the stats from Gallup surveys, “In 1957, not even a quarter of Americans were reading a book or novel. By 2005, the number shot up to 47 percent.”
Spending my week concentrating on what, when, and how I was reading, I found that I have endless opportunities to read what I want and when I want because of the technology available to me.