Does hypertext promote extractive interaction rather than immersive?

Sigfrid Lundberg's Stuff 2010-04-20

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There is an academic genre often referred to as New Media Research. To what extent this pursuit really deserve the lable research I won't go into here. I usually find contributions from this area utterly boring. The digital revolution ended 1998 and hence all new the media are old by now, and that includes Twitter and Facebook. Period.

In addition I find almost all comparisons between old and new medias tedious, inasmuchas that I seldom learn something new reading them. Similarly, any text starting with claims such that the ICT area is under rapid development will remain only partly read. Usually only the very first part. Unless the first few sentences contain something interesting and something that's new to me. Like the article by Nicholas Carr I mentioned the other day. Carr argues that we nowadays have difficulties immerse in really long texts, which to correspond to changes in mentality.

I picked up two adjectives describing people's media consumption patterns: Extractive and immersive. The dichotomy seems to come from a paper by Peter Lunefeld, who, is a student of interactive media, computer games etc. You'll find the two adjectives in connection with nouns as "navigation", "interaction" or gerunds like "reading". As far as reading is concerned, I'll add this paper to my reading list. It analyzes the consequences of a spread of extractive reading behaviours from a language pedagogy perspective.

What worries Carr is a shift from immersive to extractive reading and its psychological or even neurological consequences. I do both, a lot. On a personal level I can vividly recall my reading of the last volume in Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy. I just read one page more many houndred times that night, until the alarm went off, and I stumbled to the shower, the breakfeast and off to work trying to look as if I was able to do something useful. Such as coding new interfaces for media consumption.

Does the digital revolution make people less able to immerse in books like Donald Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming with about 650 pages per volume? Seven volumes are planned but three have yet to appear. Fascicle four was printed as recent as 2005. You need to able to immerse in books like that to devise search algorithms, so we may get into trouble with the next generation global search engines.


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My name is Sigfrid Lundberg. The stuff I publish here may, or may not, be of interest for anyone else.

On this site there is material on photography, music, literature and other stuff I enjoy in life. However, most of it is related to my profession as an Internet programmer and software developer within the area of digital libraries. I have been that at the Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen (Denmark) and, before that, Lund university library (Sweden).

The content here does not reflect the views of my employers. They are now all past employers, since I retired 1 May 2023.

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