The Medium is Not the Message


Leah Price in the TLS:

In the age of Slow Food, Slow Parenting and Slow Knitting, it is no surprise that we should be presented with a Slow Reading manifesto. Just as some are giving up Hovis or Mighty White in favour of artisanal loaves, so data-mining and webcrawlers have provoked some human readers to stage a slowdown.

A high proportion of them are literary critics. If you care as much about form as about content, if noticing apparently insignificant details is a tool of your trade, then The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speed Reading (2008) may sound like a pleonasm. Ever since modern literatures were first taught at university a couple of centuries ago, their average professor has read at the same pace as her seven-year-old. But while the average holds, the spread is widening. At one end lies Franco Moretti’s computer-assisted “distant reading”, which multiplies by several orders of magnitude the number of texts that would count as evidence for any claim about literature. At the other, “slow” has begun to replace “close”. After “A Movement for Slow Reading”, an article by Lindsay Waters published in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2007, came small-press essays (John Miedema’s Slow Reading, 2009), pedagogical research (Thomas Newkirk’s The Art of Slow Reading, 2011) and cultural history (Isabel Hofmeyr’s Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in slow reading, 2013).

The psychologist Daniel Oppenheimer recently showed that less legible fonts increase readers’ ability to remember the text, presumably because it slows them down. In Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, David Mikics explains how we can put on the brakes for ourselves.

More here.