Keeping track of my media consumption over the course of five days has illuminated for me the extremely large proportion of time that I spend with digital media, and also a significant decrease in productivity when consuming digital versus print media. Although I was expecting that the majority of my time would be spent using digital media, I nevertheless consider myself to be a print-oriented person, as I prefer reading and writing via hard copy. So I was surprised by the dismal 9% that I spent with print media over those five days. Instead, much of that reading and writing has transferred over to digital form, whether it be browsing news articles online or typing up a science review on Microsoft Word.
<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">Graphic: Media Consumption over 5 Days</figcaption></figure>
Looking more specifically into the breakdown of my time while using digital media, I noticed that the time spent on websites were in short blocks, especially when browsing the Internet. Even science journal papers and research articles were spent at a maximum 20 minutes per piece, before I moved onto another website or reading. The spurts of quick, purposeful reading demonstrate how the instant nature of the Internet has molded our society’s culture to emphasize speed and “being in the moment”. As David Ulin argues, my short blocks of reading online demonstrate the lack of motivation and attention needed to invest the time to read a novel linearly. So is reading truly dying, as Ulin and NEA claim? As we discussed in class, leisure reading is more than literature novels. Much digital reading is now in bite sizes. An advantage to abbreviated, condensed presentation of information is that if you want to learn more about anything, you can search it up and be led to another page. In that sense, reading online can help expand both the breadth and depth of your reading because the options for reading material are only limited to that of the World Wide Web – which is extensive and, arguably, never ending. Similarly, when browsing the web and reading news online, recommended links and related articles often lead me through a string of reading material that, in total, amount to a solid hour of leisure reading.
As I track my media consumption and make connections with our class discussions these past weeks, the book as a medium appears more and more robust. Rather than the myth of sucession, in which the new media replaces the old, media has developed more into a network, branching into multiple avenues for presenting content – and, as I have exemplified, multiple ways of reading. In the novel The Raw Shark Texts, the protagonist Eric Sanders describes the longevity of an individual established through his/her systems and machinery with a quote that can also be applied to the idea of the book. “A man lives so many different lengths of time. A man is so many different lengths of time. Change. Collapse. Reinvention.” (Steven Hall, p. 102). Just like us, the book is able to persist through time, through the emergence of new technology and new media, because it is able to adapt and embody portions of new media into its content and medium. The book is able to reinvent itself, all while still maintaining the “bookish” quality and connotation that we have romanticized for centuries. This balance between novelty and tradition is a unique phenomenon that keeps reading and the book alive.