Certainly, as we turn to online reading, the physiology of the reading process itself shifts; we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper. Anne Mangen, a professor at the National Centre for Reading Education and Research at the University of Stavanger, in Norway, points out that reading is always an interaction between a person and a technology, be it a computer or an e-reader or even a bound book. Reading “involves factors not usually acknowledged,” she told me. “The ergonomics, the haptics of the device itself. The tangibility of paper versus the intangibility of something digital.” The contrast of pixels, the layout of the words, the concept of scrolling versus turning a page, the physicality of a book versus the ephemerality of a screen, the ability to hyperlink and move from source to source within seconds online—all these variables translate into a different reading experience.
The screen, for one, seems to encourage more skimming behavior: when we scroll, we tend to read more quickly (and less deeply) than when we move sequentially from page to page. Online, the tendency is compounded as a way of coping with an overload of information. There are so many possible sources, so many pages, so many alternatives to any article or book or document that we read more quickly to compensate.
Me: “Jesus Christ, could you people be a bit more judgemental?”
Judgemental Facebook commenter: “Really? If anything seems worthy of judgment it’s this, don’t you think? She’s laying in a huge pile of trash, single use containers, chemical bottles, disgusting food boxes, and is smoking.”
Me: SLOW CLAP
While browsers, cell phone companies, corporate and software companies, and, as recently revealed, the U.S. government, accumulate extensive information about individuals, the depth and the scale of the accumulated data remains opaque and inaccessible to the ordinary person. That the “guard” in such cases, contra Bentham, hides the fact of his observation from a prisoner flows from the fact that we are not actual prisoners but rather citizens who may be upset about surveillance and loss of privacy — and take action against it. As we are not prisoners, the model of control sought by these systems is not one of pure fear, as in George Orwell’s 1984, but rather an infrastructure of surveillance (and targeted fear aimed at “underclass” subgroups) along with direct overtures toward obtaining assent and legitimacy through tailored, fine–tuned messaging. This model of hegemony is more in line with that proposed by Gramsci (2000) which emphasizes manufacturing consent, and obtaining legitimacy, albeit uses state and other resources in an unequal setting, rather than using force or naked coercion.
…if he expects me to watch True Detective despite him being in it.