About | Project Members | Research Assistants | Contact | Posting FAQ | Credits

Conference Topic: Online Reading

Users of today’s digital, networked information spend an increasing amount of time each day “reading” online. Yet the practices of digital reading in networked environments are not well understood according to the protocols of reading that arose in the past to support the individual, organizational, and social needs of literate societies—for example:

  • protocols that govern the sustained, solitary reading of books “all the way through”
  • protocols of “close reading,” rereading, and peer-review in scholarly research
  • protocols of document usage that first arose in large organizations of the early twentieth century (e.g., retrieval from a “filing” system, document “review,” or document “summarizing”)

Instead, reading on the Internet often places a premium on searching, scanning, jumping, filtering, aggregating, organizing, and other kinds of radically discontinuous, low-attention, peripheral-vision, or machine-assisted reading practices that do not exactly map over predecessor practices of literacy. Online environments also make more important the social, collective experience of reading. Finally, online reading complements the emerging technologies that increasingly allow computers to write autonomously to each other across platforms and applications—as in the XML-based technologies that underlie new online text archives, “Web services,” and RSS newsreaders.

How are people today “reading” in digital, networked environments? For example, what is the relation between reading and browsing, or searching? Or between reading and multimedia? Can innovations in technologies or interfaces increase the productivity, variety, and pleasure of these new kinds of reading? How can the historical diversity of human reading practices help us gauge the robustness of the new digital practices; and, inversely, how can contemporary practices provide new ways to understand the technical, social, and cultural dimensions of historical reading?

The Transliteracies 2005 conference (Conversation Roundtables on Online Reading) assembles a distinguished group of theorists and practitioners from the humanities, arts, social sciences, computer science, and industry to talk about the fate of reading in the “new media” age. The conference initiates the Transliteracies research initiative.