A New Word For Reading (On Screens)

Could scholars and neuroscientists (and bloggers!) benefit from a new word for “reading on screens” and what might that word be, in your opinion?

A guest blog by Danny Bloom in Taiwan. [Thanks Dan and sorry for the delay in running this! Eoin]

I’m on a crusade of sorts to try to find a new word for “reading” on computer screens and Kindle and other e-reader device screens — other than “reading”, that is! — and I wonder if you’d join me in my quixotic quest.

I’m pushing forward with my little crusade, step by step, despite the many naysayers, who keep telling me:

“No, Danny, you’re wrong. There’s no need for a new for reading on screens. Reading is reading.”

Sometimes I feel this word search campaign is like pushing a heavy stone up a steep hill, only to have it roll back a few feet every time we advance a few inches. But along the way, I have met some experts in the education and technology fields who have told me this is a good question to ask, and to keep pushing on, gently, quietly. So I soldier on.

Although few people in the education and technology fields agree with me on this novel idea, but I remain determined. In fact, a few experts and forecasters around the world have told me privately that this crusade is worth it, if only to start a global discussion on the future of reading and the future of E-readers.

Reading on screens is a whole new ballgame, I feel, and I believe Western culture needs a new word for this new human activity. It is more than just “reading”. On a screen, you scroll, you link, you see photos and videos, you use a mouse or buttons on a Kindle, and then of course, you read. This is reading-plus-one.

So I feel we might need a new word for this, although I have no idea what that word will be in the end, because as many people have told me in the past year during the course of my crusade, new words happen organically and naturally, when the time is right, and when the need becomes more than apparent. So this is all just to jumpstart a good discussion, pro and con.

I read, of course, on both paper surfaces and screens every day, and I love both. I am not a Luddite. I love technology as much as you do. One is not a priori better or worse than the other, just different, and we need to study these differences more with brain scan tests and other scholarly research. A new word might help us “see” the differences better. That’s my hunch.

Some people online have suggested such words as “screening” and “screading”. Who knows which words we will adopt for this or when? I have no idea. I just like thinking about it now, and when the time is right, the new words or terms will come. One blogger told me we might even need two words for this, one for reading on computer screens, which are back-lit, and another for reading on e-readers like the Kindle, which uses E-Ink for the screens.

I am open to all suggestions for the new words, and I am very patient about this crusade, while at the same time steadfast and committed to this seemingly impossible word search. Patience is my middle name: Danny
“Patience” Bloom (1949 – 2032).

Do you, dear reader, have any suggestions on this? All ideas are welcome, and all comments are welcome, too, both pro and con. Let the discussion begin!

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4 comments

  1. you know, people didn’t only used to read on scrolls prior to the codes. they also used to scroll on scrolls. perhaps you could come up with a new word for ‘scrolling’ on a screen, while you’re at it.

  2. thanks for the grin! i meant to be funny but sounded snarky (again, oh woe). and i meant ‘codex’. bad typing is my middle and last name..

  3. thorn, humour helps here. Since I guest blogged this here i had a heart attack on Nov. 6, the Grim Reaper came calling but he said he would give me a reprieve for now, so I spent six days in the local ICU at the hospital near my home and the doc put a stent in my cholesteral-clogged arteries and I am good to go now, but I am not sure for how long. Whether we call this new kind of “reading” we do on screens as “screening” (some people like it, some people hate it) or “screading” (many people have suggested this term to me, although I don’t like it so much, esp in the past tense, screaded?) and what I think will happen, which was the purpose of this guest blog in the first place, is that at some point along the highway, in the future, some savvy editor or blogger (not me!) or some focus group or some nerd in California will come up with a new term for what we do on screens when we read, since we do so much more than just read when we read on screens, and whatever that new term will be, it will happen naturally and organically, by itself, on its own time, when the time is right and if the culture feels it wants or needs a new word. For now, “reading” does just fine, I agree. But I feel some new word or term might be coined in the future, say 2015 or 2045, and I wonder what that word might be. Could be “screening”. In fact, the Boston Globe ran a story on June 19 titled or headlined “I screen, you screen, we all screen”, written by columnist Alex Beam there, and he interviewed Dr Anne Mangen and Jakob Nielsen and William Powers about this very idea. I know you weren’t being snarky, although most comments to me on my own blog about this are snarky, 98 percent of my email is negative and ornery and tells me to go to hell……maybe that’s what caused my heart attack? I told the Grim Reaper to come back in 2032. he said he would think about it.

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