I have been battling with the difference between reading and viewing – is something literature when you view it – say a video consisting of moving words on screen? Is literature in a digital environment anything that includes text (that you read or have read to you)? This is perhaps clarified by Lamb (2011) “Reading is the process of constructing meaning from symbols” and “A book is a published collection of related pages or screens” (my emphasis). But does this make all books literature? Walsh suggests not, cautioning that “it is important to distinguish between digital narratives, created as literature, and digital storytelling that anyone can produce…” (2013, p. 186). I can see that her explanation of the qualities of good literature and features of digital narratives are going to be useful references when I am completing assessment item 2, experiencing digital literature.
I consider myself comfortable with reading online although generally what I read, other than blogs and websites, was first published for print or to mimic it. My leisure reading of fiction and narrative non-fiction is done almost exclusively on my Kindle or Kindle app on iPhone or iPad. I now buy many books whereas before I would only borrow from a library. I’ve had mixed experiences with borrowing from my public library through Overdrive and BorrowBox so I don’t do it often.
My Kindle helps overcome my fear of finding myself without something to read (I was the camper with the library in her tent) but you can’t take many books when travelling from place to place. Now it doesn’t matter how many books I have, the impact on luggage limits is no more than a slim novel plus charger.
I still read the print newspaper even though I have the full digital version of The Age available on my iPad. I also read a lot of news online but usually from links from social media.
My reading for pleasure is usually done lying down – on the couch, a banana lounge, or mostly in bed before falling asleep – at that point in the day I don’t want a brightly lit screen, e-ink is fine (and my Kindle will turn itself off if I haven’t turned a page for 5 minutes). I don’t want music, sound effects or video, I’m trying to get to sleep. But I have greatly enjoyed experiencing transmedia narratives like Inanimate Alice and Firestorm, and I would like to explore these further, just not at bedtime! Sadly, there is little time to read for pleasure in the rest of my day.
For work and study I read almost exclusively online. Much is simply reproduced print, and linear, but I love the affordances of the digital environment and it’s great when an article is ‘illustrated’ and enhanced with relevant media like recorded interviews or videos.
I need to think beyond the personal and engage more with the needs of the young people I work with and consider how their literacy development and reading needs can be enhanced through experiencing literature in digital environments. As Leu (2011) says Literacy is deictic – what it means to be literate is changing with the evolution of technology. Offering access to and experience of all types of texts, digital and analogue, is essential for students to develop their literacy skills but I struggle with how I can make this happen. One of the best parts of my job in a year 4-12 library is connecting a young person with a new book and finding out if they enjoyed it later. But there are a few children for whom it seems impossible to find a book they will enjoy. They can’t tell me what sort of books they like, some say they’ve never liked a book. But I’m sure some (most) of them love using iPads and computers and there are many children who would be engaged by the interactive multimedia nature of literature in digital environments, especially if there were any sort of gaming component. The challenge is how do we, as a school library, provide access to this sort of literature when the children don’t come to school with devices in hand, and access to school-owned devices is controlled by their teacher? When their teacher demands they have a [physical] book to read for daily reading sessions? Yes, I can tell them about digital titles and provide access through our library system but I can’t put it in their hand to start reading now.
Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17.
Leu, D.J. et al (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,55(1)5-14. Doi: 10.1598/JAAL.55.1.1
Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).