June 16, 2008

On boldface and ludic reading.

I've gotten some use out of these bullet points. In case you were wondering about my newfound love of boldface.

The linked article deals with many aspects of the very interesting topic of how we read on-line... and whether our brains are getting rearranged in the process.

But here's the part that really pulled me in:
Ludic Reading

... Pleasure reading is also known as "ludic reading."... Two fascinating notions:
• When we like a text, we read more slowly.

• When we're really engaged in a text, it's like being in an effortless trance.
Ludic reading can be achieved on the Web, but the environment works against you. Read a nice sentence, get dinged by IM, never return to the story again.

I suppose ludic readers would be the little sloths hiding in the jungle while everyone else is out rampaging around for fresh meat.
I love this idea of ludic reading, but if it's about attaining a state of effortless trance, for me, the web environment is much more effective. In fact, it's dangerously effective! Hours and hours slip away as I click around and read and click some more. I never lose track of time while reading a book.

I feel bad about that. I'd love to enter a trance state and live completely inside of a book for many hours. But I have to force myself to stay engaged and keep going. I'm always thinking of other things and jumping up to read (or do) something else.

But on the web, the whole style of reading already incorporates this jumping around. Distractions are built into the experience.

Now, you might want to say this ludic web reading is self-indulgent and feeding what is some sort of attention deficit disorder of mine, but that is only because you are taking book-reading as the norm. Me, I resist the grip of an author wanting me to stick with his order of things, line after line, page after page. I can't find the pleasure in that. I'm not saying I won't read a book, just that if you want to know what is conducive to ludic reading, I say it's the web.

14 comments:

Gadzooks said...

What of Roman Numerals ?

The next time you make a bulleted list, could you please use Roman Numerals?

Some people think Roman Numerals are a bit too too too ---esthete and pretentious. However, I think the pomp and grandeur of their classic nature makes anything written look so much more distinguished, and to-the-manner-born.

You should try it sometime.

rhhardin said...

The boldface skip-the-entire-article-effect has not been considered.

lurker2209 said...

I find it pretty easy to get engrossed in both web reading and physical books. But the trance-like state is more common with a book than it is with the web. This past Friday night I started reading Stephanie Mayer's The Host and stayed up until 5am Saturday morning. There was no conceivable reason why I shouldn't have just gone to bed around 1 or 2 am and finished the book Saturday afternoon. I probably would be much more awake and productive today if I hadn't wrecked my sleep schedule over the weekend like that. But I was in that ludic trance and I really wanted to finish the book before I went to sleep. I'm much less likely to ever feel that way about web reading because of the sheer infinity of it. You can never finish reading the internet.

Palladian said...

Jakob Nielsen has one of the most laughably ugly websites around. He's one of those people who thinks beauty and utility are mutually exclusive.

Tom said...

This may partially explain your dislike of the Kindle, which is great for ludic reading, less so for nibbling here and there and jumping around...

Ann Althouse said...

Tom, yeah, I thought about that when I was writing this post. The Kindle locks you in even more than a book. In a book, you can start flipping around. And the Kindle is especially annoying because, being a screen, it makes you feel like you can jump, calling attention to the locked-in-ness of it.

P. Rich said...

"When we're really engaged in a text, it's like being in an effortless trance."

Not like being in a trance state, it is a trance state. We go in and out of trance states all day: reading, watching a movie or TV program, day-dreaming, the tune-out while driving. The degree of engagement doesn't have to be all that great, which is why little is required to interrupt the trance.

Robert Ludlum was on an italics kick for a while. They were jarring and quickly became an irritant, preventing me from "getting into" one of his books. Other visual interruptions might affect others in a similar way, in fact probably do.

Yeah. Ludlum. OK...

Pogo said...

When someone invents tantric reading, count me in.

Robert Burnham said...

Time drifts away unnoticed when I'm online all right. In that sense, web browsing can be "ludic."

However, what I'm still trying to figure out is why (for me at least) reading on screen is so much less pleasant than reading a printed page. Or why ludic reading is easier with a book than a screen.

I've a hunch it's mostly postural.

With a book I can scrunch around in a comfortable chair freely, which is all but impossible with a laptop. A freedom from postural constraint appears necessary for me to get fully into a book.

This leads immediately to -- OK, then what about a Kindle?

I don't have one, and I don't think I'd ever buy one. Not for the reasons Ann has mentioned (low contrast, lack of "page-ness"), but rather because it runs on batteries.

As a kid, I hated owning anything that depended on batteries. They always failed on you. They were expensive to replace. And even with a fresh set of batteries aboard, you could never escape the sense that you were steadily using up a consumable that at some indeterminate time will run out on you.

The feeling of something trickling away unrecoverably rises again and again into your consciousness and destroys whatever ludic trance (or maybe transpose that into lucid?) you're in.

Thus I can never relax when reading something on a device that runs on batteries.

losergrrl said...

What about Luddite reading?

Smash all these goddam computers, Kindles (use them for kindling?), etc. Recycle the lot into printing presses.

Print what you should read, and read what's printed.

None but Ludd did the poor any good.

amba said...

Me, I resist the grip of an author wanting me to stick with his order of things, line after line, page after page.

I posted on that Nicholas Carr Atlantic article (and lost the post, and sort of recreated some of it, and no, I'm not going to link to myself this time). A lot of people are relating to what he said about not being able to concentrate on a book any more. I relate to it, but the fact is, I had lost patience with most books even before web surfing and blogs came along. Most books are disappointing! And they really are like being held hostage by someone else's mind, having to be polite to someone who's going on and on and ... I want to hear something I haven't heard before, whether in a book or online. If I'm not hearing that, I'll put down the book or click away from the page. It's pretty much the same thing.

amba said...

Robert Burnham: never mind the car that runs on water. Whoever invents the really long-lived battery is going to be the lauded Edison of the 21st century and the richest person in the world. It's a crying need, and it's amazing that it hasn't been possible to fill it. We're all lamed and hampered by being either tethered to an electric socket or on a meter with the battery running out. Everything else is so sophisticated, and the battery is so primitive. It's like an SR-71 being towed by a donkey or something.

Tagore said...

I am the opposite. I might troll a few blogs for fun, but when I want to ignore the cares of the world I will settle back with a honeyed fig, a concubine, and a good book (honeyed figs are hard to get these days, thus optional).

Actually, I mainly read cookbooks these days. I think I've read enough fiction to last me a while. But goddamn, if you want fillet of something, I can fillet it and make a sauce Robert for it. That's a sauce primarily flavored with vinegar and mustard. Go kill something and I'll sauce it. It's what I do.

Tagore said...

Re: running a car on water:

don't be an ass.