17 February 2009

Reading Online aka Screening?

New entry into the Urbandictionary.com:


To read text on a computer screen, cellphone screen, Kindle screen or PDA screen or BlackBerry screen; replaces the term "reading" which now only refers to reading print text on paper

"I hate reading print newspapers now. I do all my screening online."

-- http://www.urbandictionary.com

There now apparently is a term to for reading online. No longer is “reading” applicable when you are reading, I mean screening, content online or on Blackberry. I first saw this discussion on the ChildLit listserv discussing this today. Why do we need a new term is what first popped into my head? To me, it seems to be downgrading reading that is conducted online. Professionals across many disciplines are a part of the argument on whether reading online should count. To me this adds to the critics’ fire—let’s change reading to screening when applying to online content. Why are people thinking?

I would be interested in knowing what all you think about this—do we need a new term for reading online?


  1. I have been following this discussion on Child_Lit as well and found it very interesting. I don't think that all online reading should be called screening. To me, screening is the same thing as browsing. I would consider google searches and such random information searching as screening. I think a lot of what we do on computers these days IS screening, but what about reading the newspaper and books online? Or using a Kindle? To me this is still reading. You are still using experiences to make connections, you are still relying on comprehension strategies to understand the text. I read articles for my classes online. I don't consider this screening them. I read them, take notes, highlight things. To me that is still reading, regardless of where the text lies.

    I don't think we need a new term for online reading. Screening reminds me of watching movies or tv...it is a passive activity.

  2. This is the first I've heard of this, but creating a new vocabulary for things that the "cool kids" are doing isn't new. Call it what you like, but to me, it's reading, because I'm using the same skills I use to scan the printed page for information. I'm decoding text and making sense of it (with luck) in my brain. Until I can physically plug the computer into my skull, I still have to absorb its content through my eyes and/or ears--that's reading (or listening).

    To me, the word "screening" evokes a bunch of people sitting in a Hollywood studio, watching movie rushes through a haze of cigarette smoke.

    Or else it means listening as my telephone answering machine kicks on so I don't have to talk to someone I'd rather not.

    Fascinating; thanks for posting!

  3. This is ridiculous! I don’t doubt that this term was included in Urban Dictionary, though. What is the world coming to? I think this sort of trendy jargon is so unnecessary and confusing. Reading is reading no matter what. Here is a list of things we read that are not necessarily print text on paper: signs, maps in bus terminals (they’re often plastic), wedding invitations (they’re embossed), and labels printed on things like milk jugs. How is this not considered to be the decoding of symbols which are assigned meaning?
    The type of media should not be called in to question in considering whether or not something is reading. If it was, then it would have to apply to everything. If I can’t read the highlighted musical notes of a sing-along on a karaoke (TV or computer) screen, does that mean I’m illiterate (and tone-deaf)? I certainly hope not. I can’t get over how silly this is!
    Before reading this post, if someone had asked me what it meant to screen online, I would have guessed that it meant previewing or hearing content before deciding whether or not to purchase something, like when Amazon lets you listen to samples. I also consider evaluating Google search results screening, like Katie suggested. I think of screening as in, “We’re going to a movie screening,” and that’s how I prefer to continue to think of it.
    Now that I’m all up on my high horse, though, I realize two things:
    1) Like it or not, I need to pay attention to all this slang, because the young adults I hope to someday work with will think I’m dumb and super-square if I’m not hip to the lingo.
    2) I’m sure there are a ton of words and phrases I use every day that once meant something totally different, and I have no doubt that this is all just a part of the circle of life, language-wise. I apologize, past generations, for like, totally butchering your language.

  4. May I jump in here? SMILE. I am the young dude, 60, who coined this term and submitted it to Urban Dick. I agree with all you. We do not need a new term. The new term needs us. SMILE. Reading is still reading, sure. I love reading. But since reading on paper is different set of mental stimulations than reading online, see my latest blog entry on this, citing a paper from Norway about how online reading is a different animal than reading on paper, mentally, physically inside the brain, so therefore I thought...maybe....a new term might be useful. Obviously you guys here so far don't think so. Understand. All new words meet resistance at first, and I am not married to this term. Maybe another term will come around. Maybe we do not NEED a new term. Reading is reading, yes. I am not against reading. I am lover of reading. But we are in a new age, a new Age, and I feel, I am following my gut instincts, we might need this word "screening". But again, I am not trying to force down anyone's throat. If it does not stick, we can jettison it. This is all just to get things going, discussion-wise. See my blog here: http://zippy1300.blogspot.com

    Danny in far away Taiwan. Where I am free to think outside the box. Try it sometime. SMILE

  5. Sure, screening has other, earlier meanings, about screening movies, and screening cancer patients and other definitions, there are about 29....so too does ReADING have many earlier definitions. I read a book, I READ a person's face, I read your palm, etc etc......so there's room for screening too. I am sure when the word BOOK was first coined, many people said WHY CALL IT A BOOK. IT IS JUST A MANUSCRIPT. WHY DO WE HAVE TO CALL IT A BOOK. Now in Japan they call a magazine published like a book as a MOOK. Go figure. Language has legs. We need to explore...


  6. Online v. print reading: which one makes us smarter?

    Online v. print reading: which one makes us smarter?

    By Coco Ballantyne ,

    edited by DANNY BLOOM without her permission

    It's no mystery that publications have been taking a beating as more and more people SCREEN their news on the Net. But there's a catch. The online info may be instant and abundant -- and in many cases free -- but it may come at a cost, says a new study published in the Journal of Research in Reading/Screening.

    Study author Anne Mangen, an associate prof of literacy studies at Norway's University of Stavanger, says she discovered that SCREENING online may not be as rewarding – or effective – as the printed word. The reasons: The process involves so much physical manipulation of the computer that it interferes with our ability to focus on and appreciate what we're SCREENING; online text moves up and down the screen and lacks physical dimension, robbing us of a feeling of completeness; and multimedia features, such as links to videos and animations, leave little room for imagination, limiting our ability to form our own mental pictures to illustrate what we're SCREENING.

    "The visual happenings on the screen… and your physical interaction with the device is distracting," Mangen says. "All of these things are taxing on cognition and concentration in a way that a book is not."

    Given her findings, Mangen says that the implications of digital technology should be considered when deciding whether to incorporate computer teaching tools into classroom instruction. She notes that online teaching tools, such as electronic books, are being used from kindergarten up even though there is little research on their effect on learning and development.

    "I know from studying kids' use of the Internet in schools that [there is] the issue of whether kids [stick to] reading," says Janet Schofield, a psychology prof at the University of Pittsburg, noting that "it's very easy [for them] to become distracted, because it takes so little effort to go somewhere else" online. She does not discount, however, that online SCREENING has its pluses, most notably that it provides instant access to more info on topics of interest.

    Richard Long of the International SCREENING Association, a nonprofit organization of literacy professionals in Newark, Del., says more research needs to be done to study the effects of online SCREENING on different users. For instance, he says, many older people may absorb more or learn faster by flipping through pages, because their brains have been trained to read hard copy, whereas younger readers may learn faster digitally, because they're accustomed to SCREENING online. "Previous experience has a tremendous impact on rate and thoroughness of learning," he says. "The actual learning phenomenon is the same at the end of the day."

  7. And Stephanie

    RE: "To me, it seems to be downgrading reading that is conducted online. Professionals across many disciplines are a part of the argument on whether reading online should count."

    In my mind, I am not downgrading reading online. I do it every day. Just giving it a new "name" to differentiate it from reading on paper. Yes, reading online, er, screening, should count. SURE!

    I am on your side.

  8. Maggie, YES!


    "1) Like it or not, I need to pay attention to all this slang, because the young adults I hope to someday work with will think I’m dumb and super-square if I’m not hip to the lingo.
    2) I’m sure there are a ton of words and phrases I use every day that once meant something totally different, and I have no doubt that this is all just a part of the circle of life, language-wise. I apologize, past generations, for like, totally butchering your language."


    -- danny
    Tufts 1971

  9. Screening
    February 17, 2009 by richardthecrusader

    Guess what? Right now you are screening. This new term has been coined to describe the kind of reading that is done on a computer screen, as opposed to in hard copy. It’s already in the Urban Dictionary, but so are a lot of other words like screensavered (inebriated) and screenplan (plans for your leisure time) that aren’t exactly in our everyday vocabulary.

    I think that we certainly do treat screen texts differently, we skim more, our eye moves around the page more and we take off on link paths. But is the actual act of reading changed? If someone reads a story in a newspaper and someone else reads a story on stuff.co.nz - are they significantly different? What do you think?

  10. For me, the experience of reading a book is both a story experience and a tactile one. Reading on a screen gives me headaches and I lose the sense of bookiness. This is probably an age-related problem, but hey--I am stuck with it. Or on it.


  11. A very good post on another forum about this very topic, showing how SCREENING as a new word for reading online MIGHT NOT BE NECESSARY AT ALL. Read it. It is great food for thought, too: -- Danny

    Dear Danny,
    One item that I wanted to throw into the pile, Danny, is that I have used an ebook reader for roughly 6 years now, an old Rocket Ebook (REB1100). Before that I used to read books entirely in dead tree format, but now I almost never do, excepting special cases where I really want to read something and it is not available in any electronic format.

    Many people have discussed the 'emotional attachment' to holding a paper book versus reading a work from an electronic device, but for me, along with millions of others, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. One major benefit is that ebooks are usually 30-80% cheaper than even a paperback of the same book. Another is that one can read in the dark, which helps those of us who are nightowl readers with spouses who are asleep (opposed to fumbling with a clip on light). Although I am certainly not an environmental extremophile (to coin a neologism), ebooks when distributed en masse have a much lower carbon footprint, so I have read anyways, versus the energy required to fabricate a regular paper book, even accounting for battery drainage of the device.

    Now, by 2009 standards the old Rockets are "low res" devices - 352x480, also known as "half VGA". By comparison, the more modern Amazon Kindle is about 400% more resolute using the new E-Ink technology. From what I understand, the resolution of E-Ink will have to roughly double to approach the resolution of the standard printed page used by the major publishers (meaning, the human eye will not be able to differentiate betweent he two excepting the paper grain in a regular book).

    Ebooks are really doing pretty well right now. Amazon's Kindle division is already well heeled to the point that they are set to release Kindle 2.0 - a new product in a time where very few companies are even tackling new engineering projects.
    Tradtonal ebook sites like Fictionwise.Com are holding their own with a dedicated customer base using the older ebook readers like the REB1100 and 1150.

    Having read over 240 books on this old Rocket Ebook (Fictonwise keeps all ebooks in a library for me, forever), for one I can safely say that the emotional enjoyment that I feel after reading a good book is no less satisfying and not prejudiced to the medium. This is not true, however, when reading a book on a smaller, less comfortable viewing device like a PDA or even the iPhone.

    Remember, that when Gutenberg first set out to capture the "Church market" by using movable type (and cheaper alternatives to vellum), there was opposition to this method - manly complaints that the letters appeared boring repetitive and mechanical, which suggested that mass-produced books were not even worth the time of the reader.
    Gutenberg et al. attempted to offset these reacly complaints by adding hand painted calligraphics on the margins.

    In the end, there was no new word invented for reading this newfangled 'machine-type' versus traditional hand copied books of the day. Contrasted to the shocking modernity of Gutenberg and his new movable type printing in the 15th century, it turned out that using typefaces became the industry standard, and at that for over 6 centuries to the current day.

    Ebooks are still historically new, and the devices, to be sure, still have a ways to go before becoming mainstream, everyday carriers of the written word (note that movable mechanical type wasn't mainstream for almost a century after Gutenberg's death!). I am fairly confident that, in time (15-30 years?) younger people will eventually say "Did you know that they used to print all books on paper?" much like we would say, "Wow did you know that for 6,500 years they used to copy every book by hand?"

    And finally,
    If a book is written well, it will be enjoyable regardless of delivery medium (excepting tiny devices like iPhones and PDAs).
    Readng was reading when the Sumerians etched Cuneiform onto clay jars, reading was reading when words were viewed on Monk-copied vellum, it was (and is) reading on regular paper stock, and it's still "reading" if you are using an electronic device.

    The one thing that a Sumerian clay jar, a vellum book of Exodus, a copy of City In Mind, and ebook version of a Burroughs' novel and the very letters that you are looking at right now, have in common, is that these are a series of symbols representing ideas in a linear form, creating a contrasting differential between the symbols themselves and the medium on which they are written (or rendered).

    And that, my friend, is reading.


  12. JOey says, in amplified email to me later:


    I don't know if SCREENING will catch on, but then we have "browse" and "surf" so
    it just might. I think it has to be one syllable though to really
    catch on and "screen" is.

    Other words we use in the Internet world that came from the other, earlier words include:

    BCC for blind carbon copy even though there is no carbon involved on the Net
    SIGNATURE, even thugh it is not a real signature at all
    E-MAIL is not really U.S. Postal Service MAIL at all
    BLOG comes from Web Log, and a log was a ship captain's operations diary
    A PEN that is used on some PDA's is not a real PEN at all, no ink involved
    SPAM is not SPAM the food
    the MOUSE has nothing to do with a real MOUSE
    a CHAT ROOM is not really a room at all, and people are not literally CHATTING
    drive-by spamming is not about a car driving by on a street in Los Angeles
    even the word ADDRESS for your email address is not a real ADDRESS for your home
    the list goes on and on

    So why not adapt SCREENING as a new term for reading online? Yes, why not?


    Colorado blogging

  13. ....it seems reasonable to me that "screening" can become a word. New words refresh our experience, heighten perception. They don't hasten old words toward the grave, or the compost, and they don't have to be necessary, or serve any preconceived purpose; they just fall into usage, like a meme, and then, who knows? I can't understand the misplaced hostility toward "screening," and the more arguments I read against it, the less persuaded I become.

    Look, Dan, the problem as I see it, people want the world not to change, but they also want to be out ahead of the curve. So, rather than say, well, I don't like Kindles and I don't like screening, they declare ex cathedra, kindles cannot replace books, or screening is a bad word. Because they want to appear rational and deliberate. And powerful--because the idea of changeg makes them feel weak and insecure. It's like Alfred North Whitehead yelling at Skinner because he felt threatened by Behaviorialism. (No black spider shall fall upon this table!) Fact is, I DON'T like kindles, but if I were 20 I probably would. So there's a generation divide--and I'm on the wrong side of it, but, it's not so bad to be on the wrong side of it, really. At least it's a side! I love books and reading , but let the young'ns enjoy screening their kindles. It's a tough world you know, and they're lucky to have something of their own,

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  16. I think words don't catch on from people having discussions about if we need a new word or not. They just happen organically by people using them. It isn't like there isn't room for more than the one term. The English language has a lot of words for the same things. I know all words are 'made up,' but I guess my dislike of "screening" is I see no need for it and it is coming to my attention not from the natural acquisition of hearing it being used, but rather I am hearing it for the first time in this context which makes it feel like a term that is being imposed on me instead of naturally coming into my vocabulary.