Naomi S. Baron is Professor of Linguistics and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at American University in Washington, DC. A Guggenheim Fellow and Swedish Fulbright Fellow, she is the author of seven books on language. Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World was the 2008 winner of the Duke of Edinburgh English-Speaking Union English Language Book Award. Her new book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, which explores how digital technology redefines what it means to read, will be published by Oxford University Press this winter.
In this conversation, Naomi discusses her new book, and what PowerPoint users need to learn from the book.
Geetesh: Skimming content rather than absorbing seems to have become the norm these days. And PowerPoint by its very format seems to invite the former rather than the latter – unless the absorption option is provided by a proficient speaker. Can you share your thoughts?
Naomi: Like most tools, PowerPoint can be both a blessing and a curse. Used wisely, it enables speakers to cut to the chase of what they really want to say. It also provides added perceptual channels – written words, visual images, color, and maybe sound -- that reinforce the spoken message.
The challenge of PowerPoint is that it lures us into believing that all ideas can be shoehorned into its format. That the complexity of human thought is reducible to bullet points. Given how much experience we now all have with PowerPoint, we have developed a PowerPoint state of mind. As audiences, we increasingly assume that whatever we read – a PowerPoint slide or a novel – should be short, straightforward, and only worth reading once.
Geetesh: You speak about how this problem exists in areas beyond PowerPoint in media such as ebooks. You have also written a book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World on this subject. Can you share some info about your research and new book?
Naomi: The kind of one-off reading encouraged by PowerPoint is showing up in the way we read on digital screens more generally. Whether it's on laptops, eReaders, tablets, or mobile phones, we are witnessing a growing tendency to replace deep reading with a more superficial approach to the written word. Digital devices encourage us to search for information, not to ponder ideas.
My research with university students in the US, Germany, and Japan reinforces anecdotal evidence that when reading on a digital platform, we do incredibly more multitasking and are far less able to concentrate than when reading printed works. We also are less likely to reread digital texts and, according to some studies, less likely to remember what we read and less likely to have an analytical understanding of the content. While young adults are avid technology users, a wealth of studies (including my own) show these users prefer reading in hardcopy over reading onscreen – both for schoolwork and for pleasure reading.
As eBooks continue to edge out print, we need to do some serious thinking about how digital reading styles – supported by the PowerPoint state of mind – may be undermining our ability to have sustained, uninterrupted encounters with serious books.
Categories: books, interviews, opinion, powerpoint
April 2003 | May 2003 | December 2003 | January 2004 | February 2004 | March 2004 | April 2004 | May 2004 | June 2004 | July 2004 | August 2004 | September 2004 | October 2004 | November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 | February 2005 | March 2005 | April 2005 | May 2005 | June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | January 2011 | February 2011 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | April 2012 | May 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | November 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | May 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | July 2015 | August 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | November 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | April 2016 | May 2016 | June 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 |
Microsoft and the Office logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.