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The evolution of reading in the age of digitisation: An integrative framework for reading research


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In the course of digitisation, the range of substrates for textual reading is being expanded to include a number of screen-based technologies and reading devices, such as e-readers (e.g. Kindle) and tablets (e.g. iPad). These technologies have distinctly different affordances than paper has. Given that textual reading is at the same time likely to remain important as a cultural practice, and is undergoing massive change as digital screens are supplementing paper – with the potential to replace it as the dominant substrate – there is an urgent need to investigate what effects such change might have on the reading of different kinds of texts, for different purposes. This article proposes the need for an integrative, transdisciplinary model of embodied, textual reading accounting for its psychological, ergonomic, technological, social, cultural and evolutionary aspects. The envisaged model aims to be partly explanatory, in the sense that it aligns and integrates existing knowledge, and partly exploratory, in the sense that it points to blank spots in our knowledge where further research is needed. The model will thus serve to guide the planning of such further research, and to make research more compatible and research outcomes more widely useable.
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The evolution of reading in the age of
digitization: an integrative framework for
reading research
Anne Mangen and Adriaan van der Weel
In the course of digitisation, the range of substrates for
textual reading is being expanded to include a number
of screen-based technologies and reading devices, such
as e-readers (e.g. Kindle) and tablets (e.g. iPad). These
technologies have distinctly different affordances than
paper has. Given that textual reading is at the same
time likely to remain important as a cultural practice,
and is undergoing massive change as digital screens
are supplementing paper with the potential to re-
place it as the dominant substrate there is an urgent
need to investigate what effects such change might
have on the reading of different kinds of texts, for dif-
ferent purposes. This article proposes the need for an
integrative, transdisciplinary model of embodied, tex-
tual reading accounting for its psychological, ergo-
nomic, technological, social, cultural and evolutionary
aspects. The envisaged model aims to be partly explan-
atory, in the sense that it aligns and integrates existing
knowledge, and partly exploratory, in the sense that it
points to blank spots in our knowledge where further
research is needed. The model will thus serve to guide
the planning of such further research, and to make re-
search more compatible and research outcomes more
widely useable.
Key words: reading, research methods, comprehension,
multimodality, new literacy studies, pedagogy
Introduction: texts, literacies, digitisation
and (deep) reading
It is by now a cliché to claim that digital technologies
are redening reading and literacy in education and
learning. Digitisation has dislodged reading from its
natural place in the constellation of modalities and
media. The static, linear modality of written text (in-
cluding the book) is now supplemented by an
increasing complexity of multimodal, dynamic, and
interactive representations. The major changes in
reading practice over the last few decades have
caused a burgeoning interest in reading and literacy
research. This interest covers many schools of
thought and many new theoretical and methodologi-
cal approaches. In digital representations, the
modality of written text if present at all is taking
on different meaning-making roles.
When studying new literacy practices such as the use
of Flickr, blogs and Twitter, old, print-based terms
seem inadequate. Changes to the mediascapehave
prompted a broadening of core concepts such as text,
reading,and literacy.Paradigms such as New Liter-
acies Studies (and overlapping frameworks such as
Multiliteracies and Digital Literacies) redene text as
a multimodal intentional representation with pur-
poses and boundaries understood within a given so-
ciocultural domain.(OBrien and Scharber, 2008, p.
66) The concept of literacy is thus reframed and stud-
ied as a plural construct (for instance, Carrington and
Robinson, 2009; Coiro et al., 2014; Gillen, 2014; Mills,
2010, and see Rowsell and Pahl, 2015b for a compre-
hensive overview of key developments in literacy
studies overall). The New London Group considers lit-
eracy as multiple in nature (Cope and Kalantzis, 2000),
and the following denition of digital literacy is exem-
plary: We dene digital literacies as socially situated
practices supported by skills, strategies, and stances
that enable the representation and understanding of
ideas using a range of modalities enabled by digital
tools.(OBrien and Scharber, 2008, p. 67)
These paradigms and schools of literacy research ad-
dress key questions pertaining to digitisation, for
example: how do readers construct meaning from
multimodal representations (e.g. Jewitt, 2006; Jewitt
et al., 2009)? What are the (novel) literacy demands
for successful navigation online compared with in
print (e.g. Coiro, 2003; Coiro and Dobler, 2007; Coiro
et al., 2014)? How may education practitioners as well
as literacy scholars meet the expectations, needs and
expertise of digital natives, hence bridging the gap be-
tween so-called schooledand more often print-based
literacy practices and the increasingly inuential and
more typically digital out-of-schoolliteracy practices
(for a study of this potential tension or dissonance, see
for instance Dowdall, 2006)?
These and other new reading and literacy research par-
adigms have been a necessary and welcome response
to the transformational nature of recent digital
developments. However, the very pluriformity of per-
spectives and approaches also threatens to obscure
the immense potential for collaboration and dialogue
across disciplines and paradigms. As Barton (2001)
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© 2016 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
Literacy Volume 00 Number 00 xxxx 2016 1
has pointed out, literacy and New Literacy studies,
for example, are by now established as a powerful
research paradigm. Literacy research projects have
revealed the complex interactions between peers
involved in meaning construction from different media
and modalities, and provided insights into the poten-
tial uses of digital technologies in a variety of literacy
practices (see for instance Carrington and Robinson,
2009). However welcome this addition to the narrower
scope of more traditional reading and literacy studies
is, the descriptive ethnographic bent of the sociocul-
tural approach has had as a consequence that the ef-
fects over time of digitisation on the process of
encoding and decoding of meaning from verbal, writ-
ten text that is, textnarrowly dened have
remained largely unaddressed.
In an attempt to ll this and similar voids, to create
maximal opportunities for interdisciplinarity and to
account for the diachronic effects of digitisation on
reading, this article aims to present an integrative
framework for reading research. This framework
suggests the desirability of supplementing existing
research paradigms with an empirical theoretical
methodological approach, across substrates and their
affordances. Dening reading and literacy as (i)
human-technology interaction and (ii) as embodied
processes, the framework intends to facilitate interdis-
ciplinary, empirical investigations into aspects and di-
mensions of reading, some of which have hitherto been
largely ignored. More precisely, it invites closer
scrutiny of associations between ergonomics (sensori-
motor, haptic/tactile feedback), attention, perception,
cognitive and emotional processing at different levels,
as well as subjective experiential dimensions of
reading different kinds of texts for different purposes
(e.g. various literary genres, news reading and study
reading). Such interdisciplinary, empirical research
will enable precise, cross-validated measures of the im-
pact of digitisation, especially in educational contexts
in which reading remains central.
The changing nature and circumstances of
textual reading
During the past decades, not only have new multi-
modal forms of reading made their appearance, but
reading in the narrow sense, that is, of linear, written
texts has also undergone substantial changes, and is
now increasingly performed with digital screen tech-
nologies such as laptops, smart phones, tablets (e.g.
iPad) and e-readers (e.g. Kindle). As screens are replac-
ing paper as the main reading substrate, digitisation is
inuencing reading and literacy activities in pre-
schools and kindergartens as well as in elementary
schools and in higher education. The current transition
from paper to screen substrates invites reconsideration
of a number of fundamental questions of an empirical
nature, such as the following: What distinguishes
(textual) reading from the processingin multimodal
textsof other modalities, such as (still or moving) im-
ages or spoken words? Does the substrate (paper and
screens) affect cognitive outcomes such as recall and
comprehension? Does our reading experience differ
as a function of genre (say, a novel or a poem) or sub-
strate (print or a Kindle screen)? How does the concept
of literacy change along with the change of reading
substrate, for example, from knowing how to navigate
paper-based texts to knowing how to navigate the
multiplicity of ever-changing hardware and software
congurations involved in screen-based reading?
How does the growing digital infrastructure change
the social position of books and other texts and that
of reading in general?
Especially because of the major implications for educa-
tion, a great deal of unease may currently be observed
about the rapidity and transformativity of changes in
reading practice associated with the change from pa-
per to digital substrates, and ndings from empirical
research are, so far, inconsistent (for an overview of ex-
tant empirical research from a range of disciplines, see
Baron, 2015). In a matter of a few decades, new reading
habits have become widespread. This change has trig-
gered vigorous debates about an assumed deteriora-
tion of reading and literacy skills overall, potentially
caused, and/or accelerated, by digitisation (e.g. Baron,
2015; Bauerlein, 2008; Carr, 2010; Wolf, 2007). The
point made is not so much that people are spending
less time reading (if anything, the reverse is probably
true), but that they are reading so very differently.
The deep reading practices that we had come to take
for granted after centuries of book culture (Van der
Weel, 2011) are supposedly being replaced by
shallower forms of reading (see also Baron, 2015; Carr,
One effect that has already been observed is that indi-
vidual and social attitudes to reading (and writing) are
changing. Screens are replacing books for leisure read-
ing (as well as for entertainment at large)
; digital
learning environments replace books for education,
even to the extent that in many countries entire iPad
schools have been founded; it is suggested from time
to time that, thanks to the ubiquity of keyboards,
children do not need to learn how to write by hand
anymore (Francis, 2008); and both at home and in pub-
lic the example of parents increasingly shows screen-
based behaviour (including the mediatisation of much
of their social life). As a result, children are becoming
less socialised in a book-based reading culture than
they used to be. This may be exacerbated by the fact
that the jostle for the consumers attention involves
the full range of modalities converging on the screen.
For example,, PwC cites global e-book turnover as having risen
from just over $2bn in 2009 to $11bn in 2014, predicting that it will
reach $19bn in 2018 (
2An integrative framework for reading research
© 2016 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
In this competition, textual reading may be experi-
enced as being intrinsically less immersive and requir-
ing a greater conscious effort at concentration than
gaming, listening or viewing. Even if such competition
is not in itself new, this perception gains new weight as
the competition is played out on a single playing eld:
that of the digital screen.
In these circumstances, reading research concerning
verbal texts takes on fresh urgency. First of all, the
effects of the current digital changes are poorly under-
stood. Empirical studies exist (notably, in cognitive
and educational psychology and cognitive neurosci-
ence), but differences in textual material, instruments,
measures, and in denition of key constructs make it
difcult to compare and synthesise ndings. It is easy
enough to establish that changes in reading practice
are taking place, and not even very difcult to
determine what it is that is changing. However, it is
much less clear if, and if so, how these changes might
be causally related to the adoption of digital technol-
ogy, or, most importantly, what the longer-term
sociocultural and cognitive effects of the changes in
reading practice might be.
In the meantime, the digital revolution is sparking a
greater awareness of the nature and signicance of
textuality and the extent to which human communica-
tion has become mediatised overall. In the mix of
modalities, textuality has so far remained central,
especially in an educational context. Indeed, while
the nature of our reading habits is changing, textual
reading will probably continue for the foreseeable
future to be an important cultural activity. Text has pe-
culiar strengths that set it apart from many other
means of communication. For example, language,
spoken as well as written, makes possible communica-
tion between different mental faculties; it could be
called the lingua franca of modalities (Piper, 2012, pp.
7778). Reading and writing are as yet indispensable
for formal learning in schools as well as for informal
and practical knowledge dissemination, and the same
goes for self-expression. But reading also remains an
important instrument for entertainment. Perhaps most
importantly, the linguistic objectication enabled by
writing/reading helps us to think (Clark, 2008; Goody
and Watt, 1963). Given the importance of reading in
the cultural evolution of human civilisation, any
changes brought about by the digitisation of reading
are likely to have tremendous cognitive, cultural and
social implications.
At the same time, there has perhaps never been suf-
cient awareness of the cultural and social signicance
of reading. At the turn of the 20th century when almost
complete literacy was achieved in the West (Vincent,
1993), and literacy became the norm for successful so-
cial participation, we reached the apex of our reading
culture. After this, the textual nature of contemporary
human culture has in fact tended to be simply taken
for granted. To be sure, reading has been understood
to be important in the sense that it enables participa-
tion in a literate society. However, the importance of
reading to the nature of contemporary society clearly
needs to be reviewed. This necessitates a better under-
standing of what reading is and does, of the cognitive
and emotional effects of reading on the individual
reader as well as how reading and changes in reading
practice affect our functioning as a society. For exam-
ple, that an understanding of the signicance of long-
form reading is only emerging as it is no longer self-
evidently the norm needs to be taken as an indication
that we have not been sufciently aware of major
changes as they are taking place.
The need for an integrative,
transdisciplinary framework
Due in large measure to digitisation, there has been in-
creasing attention for reading research recently. To
begin with, reading is studied from many practical
and disciplinary perspectives, for example, as a histor-
ical practice (Cavallo and Chartier, 1999; Piper, 2012),
as a sociocultural practice (Barton et al., 2000; Street,
2005), as a phenomenological experience (Heap, 1977;
Rose, 2011; Rowsell, 2014), as a cognitive process
(Duffy and Israel, 2009; Kintsch, 1998; Tapiero, 2007)
and as a neuropsychological process (Dehaene, 2009;
Wolf, 2007). Additionally, an increasing amount of re-
search is comparing textual reading in print and on
screen, focusing on, for example, effects of display
technologies on visual ergonomics (Benedetto et al.,
2013; Siegenthaler et al., 2011; Siegenthaler et al.,
2012), effects of the interface on (meta)cognitive
(Ackerman and Goldsmith, 2011; Ackerman and
Lauterman, 2012; Kretzschmar et al., 2013; Mangen
et al., 2013; Margolin et al., 2013) and emotional
(Mangen and Kuiken, 2014) aspects of reading and ex-
ploring the new demands of online reading and digital
literacy as mentioned earlier (Leu et al., 2013).
Hence, by nature, reading research is inherently multi-
disciplinary. However, the extensive multidisciplinarity
has also had the natural effect of not fostering optimal
coherence. There has not been much collaboration and
dialogue across disciplines and paradigms. Despite
calls for increasing interdisciplinary research and
multi-method approaches (particularly bridging the
humanities natural sciences divide), scientists doing
experiment-based research (e.g. psychology and neuro-
science) tend to shy away from predominantly qualita-
tive research domains (e.g. media/reading history,
pedagogy, literary studies and sociology), and reading
research in domains such as cognitive and perceptual
psychology continue to map the psychological pro-
cesses involved in reading without reference to the
larger, contextual dimensions. Most research in literacy
studies now focuses primarily on sociocultural aspects
of reading and literacy while downplaying lower-level
psychological aspects. Rarely are psychological (or
Literacy Volume 00 Number 00 xxxx 2016 3
© 2016 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
neuroscientic) and sociocultural aspects of reading
considered under the same aegis.
The current digitisation adds urgency to the need to
promote greater coherence between research efforts.
The transition of reading from paper to screens may
enable transforming a dispersed multidisciplinary
eld with disciplinary and sub-disciplinary paradigms
existing side by side into a truly transdisciplinary one
(Østreng, 2009; Samuels, 2009), in which theoretical
perspectives and models from different disciplines
are applied, bottom-up, to shared research questions.
It was this felt need for a more coherent approach to
reading research that led to the instigation of the E-
READ (Evolution of Reading in the Age of Digitiza-
tion) initiative, awarded a COST
network subsidy in
2014, chaired and co-chaired, respectively, by the au-
thors of the current article. A main objective of E-
READ is to bring about crucial synergies between the
science and scholarship of reading, and actors, sectors
and stakeholders outside of academia (e.g. practi-
tioners, educators, the book trade, librarians, engineer-
ing and design and literacy promoters). An innovative,
transdisciplinary approach to reading, spanning the
natural sciences social sciences arts and humanities,
will enable a bottom-up mapping of the effects of
digitisation by means of multimethod empirical re-
search. By involving educational practitioners
(teachers and educators) as stakeholders in scientic
development, we ensure that research projects are in-
formed both by their needs and by their expertise.
Practitioners provide ongoing input to the research
agenda by identifying knowledge gaps in their eld,
for example, urgent questions such as whether it
makes a difference if students read different types of
material in print or on computers, or whether it makes
a difference for childrens story engagement if they
read them in print picture books or as iPad apps
(Flewitt et al., 2014; Kucirkova, 2014; Kucirkova et al.,
2014; Merchant, 2015).
As initiators of E-READ, we propose the need for a
transdisciplinary model of reading in order to facilitate
the more coherent approach to research that we advo-
cate. This model would serve as a common frame of
reference, both for interpreting existing research and
for embarking on future research. Rather than to
replace existing models, it is intended to serve as an
overarching integrative framework capable of
encompassing existing models that already success-
fully capture specic aspects of reading. The frame-
work must be technologically and culturally agnostic,
in the sense that it should be able to accommodate
different technologies and sociocultural circumstances
diachronically and synchronically. So in asking what
reading is fundamentally, the framework can at the
same time abstract from and account for technological
and cultural variation.
Reading is a historically and culturally contingent
practice. It has taken centuries for our current textual
literacy to evolve. That is to say that the social signi-
cance of reading is culturally dependent. Indeed, the
digital developments are once again drawing attention
to its contingent nature over time. Deep reading may
have become the implicit norm that education strives
to attain, but it is increasingly clear that this is not a
natural, given norm: My concern,says Baron, is
that deep reading and rereading, uninterrupted
reading, and tackling longer texts are seen by fewer
and fewer people as part of what it means to read.
(Baron, 2015, pp. 230231) We need to understand
how such norms evolve in order to improve our under-
standing of the signicance of the move from paper to
screen, and of the signicance of reading in todays so-
ciety. Even if reading is an evolving, historically and
culturally contingent practice, it may be that certain
characteristics of the type of reading that we have
evolved (but which may be at risk of being lost in read-
ings further evolution) are thought to be worth
The proposed framework sketched below is intended
to provide an integrative conceptual point of departure
from which to engage in empirical research on the
digitisation of text reading. As such, it should enable
the development of transdisciplinary paradigms in
which hypotheses can be tested and effects of
digitisation on text reading can be measured. Devised
from a bottom-up approach to reading as human
technology interaction, the framework would need to
facilitate empirical research combining experimental
paradigms from, for example, psychology and neuro-
science, with historically and socioculturally oriented
approaches presently more common in literacy stud-
ies. The framework should also be dynamic, to be
improved iteratively on the basis of empirical research.
Importantly, apart from the recognition that reading is
a vital sociocultural (and thus historically contingent)
practice, the framework is based on two theoretical as-
sumptions: (a) Reading is interaction with a
technology/device with specic interface affordances
and (b) Cognition, hence reading, is embodied it en-
tails physical (in particular, manual/haptic) interaction
with a device (e.g. tablet; e-reader; book). These as-
sumptions provide a theoretical backdrop and a
minimal common denominator across the levels and
dimensions of the framework. This ensures a degree
of internally coherent and consistent epistemology
resting on empirically testable claims and enables, in
turn, coherent and accumulative scientic progress
based on empirical research ndings. The proposed
framework should point the way to interdisciplinary
empirical research and support the development and
ongoing renement of a number of metrics to assess
the effect of digitisation on reading. It is thus intended
COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is the
longest-running European framework supporting international co-
operation among researchers, engineers and scholars across Europe
4An integrative framework for reading research
© 2016 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
to stimulate and facilitate correlational studies as well
as experimental and longitudinal research allowing
stronger causal inference.
a. Reading is humantechnology interaction
It is the merit of historians such as Goody and Watt
(1963), Havelock (1981, 1986) and Ong (1982) to
have emphasised the technological nature of writ-
ten language. Entailed in the present conceptualisa-
tion of what we readis therefore not only the
text itself but also the material and technical fea-
tures of the device or technology presenting or
displaying the text. When new technologies appear
and begin to replace older ones, the transition to
novel interfaces may make us aware of the particu-
larities of the old ones because different technolo-
gies, according to Haas (1996), are materially con-
gured in profoundly different ways(p. 226).
Screens have different inherent properties and
affordances than print on paper (for the concept of
affordances, see Gibson, 1977; Van der Weel, 2011).
The shift from paper-based to screen-based reading
entails, for example, new multimodal capabilities, a
loss of xity and material integrity and a replace-
ment of the sensorimotor, ergonomic and audiovi-
sual affordances of paper with those of different
kinds of screen interfaces. To what extent and in
what ways such changes may affect (study as well
as leisure) reading are empirical questions sug-
gested and accommodated by the present
b. Reading is embodied
In the aptly titled book Reading and the Body,
McLaughlin observes how reading is typically con-
sidered an act of consciousness and that: literary
theory has tacitly framed the act of reading within
a simple body/mind dualism, ignoring the eyes
and hands, the postures and habits of reading,
and denying any connection between the transcen-
dent life of the reading mind and the immanent life
of the body.(Mc Laughlin, 2015, p. 1) Whereas lit-
erary scholars with a few exceptions
may have
largely ignored the embodied nature of reading, lit-
eracy scholars have acknowledged the role of the
body in literacy practices. The editors of the
Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies state in the in-
troduction that literacy practices are vernacular,
networked and embodied(Rowsell and Pahl,
2015a, p. 3). Kress has called for increased aware-
ness of the bodily nature of meaning making:
Forms of imagination are inseparable from the ma-
terial characteristics of modes, from their shaping
in a societys history and from their consequent in-
teraction with the sensoriness, the sensuousness, of
our bodies. Introducing a concern with materiality
and the senses into representation brings the
longstanding separation in Western thinking of
mind and body into severe question, and therefore
challenges the reication and consequent separation
of cognition, affect and emotion. (Kress, 2003, p. 171;
emphases added)
The added emphases are meant to indicate the neces-
sity of teaming up with psychologists and neuroscien-
tists studying the close associations between the
human sensory modalities and the surrounding mate-
rial world. The transition from reading on paper to
reading on screens reveals the role of the body in
reading and literacy as a common research interest.
Studying young readersengagement with narra-
tives on paper and screen, Margaret Mackey has a
sectioninherbooktitledHands(Mackey, 2002).
With many of the new media, she observes, we
are changing the role of hands:
Hands assist, direct and sustain attention, that
vital yet often fragile element of reading. []
We need to ask whether the activity of the hands
is simply a supercial accompaniment of our
current arrangements of reading, whether the
role of the hands is conned to the aesthetics of
the tactile elements of reading, or whether the
use of the hands engages the brain in ways that play
a constitutive role in the reading process.(Mackey,
2002, p. 112; emphasis added)
In a recent study of iPad apps in kindergarten, Mer-
chant (2015) nds that the body and, in particular,
for story-reading with young children, and that
the haptics of the iPad interface makes a crucial dif-
ference for meaning making,theexperienceofthe
stories, for navigation through the text, and for
how the texts are shared overall. (Merchant, 2015)
Nevertheless, according to Rowsell, the balance is
still in favour of studying aspects of literacy at a
far remove from the actual bodily reader: there
has been signicant research and writings on liter-
acy and the everyday and literacy as a social, lived
practice [], but there is much less research on
how literacy is experienced perceptually or as an
embodied experience.(Rowsell, 2014, p. 118)
These observations from literacy studies motivate
our suggestion that the changing role of the body
in digital reading may serve as a catalyst bringing
together socioculturally-oriented literacy research
with paradigms from natural science disciplines,
most obviously addressing the physiological and er-
gonomic aspects of reading. Mackeysaptconjecture
about the role of haptics in cognition is evidenced
For example, Littau (2006) Theories of Reading:Books,Bodies and Bib-
liomania, Malden, MA, Polity Press, and Dames (2007) The Physiology
of the Novel:Reading,Neural Science,and the Form of Victorian Fiction,
Oxford University Press.
Literacy Volume 00 Number 00 xxxx 2016 5
© 2016 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
by empirical, experiment-based research in cognitive
neuroscience, particularly in the paradigm called
embodied cognition.
Print books and the substrate of paper lend an obvious
physicality to individual texts, while e-books are not
tangible volumes and are differently touched, held,
carried and navigated. The haptic feedback of a touch
screen is different from a paper book, and the implica-
tions of such interactions warrant empirical investiga-
tions. Studies in experimental psychology and neuro-
science show that object manipulation provides
spatial information which is crucial for building coher-
ent mental representations of the manipulated object.
Such ndings motivate a theoretical reorientation
allowing more precise and in-depth empirical investi-
gations of associations between sensory modalities in
reading as well as in other skills (notably, writing)
(Mangen and Velay, 2010; Velay and Longcamp, 2013)
than before.
Towards a multidimensional framework for
reading research
Building on these two fundamental tenets that read-
ing is a humantechnology interaction, and that read-
ing is an embodied act the proposed framework
should capture the multidimensionality of reading,
and allow focused, in-depth exploration. The frame-
work denes reading along the following dimensions:
Ergonomic dimension: reading is a physical, multi-
sensory engagement with a device;
Attentional/perceptual dimension: reading is allo-
cation of attentional resources; perceptual
Cognitive dimension: reading is cognitive, linguistic
Emotional dimension: reading is, potentially, an
emotionally impactful experience;
Phenomenological dimension: reading is a person-
ally meaningful activity;
Sociocultural dimension: reading is a socioculturally
(and ideologically) appraised and historically con-
tingent activity with sociocultural implications;
Culturalevolutionary dimension: reading is an
exocerebral extension of the brain (Bartra, 2014) de-
veloped under pressure of the increasing informa-
tional demands of an ever more sophisticated
cultural habitat.
Together these dimensions provide an integrative con-
ceptual and theoretical framework for the study of
reading. This framework can then be used for the em-
pirical testing of hypotheses about the effects of
digitisation on reading across these dimensions. For in-
stance, for studying literary reading on e-readers and
tablets, the framework should enable a combination
of qualitative measures of subjective, rst-person expe-
riences with objective and quantitative measures from
a third-person perspective. The framework would thus
facilitate combining paradigms from, for example,
neurophysiology and neuropsychology with histori-
cally and culturally oriented approaches more typical
of the arts and humanities, allowing in-depth studies
of how reading, for emotional engagement as well as
for information and learning, is transformed by
This proposed framework should enable ne-tuned
measures of a number of potentially mediating vari-
ables pertaining to, for example, the following:
Substrate: paper vs screen-based reading devices
(e.g. e-readers, tablets, computer screens and smart
phones), audiovisual features and haptic/tactile
Interface characteristics (e.g. one or two-page dis-
play, page turning, thickness, weight and
bendable/exible screens);
Text: length, type of text (e.g. genre and complexity:
narrative, expository), layout and structuring;
Levels of comprehension: from surface (word and
sentence) to deep inferential comprehension;
Time of recall: short-term vs long-term memory;
Readers: age, socio-cultural background, gender, ex-
pert level (e.g. students, children vs adults, women
vs men, beginning vs advanced and digital native
vs digital immigrant);
Motivation and purpose of reading (e.g. study,
leisure, contemplation, light entertainment and
The accompanying diagrams (Figures 13) aim to visu-
alise the conceptual framework as described earlier,
taking into account all of the dimensions and vari-
ables mentioned. Pragmatically, the visualisation rec-
ognises three stages in the reading process: (1) prepa-
ration, (2) the act of reading itself and (3) the effects
of reading. We emphatically intend both the frame-
work and its visualisation as working concepts to
be improved iteratively on the basis of empirical
The framework as outlined earlier should aid research
in a variety of ways. In the rst place, it should im-
prove our understanding of what reading is funda-
mentally, how it actually works as a process and which
human faculties are involved. Secondly, it should help
explain better the effect of reading on the individual
brain. For as we have seen, it is not just reading per
se that changes the way we think; so does the substrate
Research in the embodied cognition paradigm has shown that the
neurophysiological and neuropsychological processes involved in
perception, sensorimotor action, and cognition are more closely re-
lated than hitherto acknowledged (Calvo and Gomila, 2008;
Chemero, 2009; Shapiro, 2010). Cognition takes place not only in a
representation-processing or symbol-processing unit (Clark, 1997,
2008), but fundamentally in the perceptual and motor systems
(Calvo and Gomila, 2008). Theories of embodiment have received in-
creasing empirical support from behavioural and neuroscientic
studies (for an overview, see Kiefer and Barsalou, 2011).
6An integrative framework for reading research
© 2016 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
from which we read. Examples of questions to be ad-
dressed are as follows: Do the permanence and physi-
cality of the print book facilitate readersawareness of
where they are within the book and, by extension,
within the text? Does this impact more general reading
comprehension? What are the educational implications
of replacing paper with screens for the reading of dif-
ferent kinds of texts in different literacy contexts (e.g.
multiple text reading, literary text reading, reading
long vs short texts, reading and note-taking, hypertext
reading vs linear text reading and computer/laptop
reading vs tablet reading)?
Next, the framework should help explain better the
relationship between technology and culture at
large. How do technologies shape our reading prac-
tices? What is the role of the substrate? Does a dig-
ital reading environment differ fundamentally from
a paper one? Which are likely social effects of the
current transition from paper to screen reading?
Following on from this, the frameworkshistorical
awareness (implied in its sociocultural dimension)
should help explain better the effect of a change
of reading technology on society. In her book Proust
and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf (2007, p. 26) points
out that understanding the origins of a new pro-
cess [i.e., reading] helps us see []how it works.
Understanding how it works, in turn, helps us
know what we possess and what we need to pre-
serve. Now that we are coming to the end of the
Order of the Book(Van der Weel, 2011), precisely
the same goes for the digitisation of that process.
The historical dimension, by indeed help(ing) us
know what we possess and what we need to pre-
serveshould offer guidance in underpinning gov-
ernment literacy policies, reading education and so
on. On a meta level, nally, the framework should
help improve the coherence between disciplinary
perspectives; it should help improve the coherence
between individual research projects; it should help
to harmonise (international) research agendas and
so improve the efcient use of research resources.
It is also likely to serve as a basis for further re-
search by drawing attention to the white spots in
our current knowledge. Lastly, it should help evalu-
ate research proposals.
Concluding perspective
The transition of reading from paper-based to
screen-based devices provides an urgent occasion
as well as an excellent opportunity to conceptualise
reading, bottom-up, accommodating the full range
of complexities of texts, substrates, technologies
and reading processes and outcomes. Such a
reconceptualisation also has important implications
for teachers and teacher educators. The integrative
framework is fundamentally informed by their
input in the form of identication of knowledge
gaps and new research questions emerging with
technological developments. The scientic progress
of E-READ, which is continually fed by ongoing re-
ciprocal consultation with all stakeholders, in turn
leads to research outcomes that are made available
to all categories of end users, including educational
practitioners. The wide spectrum of disciplinary
contributions this demands mandates a radical kind
of transdisciplinarity, entailing in particular in-
creased theoreticalmethodological collaboration be-
tween scientists doing experiment-based research
and scholars from the arts & humanities. The multi-
dimensional framework of reading proposed here
Figure 1: Preparation for reading
Figure 2: The act of reading
Figure 3: Effects of reading
Literacy Volume 00 Number 00 xxxx 2016 7
© 2016 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
should facilitate such transdisciplinary collaboration.
Last, but far from least, we hope that the framework
will foster recognition of the importance of reading
as an activity thatso farremains uniquely human
and has been more deeply constitutive of our cul-
ture than we generally recognise.
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Literacy Volume 00 Number 00 xxxx 2016 9
© 2016 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
... En cuanto a la lectura, los aportes de este enfoque son retomados por algunos autores que proponen un abordaje multidisciplinar de la activad lectora que considere diversa dimensiones como: aspectos corporales y mentales; elementos ergonómicos, cognitivos, emocionales y socioculturales (Ackerman & Goldsmith, 2011;Mangen & Van der Weel, 2016;Maturano et al., 2002). Estos aportes conducen a entender la lectura como una práctica situada en la que el proceso de aprendizaje no solo es mental sino también corporal y contextual. ...
... Al respecto de esto, tanto Carr como Spitzer mencionan que existe un problema de concentración para leer textos largos en los medios digitales y que al leer textos lineales extensos se sacrifica la capacidad de la lectura profunda por una más superficial. Esta lectura superficial termina por dificultar los procesos subyacentes de comprensión, conocimiento y memoria en un nivel elevado (Ackerman & Goldsmith, 2011;Carr, 2011;Cordón, 2016;Mangen & Van der Weel, 2016;Spitzer, 2013). Por lo tanto, el exceso de información modifica la atención profunda al texto por la navegación superficial sobre ellos, los entornos digitales fomentan "una lectura somera, un pensamiento apresurado y distraído, un pensamiento superficial" (Carr, 2011, p.143) o un lector inconsciente (Ardila, Pérez, & Villamil, 2014). ...
... Así, las condiciones en las que se desarrolla la lectura digital son diversas. Existe una gran variedad de dispositivos y propósitos de la lectura (Cordón, 2016), difieren también dependiendo del género del texto, de las diversas variantes de hardware y software (Mangen & Van der Weel, 2016). En la lectura en línea el texto se transforma y adquiere nuevos formatos, estos propician la ruptura de lo lineal, generan nuevas formas de lectura, de escritura y de acceso a la información y demandan cierto dominio en su uso (Aguilar, Ramírez, & López, 2014). ...
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Se exponen algunos referentes teóricos que orienten la toma de decisiones en la construcción del objeto de estudio sobre el componente metacognitivo de la práctica de lectura en línea, de textos disciplinares en universitarios.
... On the one hand, this lies in the nature of reading as a multidimensional cultural technique, which therefore requires a broad focus. On the other hand, this diversity has the effect of not fostering the necessary coherence across disciplines and paradigms (Mangen & van der Weel, 2016). This is even more the case for a complex topic, such as the digitisation of (literary) reading, which affects so many dimensions from technical features and affordances over textual structures, distribution models and accessibility, personal features of the reader, and the particularities of the reading purpose and reading situation to the specific mental interactions, the short-and long-term effects of reading, and questions of memory and book storage. ...
... To systematise the variety of phenomena occurring due to our research questions and material and to position them within a theoretical structure, we refer to the "Integrative Framework for Reading Research" that was proposed by Mangen and van der Weel (2016). Their framework differentiates among three basic stages of the reading process (i.e., preparation for reading, the act of reading, effects of reading) and therefore specifies and structures the reading phenomenon to enable precise analysis and to capture the multidimensionality of reading. ...
... Regarding the act of reading, the framework considers the dimensions of embodied and mental interaction with the text, as well as environmental factors such as the possibilities of distraction. Finally, the consequences of reading are also included in terms of personal and social effects (Mangen & van der Weel, 2016). Consequently, it not only widens the perspective on literary reading from the focus on the mere act of reading but also facilitates the connectivity of different disciplinary approaches and conceptualisations. ...
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Empirical research on the differences between digital and print reading has recently increased, mainly concentrating on informational texts while disregarding literary texts. Concerning narrative fiction, the existing quantitative studies have found no or very few differences between reading printed books and e-books. In our focus group study, we amplify the perspective on digital and print book reading through a largely explorative approach. The results gained by interviewing 34 habitual readers of e-books in six groups show that e-books complement rather than replace printed books. Crucial differences can be found in the dimensions of the reading situation, genre selection, purpose of reading, as well as literary quality and status of the text. Furthermore, our results shed new light on the importance of the printed book as an individual material object, with its own specific iconicity and with notable consequences for intellectual possession, memory, and remembrance of read books and lived reading experiences.
... However, knowledge about how such cognitive processes are enabled, is scarce. While there is a dawning realization that reading is embodied and interesting work emerges within this field (see for instance ;Mangen, 2008;Pirini, 2014;Mangen and Van der Weel, 2016;Norris, 2019;Hillesund et al., 2022), a disembodied view on reading continues to dominate in research as well as in pedagogical practice. ...
... As mentioned, only recently-approximately in the last two decades-there has been an increasing interest in the various ways in which reading is embodied (see, e.g., Mangen and Van der Weel, 2016;McLaughlin, 2016;Caracciolo and Kukkonen, 2021;Hillesund et al., 2022) and multimodal (Pirini, 2014;Norris, 2019). While movement is key in human performances, the questions that remain are how this movement changes over time, and how it is enabled. ...
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This paper applies an embodied perspective to the study of reading and has a twofold aim: (i) to discuss how reading is best understood in terms of cultural-cognitive performance that involves living bodies who actively engage with reading materials, and (ii) to spark a dialogue with neighboring disciplines, such as multimodality studies and movement studies, which likewise pivot on how practices and performances involve moving bodies: life is something we do. An embodied cognitive perspective considers how performance is constrained by and draws on expertise such as lived experience as well as the material affordances available in the situation. Such a perspective is crucial for reading research as this domain has been, and largely still is, dominated by the view that reading is a silent, disembodied activity that takes place in the reader's brain by means of neural mechanisms. However, recent studies of reading practices are starting to develop new explanations emphasizing the multimodal engagement in reading as crucial for managing the activity. While this perspective is still empirically underexplored, we seek to highlight how reading is managed by readers' dynamic, embodied engagement with the material. We call this engagement cognitive pacemaking, an action-perception phenomenon we argue should be considered as the key mechanism for controlling attention. We present here a framework to understand reading in terms of pacemaking by emphasizing attentional shifts constituted by embodied modulations of lived temporality. Methodologically, we combine a close reading of a classic literary text, with the focus on attentional modulation with a qualitative study of university students reading different short texts. We highlight how meaning emerges not primarily from linguistic decoding and comprehension, but also from cognitive-cultural, multimodal engagement with the text. Finally, we conclude that empirical reading research should focus on how embodied reading differs across contexts, genres, media and personalities to better scaffold and design reading settings in accordance with those aspects.
... Reading and reading enjoyment are bound up with texts as well as technologies for reading (Burnett et al., 2017;Kucirkova and Cremin, 2020;Mangen and van der Weel, 2016), and adolescents' reading identities are tied to the devices and books they have access to. Avid readers often share about their preference for print (Loh and Sun, 2019;Merga and Roni, 2017;Olave, 2020) whereas less avid readers report that they prefer to read digitally (McKenna et al., 2012;Tveit and Mangen, 2014). ...
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... In this theoretical paper, we will widen the perspective of the one-way causal thinking underpinning most analyses in current research (Coiro, 2020) to a more systemic approach, or to what researchers have labelled an "embodied turn" in reading research (Trasmundi et al., 2021). More specifically, we will explore reading as a process of multisensory human-technology interaction (Mangen and van der Weel, 2016), and use perspectives from embodied cognition science (Varela et al., 1991;Lakoff and Johnson, 1999;Gallagher, 2005;Clark, 2008;Rowlands, 2010;Anderson, 2014). We will introduce the concept of affordance (Gibson, 1979;Noë, 2004) and embodied reading (Glenberg et al., 2007;Glenberg, 2015), and argue for the value of these concepts in research on the current transformations of reading. ...
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Digital texts have for decades been a challenge for reading research, creating a range of questions about reading and a need for new theories and concepts. In this paper, we focus on materialities of texts and suggest an embodied, enacted, and extended approach to the research on digital reading. We refer to findings showing that cognitive activities in reading are grounded in bodily and social experiences, and we explore the cognitive role of the body in reading, claiming that-influenced by tacit knowledge and the task at hand-textual meaning is enacted through a mental and physical engagement with text. Further, applying the concept of affordances, we examine how digital technologies have induced new ways of physically handling and mentally interpreting text, indicating that brain, body, text, and technologies are integrated parts of an extended process of reading. The aim of the paper is to encourage empirical research on the interplay between body (including brain), text, and text materialities, a focus we argue will deepen our understand of the current transformation of reading.
Discussions of digital technologies in education should take into consideration the role of analogue technologies – such as print books – especially when it comes to reading. Empirical research (Delgado et al., 2018; Kong et al., 2018; Clinton, 2019; Singer & Alexander, 2017) shows that paper supports comprehension better than screens, especially when reading longer and more complex texts. PISA 2019 shows that reading performance has declined in many countries, and teenagers report a significant drop in leisure reading. This article reviews and discusses these findings, in light of how reading and literacy have been redefined on the premises and affordances of digital technologies, and calls for a heightened attention to important aspects of reading that are now being marginalized – namely, those that are least compatible with digital technologies.
Reading motivation can greatly impact reading comprehension, but it tends to diminish in and beyond elementary school. This study employs knowledge building pedagogy to advance reading motivation and comprehension in an elementary Chinese language arts class. Participants were twenty‐four third graders who spent one class period (ie, 40 minutes) for 18 weeks in Knowledge Forum to study 10 lessons in a reading textbook. Data mainly came from: a reading motivation questionnaire, online interaction logs, online discourse and PILRS reading comprehension assessments. It was found that knowledge building enhanced children's reading motivation (particularly in terms of reading competence) and reading comprehension (especially at the higher levels). Most students demonstrated spontaneous engagement in advanced online activities demanding high‐level agency. A correlation was also identified between children's motivation to read and more advanced online discourse behaviours requiring higher agency, leading to a deeper understanding of reading. Implications for fostering a motivated reading community that values collective knowledge advancement are discussed. What is already known about this topic Innovating classroom‐based instruction for enhancing learners' reading motivation and comprehension has been an important challenge in reading education. Reading motivation is positively associated with reading comprehension but tends to diminish in and beyond elementary school. Technology‐supported reading and learning are further enhanced by interactive online discussions among learners. Engaging learners in collective knowledge building activities can facilitate their reading comprehension. What this paper adds Learner engagement in knowledge building activities, particularly advanced online activities, is associated with higher reading motivation (especially intrinsic reading competence). The process analysis shows that learners' online discourses focus more on higher‐level reading comprehension with extended use of knowledge building pedagogy. Learners exhibit better reading comprehension across all levels of reading comprehension with the implementation of knowledge building pedagogy. Implications for practice and/or policy Knowledge building pedagogy, featuring assuming agency, working with ideas, and fostering community practices, can be a viable approach to reading motivation and comprehension. The design of digital platforms should aim not just to foster knowledge‐acquiring and ‐sharing from reading but also to extend reading into knowledge building activities that highlight idea improvement.
Conference Paper
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This paper reports on the 1st case study performed in the 1st cycle of a design research aiming at designing a learning environment based on philosophical theories of concept formation (i.e. categorization). Here, we will present the 1st version of our learning environment which supports primary school students in constructing the biological concepts of fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, mammal, and enhancing their categorization skills. Philosophers have provided theories that suggest different mechanisms of categorization. Family resemblance-inspired theories suggest that we classify, e.g., individual birds under the concept bird by intuitively relying on examples of birds and/or on lists of their shared features. Moreover, classical theory suggests that we classify, e.g., individual birds under the concept bird by articulating bird-definitions. Considering the above theories, we developed a three-part, collaborative learning environment within the theoretical framework of constructivism. Our learning environment consists of 7 teaching-learning activities that aim at helping students to actively engage with the vertebrate animals classification while using different types of reasoning. More specifically, students are expected to collaborate in small groups in order to classify vertebrate animals into their classes, by (a) observing different examples of each vertebrate class, (b) making lists of the features the members of each class share (‘shared features list’), (c) deducing some ‘key features’ of each class from the corresponding ‘shared features list’, and (d) using these ‘key features’ to articulate definition-like reasoning strands about vertebrates. The learning environment will be thoroughly discussed in the paper, along with some preliminary results of its implementation. Analyzing the pre/post responses of the 19 conveniently selected fifth-graders who took part in this case study, showed an improvement in their reasoning about the target biological concepts.
The increase in screen‐based publishing over the past 30 years has sparked an evolution of reading. Reading's natural scope has ignited interest across paradigms. The resulting scholarship offers rich opportunity, but also presents a concerning challenge – approaches differ across disciplines, producing results that can be difficult to interpret and apply between fields. This article introduces both a framework for use by reading researchers across disciplines and an original interpretation of Schramm's communication model as it applies to reading. Drawing on theory and practice from communication, literacy, psychology, neuroscience and education, this article proposes a practical approach with the flexibility to accommodate a broad spectrum of research interests and goals. Using Schramm's communication model as its guiding logic, this framework unifies and extends Mangen and van der Weel's integrative framework for reading research (2016) to produce a further iteration of the framework that can be engaged at all stages of the research process, encouraging replicable and – most importantly – usable research findings for all interested stakeholders. This transdisciplinary approach aims to overcome academic silos and support more compatible, transferable research outcomes for both qualitative and quantitative projects.
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La competencia en comunicación lingüística implica la capacidad de un sujeto para comunicarse de manera eficaz en toda la complejidad de ámbitos en los que vive y se desarrolla. A través del lenguaje creamos realidades, "modelamos nuestra identidad y el mundo en que vivimos" (Echeverría, 2016, p.35). El lenguaje es un instrumento que nos permite organizar nuestra experiencia y estructurar nuestra historia, situándonos en un contexto determinado. La competencia en comunicación lingüística es una de las siete competencias clave propuestas por la LOMCE (2013). Es una competencia de gran complejidad en la que se hace necesario no simplificar el lenguaje, sino incorporar de forma prioritaria los componentes pragmático-discursivo y el socio-cultural. Esta competencia es determinante dentro del proceso de socialización y en el rendimiento escolar.
[Introduction to the book] Western culture is a mediated culture. Mediums, more than direct personal experience, define people’s world picture. Starting with images in prehistory, mediation took off in earnest with the invention of writing. It accelerated as first print, and then new medial forms such as photography, film, radio, and television were invented at ever shorter intervals. In such a mediated culture, medial change has an enormous social impact. Already the current digital devel- opments are showing to be no less momentous than those of the epoch-making historical changes that preceded them. Books, newspapers, periodicals, and any number of old and new text formats are now finding digital form at a rapid, even exponential, rate. Paradoxically, text is both the first and the last of the medial modes that is to go digital. It was the first in the sense that text was the first modality after numbers to become computable in the 1950s. Since then digital texts have become available in vast quantities, both digitised analogue texts and texts that did not exist in analogue form before, notably Web pages. At the same time – and this is the paradox – paper books, newspapers, periodicals, and other products of the printing press continue to persist in vast quantities. While digital photography, digital video, and digital music are now the norm, the entire analogue world of printing, bookshops, and libraries still largely continues as of old. That it was the last of the medial modes to go digital is the result of that peculiar phenomenon in the dialectics of progress that an initial head start tends to turn into an eventual handicap. [A phenomenon the Dutch historian Jan Romein termed the ‘law of the diminishing lead’ in The Watershed of Two Eras: Europe in 1900 (Middletown CT, 1978), p. 4.] The long-term importance of text and print to society, and especially the gradual perfection of the book into the reading machine it is today, have given it a ubiquitous and hardy presence. In Western culture printed text structured in the form of books has become a major social organ- ising principle, which I will be referring to as the ‘Order of the Book’. The absence of the book as an organising principle and fixed point of reference is hard to imagine. It is hard to imagine that the world of paper texts could go the way of analogue music, with the gradual disappearance of record shops and record companies. Yet there are many signs that it has already started to happen. The digitisation of textual transmission is proceeding so rapidly that already the consequences are huge and all-encompassing, indeed revolutionary. As reading practices move on line the once discrete products of the print world all become part of the digital textual ‘docuverse’, and that docuverse in turn becomes part of the all-digital array of mediums converged on the WorldWide Web. In the online digital domain, reading – once an isolated, private activity – is but one of a panoply of medial activities on offer. Increasingly reading has come to share the same space with shopping, watching a film or television, listening to the radio or a podcast, e-mailing or writing a blog entry. Moreover, as I have argued elsewhere, [In ‘Explorations in the Libroverse’, 147th Nobel Symposium, in Going Digital: Evolutionary and Revolutionary Aspects of Digitization’, Nobel symposium 147, ed. Karl Grandin, Stockholm: Centre for History of Science, 2011, pp. 32-46.] if the Order of the Book is gradually disintegrating, it is highly unlikely that it will be replaced by a similar but now digital order. The chief characteristic of the digital ‘order’ seems to be precisely that it evades a sense of order. It certainly evades the familiar one-way linear hierarchical order fostered by the print paradigm. This makes it all the more urgent to attempt to understand the implications of the digitisation process that is currently washing over us. The chief purpose of this book is to ‘make visible’ the digitisation of textual transmission and what it entails, and to assess its (potential) impact. The advent of a range of ‘new media’ in the last 150 years or so has been studied in meticulous detail. In fact the impact of photography, film, radio, and television continues to be scrutinised to this day. By contrast, the changes in textual transmission – though they are, as I shall argue, at least as pervasive and formative of our culture – have been comparatively neglected. Moreover, while the tremendous social change caused by an invention like the steam engine is rarely questioned, the notion that the printing press could be regarded as an ‘agent of change’ is anathema to most historians today. The transformativity of other technological inventions is readily accepted, but the notion of the transformativity of textual mediation seems for some reason unacceptable. Among the more plausible explanations for this scepticism is the fact that text has been with us for such a long time. Text is old in the sense that its cultural transmission started a long time ago (if 5,000–6,000 years may be called long in human history), but it is also always old in each individual lifetime. Learning to read and write tends to happen so early in formal education, if not before, that humans have little conscious experience of pre-literacy, leaving text almost invisible as a technology. As a consequence our awareness and understanding of the formative role of text rather than ‘the media’ (usually confined to film, radio, television, and journalism) in human culture remains surprisingly rudimentary. The need to redress this imbalance is one major reason why, despite the convergence of all modalities in the digital realm, in this book I will restrict myself to the modality of text. (Although I will naturally place text in the context of other modalities where relevant.) Despite the prominence of ‘the media’ in contemporary society, writing remains the most important medium for the transmission of knowledge ever devised. It has a long and continuous history of inscribing human culture. Text has given material shape to opinions, knowledge, creative ideas, and so on for centuries. One advantage of this restriction in scope is, incidentally, that it allows the major – but by no means the sole – disciplinary perspec- tive on this digital revolution to be that of book studies. Book studies used to be confined to the printed book and other products of the printing press. However, the recognition is now beginning to take hold that book studies should take a longer perspective, and deal with the history of textual transmission at large. Though an entire chapter will be devoted to a definition of terms later on, this distinction is worth stressing now. The material book is merely one particular, historical, form in which text is materialised. Text, on the other hand, is a system for the inscription of linguistic utterances by means of characters, that both pre-dates the book and survives it. In other words, even if text as a modality remains constant, its materiali- sation as a medium has taken a variety of forms. A manuscript book, a printed book or digital text all use the same modality, but represent different mediums. In such a longer perspective the history of the book is merely a chapter in the history of textual transmission, which is the history of the production, distribution and consumption of text. The history of textual transmission is also the history of the interaction between textual form and textual content – in manuscript, printed and digital form – and of the social significance of that interaction. Though this longer perspective is relatively new, book studies is a long established discipline, which is itself of a multi- if perhaps not quite post-disciplinary nature. In this book I intend to borrow insights from many other disciplines, including linguistics, philosophy, science and technology studies, brain and cognition studies. The method I will use to assess the significance of the digitisation of textual transmission is twofold. Chiefly I will give a descriptive historical account, along with an analysis of the importance of the major milestones: the inventions of writing, printing, and digital textual transmission. This historical account of the long and continuous history of inscribing human culture by means of text stresses the technological nature of textual mediation in order to make it more visible. The historical account also emphasises that the textuality that characterises Western society today is the outcome of a long and organic process. It began when the first forms of writing began to invade the oral mind set. Then printing changed not only the technological means by which texts were transmitted but equally the nature of their contents. Now the flood of digital texts is again affecting both the nature of the message and its social significance. The history of inscribing human culture has been, and continues to be, a process of continuities and discontinuities. Some elements of the earlier technology carry over into the new, while others gradually disappear and entirely new characteristics emerge. In this organic process technology will be found to play a pivotal role. In the historical narrative the central focus will be on the introduction and next the development of the digital textual medium. It discusses the social implications attending on the change from predominantly paper-based to increasingly digital textual mediation. Despite all appearances to the contrary, I would suggest that the digital substrate has lent text a new and unfamiliar aspect. This book probes especially what that unfamiliar aspect consists in, and what its significance is. While not ultimately immaterial, the inscru- table and conditional existence of virtual text, for example, gives it a ghostly and unstable quality. The convergence of modalities, as well as the convergence of formerly discrete mediums in a single digital medial space has repercussions that are not at once obvious but nonetheless far-reaching. The digital ‘docuverse’ enables new ways of accessing the text, both as a whole (the unitary text, conventionally identified, for example, by means of a library catalogue record) and as fragments of text within a collection of unitary texts. Moreover, the ‘democratisation’ of textual production, distribution and consumption creates an entirely new relationship between author and reader. The second part of the methodology is that this historical account, although it concentrates on the digital developments in text trans- mission, will be a contrastive analysis of all of the textual revolu- tions and their impact: the introduction of writing, printing, and digital textual transmission. In this way historical knowledge about the actual development of the earlier relevant medial technologies of writing and printing can inform an understanding of the digital revolution that is now taking place. A historical comparison can establish certain technological properties that can be seen – at least in retrospect – to account for its later development and, importantly, its social consequences. For these properties I propose to use the concept of salient properties. In this process, social factors play a role too. The historical account of the way the computer came to be the next major support for text stresses the sociotechnical nature of change. This suggests a spiral movement in the dialectic between social and technological factors, in which, however, technology acts as a catalyst. It both contributes the initial driving force and represents the conditions enabling change, initially as well as later. Technologies are usually created without a clear view of their full ultimate deployment. They usually suggest social uses after they are made available. It will be shown that these social uses are frequently not only additional to, but different from those foreseen by the developer of the technology. Instead of being steered by intentions, the development of technologies tends to be steered by inherent technological properties: their salient properties. Attending the unintended uses of technology there are obviously also unintended social consequences. Such a comparative historical perspective on medial change also highlights the transformative nature of textual mediation. The book will suggest that medium change is as transformative as, for example, the evolutionary development of language in humans, influencing not only the form but also the content and nature of human knowledge. The implications are vast and, far beyond those who deal with text professionally (writers, educators, scholars, publishers, librarians), affect society at large, notably in such institutions as education and democracy. By helping to determine the way we think, they help to determine our culture and our identity. This latest revolution in textual inscription is happening right now. It may be too early to bring to the analysis the right amount of historical distance to reach lasting verdicts about its significance, but I am convinced that studying the radical changes that are now happening will afford much-needed insight into the mechanisms at play. The findings from the comparison can be usefully applied to the present, offering a‘handle’to help understand present developments and perhaps even a measure of control over this process of change. Moreover, establishing the inherent properties of digital textuality in a historical perspective also allows a tentative extrapolation into the future. This is intended not as an exercise in fortune telling but to help gauge the pervasive transformative power of this latest textual revolution. The book is organised as follows. Suggesting a parallel with language, Chapter 1 establishes the transformative nature of textual technology. It elaborates on the book’s aims and the method it employs, and discusses the challenges to the task at hand. Chapter 2 offers definitions of the terms most relevant to under- standing textuality and its significance for human culture, and so sets the framework for the account of the historical development of textual technology and the contrastive analysis in the remainder of the book. By presenting a concise account of the history of textual transmis- sion up to the digital revolution, Chapter 3 presents the historical context in which to understand that revolution. However, it also demonstrates how contemporary developments in the digitisation of text throw a new light on the earlier revolution of printing, forcing a reinterpretation of ‘known’ facts. In fact it challenges the very notion what it was that Gutenberg invented and why that was, or was not, significant. The main topic addressed in Chapter 4 is how developments in the digital transmission of text resulted from the interplay between social and technological factors, and how this relates to inherent salient properties of the digital medium on the one hand, and the social construction of these characteristics on the other. Chapter 5 presents the particular constellation of salient techno- logical properties that characterises digital text. It identifies some of the many social repercussions of this particular technological form of the medium, affecting both the nature of its messages and the connotation of digital textuality in the broader social sense. Chapter 6 sketches in very broad outline some of the current and potential future effects of digital textuality, and, in so doing, returns also to a discussion of the nature of sociotechnical change in the light of the book’s findings.
Literary theory has been dominated by a mind/body dualism that often eschews the role of the body in reading. Focusing on reading as a physical practice, McLaughlin analyzes the role of the eyes, the hands, postures and gestures, bodily habits and other physical spaces, with discussions ranging from James Joyce to the digital future of reading.