Cheese Doodles R Us

The New York Times posted a series of essays about reading electronic documents compared to paper. Asked the Times:
“Is there a difference in the way the brain takes in or absorbs
information when it is presented electronically versus on paper? Does
the reading experience change, from retention to comprehension,
depending on the medium?”

English professor Alan Liu wrote, “Web
2.0 offers a different kind of metaphor: not a containing structure but
a social experience. Reading environments should not be books or
libraries. They should be like the historical coffeehouses….”  Child
development prof Maryanne Wolf wondered whether electronic reading will
affect Proust’s “heart of reading — when we go
beyond the author’s wisdom and enter the beginning of our own?”

direct relevance to journalism — and its current crisis — are
comments by Yale University computer scientist David Gelernter, a
professor of computer science at Yale University:

“The most
important ongoing change to reading itself in today’s online
environment is the cheapening of the word. In teaching college students
to write, I tell them (as teachers always have) to make every word
count, to linger on each phrase until it is right, to listen to the
sound of each sentence.

“But these ideas seem increasingly
bizarre in a world where (in any decent-sized gathering of students)
you can practically see the text messages buzz around the room and
bounce off the walls, each as memorable as a housefly; where the
narrowing time between writing for and publishing on the Web is helping
to kill the art of editing by crushing it to death. The Internet makes
words as cheap and as significant as Cheese Doodles.”