Reading Response #5

In “The Disruptive Power of Collaboration: An Interview with Clay Shirky,” Shirky discusses the impact that the internet and social media has had on business. The advances in technology have created several changes in the business world. One of those changes is a switch from a business model based on supply-creates-demand to demand-creates-supply. There is an abundance factor that has come into play, and according to Shirky, “[o]nce something becomes so cheap that it’s not worth metering anymore, that’s when real social change happens” (Chui, 2014).

So how did this shift occur? For the most part, the ability to communicate on a global scale is inexpensive, easily accessible, and lightning fast. Social media enables us to connect and collaborate with people world-wide, and businesses are taking full advantage of this. There is a division of labor that has enabled us to specialize in one part of a project, instead of having to be moderately good at every aspect. This collaboration moves things along at a much faster pace than the step-by-step process of solo endeavors. Shirky also tells us that “…what people set out to do as Plan A turns out to be effective and important, not because it works, but because it shows them what doesn’t work” (Chui, 2014). Instead of tossing out an idea because it wasn’t successful, collaboration allows that idea to learn and grow into something that works. All of this sounds great, but Shirky doesn’t address that important unspoken question; when multiple people contribute to a project, who owns the rights to the final result?

In “Ž̌ižek, Plagiarism, and the Lowering of Expectations,” Phelps addresses these risks of ownership and plagiarism in the scholarly world. Žižek, a well-known Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic, was accused of plagiarism in July of 2014. Phelps (2014), a self-proclaimed admirer and follower of Žižek, states that while “[he] was initially disappointed … [he] also, however, wasn’t surprised.” Phelps initially offers up a weak excuse for Žižek’s transgression; with his busy schedule filled with traveling and symposiums, it’s impossible to expect Žižek to single-handedly do all of the work required to publish as often as he does. This woe-is-me reasoning does gain some traction, however, as Phelps (2014) goes on to argue that there are “unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a scholar and to produce scholarly work.”

This is true on many levels of academia. Scholarship is expected to be original enough to contribute to the conversation, but not so original that it lacks credible sources to back up any claims. Scholarship is a collaborative effort, and it can be difficult to suss out who contributed what. Over-citing of sources can often be regarded with the same distaste as under-citing, forcing us to walk a tight-rope. As we become more learned, we often use secondary sources without acknowledgement or even realizing we’ve done so. That knowledge simply just becomes a part of our own. As Phelps (2014) suggests, “…perhaps it would be best to lower our expectations with regard to what we do, really acknowledge our debt to others, and allow practice to catch up with theory.”

Chui, M. (Interviewer) & Shirky, C. (Interviewee). (2014, March). The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky [Interview Transcript]. Retrieved September 28, 2014, from

Phelps, H. (2014, July 17). Žižek, plagiarism and the lowering of expectations (essay). Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved September 28, 2014, from



Book Review of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

Written by powerhouse duo Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (2013) explores the rise of big data and what it means for the future of industry and civilization as we’ve come to know it. Both men are recognized authorities on big data. Mayer-Schönberger is an expert in his field, with 8 additional books and over a hundred journal articles under his belt, in addition to holding positions on the advisory boards of such organizations as Microsoft. Cukier, the Data Editor for the Economist and well-known commentator on big data, has works featured in publications such as the New York Times and the Financial Times.

Big Data reads more like a novel than a piece of dry scholarly work, allowing it to cater to a much broader audience. Engaging the reader from the start, the book opens with an anecdote about the 2009 flu outbreak. It discusses big data’s role in tracking its spread, and goes on to explain the fundamentals of big data. The book is filled with these brief, yet appealing, real-world examples that help move the story along in a manner that laypersons can easily understand. The majority of Big Data covers the possibilities, the progression, and the implications of data-mining. The book explores the progression from micro to macro data, the shift from wanting the why answered to simply being satisfied with the what, the value of big data, and its impact on business.

But what about the negative aspects of big data? Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier don’t delve into these realities until the last ¼ of the book, despite the serious nature of these dangers. It feels as though the authors have decided to include this information as an afterthought, or an appeasement to any naysayers of big data. The most noteworthy risk that is an inherent part of data mining is the risk to our personal privacy. Big data works through predictions. As seemingly inconsequential information is collected on us as we go about our day, there is the potential for that information to be analyzed and used in a way that threatens our autonomy. Big data has all of the hallmarks of developing into something akin to Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984. The predictions that arise from that data analysis could eventually lead to people being punished for their actions before they even commit them. Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier gloss over this threat and others with a seemingly simple solution; to avoid the risks of big data, we just need to control it.

The risks and implications of big data on privacy and autonomy are not new concepts. In “Are We Getting Privacy the Wrong Way Around?”, O’Hara (2013) agrees that a vast amount of good can arise from big data, but urges for a greater level of transparency “so that people are aware of not only what happens to their data, but also how decisions are made about them based on data analysis” (p. 92). O’Hara hits the mark that I believe Big Data misses, focusing on the human element instead of corporations. While the possibilities and potential benefits of big data appear limitless, more care needs to be put into the exploration of what big data really means for the public, and not from a business viewpoint.


Mayer-Schönberger, V., & Cukier, K. (2014). Big data: A revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think. Boston: Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

O’Hara, K. (2013). Are we getting privacy the wrong way round? IEEE Internet Computing, 17(4), 89-92.

Orwell, G. (1950). 1984. New York: Signet Classic.

Expressing Emotion Through Emoticons: A Literature Review

As technology develops and gadgets become more accessible and commonplace, text-based interactions via the internet and our cell phones have become the conventional method for communication. Past research has suggested that we use nonverbal cues to communicate information. In the absence of these nonverbal cues used in face-to-face communication, people have turned to using emoticons to express emotions. Researchers have posited that as emoticon use increases, they take on the same social motivations and characteristics as nonverbal communication. There is a question, however, of the long-term impacts of increased computer-mediated communication (CMC) on our ability to read emotions in face-to-face interactions.

In their journal article titled, “Emoticons in Computer-Mediated Communication: Social Motives and Social Context,” Derks and von Grumbkow conducted a two-part study in which they explored the use of emoticons in text-based communications. Derks and von Grumbkow (2008) suggested that because emoticons can substitute for nonverbal cues, individuals may also have social motives to use them. Additionally, Derks and von Grumbkow (2008) posited that the relationship between the sender and the recipient in text-based communications has a direct influence on the frequency of emoticons, as well as on the likelihood of using a specific emoticon. They also theorized that the social context directly affects emoticon use. Research has shown that how expressive people are depends largely on how appropriate those around them believe it would be to express those emotions in that social situation. Overall, positive emotions are more widely accepted than negative ones, suggesting that emoticon use should increase in positive versus negative context (Derks & von Grumbkow, 2008).

In the first part of the study, Derks and von Grumbkow administered a questionnaire that focused on the social motives behind the use and selection of emoticons from the sender’s perspective. The results indicated a significant difference in the interpretation of each emoticon’s meaning. They also found a substantial difference in the motives behind selecting a specific emoticon.

The second part of the study was an attempt to manipulate the variables that influence emoticon use, in which the participants took part in a short online conversation. Their partner was either a good friend or a stranger, and the conversation had a positive or negative context. In a similar fashion to face-to-face communication, the results showed an increase in emoticon use in communication between friends versus with a stranger, as well as an increase in use during positive interactions. Thus, Derks and von Grumbkow (2008) demonstrated a correlation between the functions of emoticons used in text-based communication and the nonverbal cues used in face-to-face communication.

While Derks and von Grumbkow focused on the social motives behind emoticon use, Lo (2008) examined the increasing use in text-based communications, exploring “whether [they] possess nonverbal communication functions that affect understanding of messages” (p. 595). Lo posited that emoticons have taken the virtual place of the physical nonverbal cues displayed in face-to-face interactions. The study’s participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the Pure Text Set (PTS), the 1st Emoticon Set (1st Set), and the 2nd Emoticon Set (2nd Set). The same message was presented to all three groups; The PTS participants’ message did not contain an emoticon, while the 1st and 2nd Set participants’ message each contained a different and opposite-meaning emoticon. Lo (2008) found that when presented with pure text, the majority of people were unable to identify “the correct emotion, attitude, and attention intents” (p. 597). However, the introduction of emoticons to the text greatly improved the receiver’s interpretation. These results indicated that emoticons have taken the virtual place of the physical nonverbal cues displayed in face-to-face interactions.

Park, Barash, Fink, and Cha agreed with these findings and took them a step further in their article titled, “Emoticon Style: Interpreting Differences in Emoticons Across Cultures,” suggesting that emoticons have become sociocultural norms. Focusing on emoticon use on the social media platform Twitter, Park et al. came to several conclusions regarding their use, the expansion of their meaning, and the impact geography and dialect have on them. These conclusions suggested the possibility of an evolution of emoticons from being simply glyphs of faces to actual culturally-specific emotional languages (Park et al., 2013).

Derks and von Grumbkow, Lo, and Park et al. are all in agreement that emoticons function as substitutes for nonverbal social cues. Body language and facial expressions often tell more about what we’re trying to express than our actual words, and these cues help us to better communicate “complex emotions like humor, doubt, and sarcasm” (Park et al., 2013). While emoticons have helped our interpretation of the emotions in text-based messages, a question arises regarding the impact their use has on our ability to read these emotional cues in face-to-face interactions.

Uhls et al. addressed this impact on specific social skills in their article titled, “Five Days at Outdoor Education Camp Without Screens Improves Preteen Skills With Nonverbal Emotion Cues.” The study focused on the possibility that frequent screen use has replaced vital face-to-face interactions. Uhls et al. (2014) found that an increase in opportunities for face-to-face interactions, while simultaneously eliminating the option of technology-based interactions, led to a significant improvement in the adolescent subjects’ ability to recognize emotions in facial expressions and nonverbal cues. Children who have a better comprehension of emotional cues often develop stronger social skills which are critical to forming positive relationships and development as a whole (Uhls et al., 2014).

Emoticons have helped to fill the void created by our inability to use nonverbal cues in text, becoming universally recognizable emotional symbols. However, as our time spent in CMC has increased, the skills we have to read human emotions in face-to-face communications may have lessened. Further research is needed into the long-term impact of communicating almost entirely through CMC on our social skills. Additionally, future research should explore whether our emotional language has been replaced with a new virtual one, and if so, what the impact of that would mean for society.


Derks, D., Bos, A. R., & von Grumbkow, J. (2008). Emoticons in computer-mediated communication: Social motives and social context. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 11(1), 99-101.

Lo, S. (2008). The nonverbal communication functions of emoticons in computer-mediated communication. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 11(5), 595-597.

Park, J., Barash, V., Fink, C., & Cha, M. (2013). Emoticon style: Interpreting differences in emoticons across cultures. International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.

Uhls, Y. T., Michikyan, M., Morris, J., Garcia, D., Small, G. W., Zgourou, E., & Greenfield, P.  M. (2014). Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 387-392.

Research Paper Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography

Derk, D., Bos, A. R., & von Grumbkow, J. (2008). Emoticons in computer-mediated communication: Social motives and social context. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 11(1), 99-101.

Derk and von Grumbkow explore the use of emoticons in text-based communications in this journal article. The article reports on an online study to examine the social motivations behind the use of emoticons in short text-based chats online. The study includes results regarding the frequency of use in both positive and negative interactions and in interactions between strangers vs. friends. This article helps support the argument that emoticons are being used as virtual replacements for facial expressions seen in face-to-face interactions. This is a reliable and credible source. It is published in a scholarly journal and includes research, study results, and a list of references.

Fleuriet, C., Cole, M., & Guerrero, L. K. (2014). Exploring Facebook: Attachment style and nonverbal message characteristics as predictors of anticipated emotional reactions to Facebook postings. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. n.p. doi: 10.1007/s10919-014-0189-x

This article discusses the role of nonverbal cues in online interactions. Fleuriet, Cole, and Guerrero seek to explore the likelihood of a person experiencing negative emotions in response to a Facebook wall post designed to induce jealousy. Fleuriet et al. explore the emotional effects of variations in the message, such as text-only, text plus an attractive/unattractive photo of the sender, the use of all caps, exclamation points, or a winky-face emoticon. The aspect of this article that supports my research paper is the emotional response results to the message coupled with a winky-face. The participants indicated a higher level of negative emotions, supporting my argument that emoticons are able to take the place of nonverbal cues in face-to-face interactions.

Ganster, T., Eimler, S. C., & Krämer, N. C. (2012). Same same but different!? The differential influence of smilies and emoticons on person perception. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(4), 226-230.

Ganster, Eimler, and Krämer seek to explore the use of emoticons in online text-based communication. Fleuriet et al. explore the effects of smilies and emoticons on a subject’s mood, how the subject interprets the received message, and the subject’s perception of the sender. The results of this study support the argument that emoticons and smilies directly impact the impression the subject forms of the sender, supporting my research paper’s key argument. An interesting piece of this article is that it shows that the use of smilies has a greater impact than the use of emoticons. I believe that this will enhance the section of my paper where I initially explore the nonverbal cues in text-based interactions: internet short-hand and emoticons.

Jones, A. (2014). The blank-stare slate. Newsweek Global, 163(10), 50-51.

In this article, Jones examines the effects of technology on social development in children. The article’s main focus is on another study previously published in “Computers in Human Behavior.” Jones discusses the impact technology has on specific social skills like recognizing nonverbal cues and facial expressions. This article helps to support my thesis that technology and the internet is effecting our ability to read social cues, causing our emotional intelligence to be drastically impacted. This is a reliable and credible source. Newsweek is a well-known source for credible journalistic publications, and Jones also cites a credible source in her article.

Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J., & Ng, Z. (2005). Egocentrism over e-mail: Can we communicate as well as we think? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 925-936.

Kruger, Epley, Parker, and Ng seek to explore how the absence of paralinguistic cues (body language, gestures, tonal fluctuations, emphasis, etc.) affects our interpretation of tone and emotion when communicating over e-mail. This article explores five difference experiments, complete with methodology and the results, lending to the credibility of this source. The results of these experiments show that we often believe we can communicate far more effectively via e-mail than we actually can. This article supports my argument that we often misinterpret the tone and meaning in online text-based communication. It shows evidence that we have difficulty detaching ourselves from our own perspective to evaluate the perspective of another person when communicating online. This supports my argument that online communication is having an impact on our emotional intelligence, and specifically on empathy.

Lo, S. (2008). The nonverbal communication functions of emoticons in computer-mediated communication. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 11(5), 595-597.

This article discusses the increasing use of emoticons in text-based communications. Lo argues against past research studies that indicated that computer-based interactions lacked all nonverbal cues. Instead, Lo suggests that emoticons have taken the virtual place of the physical nonverbal cues displayed in face-to-face interactions. This article definitely provides clear support for my research paper, particularly for the section about emoticons replacing physical nonverbal cues. It is a reliable and credible source.

Manos, M. (2012). Emoticon intelligence or emotional intelligence?. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 92(1), 26.

This article discusses the influence of technology on emotional intelligence. This article focuses on the book by Daniel Goleman titled, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. This article discusses the effects of text-based communication on children, with a particular focus on accountability. This article provides some information that will be beneficial to my research paper, particularly its focus on social cognition and texting. While the source is fairly credible and references another reliable source, I’m not sure that it’s from a particularly strong source of publication.

Matsumoto, D., & Hwang, H. S. (2011, May). Reading facial expressions of emotion. Psychological Science Agenda, 25.

In this e-newsletter article, Matsumoto and Hwang discuss research into universal facial expressions/micro-expressions and the development of training programs to help improve one’s ability to detect emotions. Both researchers are experienced scholars in the field of psychology, with a particular focus on nonverbal behaviors and emotion. This article is also published in an e-newsletter put out on the official American Psychological Association (APA) website, further adding to its credibility as a source for information. This article provides key background information for my paper, including the initial discovery of universal facial expressions (Darwin) and defining universal facial expressions/micro-expressions.

Matthews, G., Zeidner, M., & Roberts, R. D. (2002). Emotional intelligence: Science and myth. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

This eBook discusses emotional intelligence and the psychology behind the term. It focuses on the validity of emotional intelligence and the claims behind it. The book attempts to provide an unbiased examination of emotional intelligence. This source will be highly useful in my paper as it provides an abundance of information about emotional intelligence. It provides a distinct definition for the term and relates it back to psychology. It examines the past, present, and future of emotional intelligence and its definition. This eBook is a reliable and credible source, published through MIT.

Park, J., Barash, V., Fink, C., & Cha, M. (2013). Emoticon style: Interpreting differences in emoticons across cultures. International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.

This article discusses the use of emoticons in text-based communications. Park, Barash, Fink, and Cha argue that the use of emoticons in text-based online communication are the equivalent of nonverbal cues in face-to-face interactions. The focus is on chatrooms, forums, and social media. Park et al. discuss the cultural and social aspects of emoticons on Twitter. This article is a key source for my research paper. It not only discusses the use of emoticons in text-based conversation, but it also supports my argument that emoticons have become socio-cultural norms. This is a credible source. Park et al. discuss their methodology and other related works. This article includes the results of their findings, complete with charts and formulas. It also includes a lengthy list of references.

Uhls, Y. T., Michikyan, M., Morris, J., Garcia, D., Small, G. W., Zgourou, E., & Greenfield, P. M. (2014). Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 387-392.

Uhls, Michikyan, Morris, Garcia, Small, Zgourou, and Greenfield seek to explore the impact technology has on specific social skills such as the recognition of nonverbal cues and facial expressions. Uhls et al. posit that an increase in opportunities for face-to-face interactions, while simultaneously eliminating the option of technology-based interactions, will improve the ability of adolescents to properly read and interpret nonverbal social cues. Uhls et al. are able to conclusively prove their theory and provide a clear method, procedure, and analysis of the study’s results. This article will be published in the October 2014 issue of Computers in Human Behavior, so it has not yet been cited by other sources, with the exception of a brief mention in a Newsweek Global article. However, this journal is a credible source and provides clear data and references to back up the findings. This article helps to support my thesis that technology and the internet is effecting our ability to read social cues, causing our emotional intelligence to be drastically impacted.

Walthier, J. B., & D’Addario, K. P. (2001). The impacts of emoticons on message interpretation in computer-mediated communication. Social Science Computer Review, 19(3), 324-347.

Walthier and D’Addario explore the empirical impacts of emoticon usage on the interpretation of messages in online text-based communications. This article provides key information for my research paper. Not only does it support my argument that emoticon usage can impact the interpretation of online messages similar to nonverbal cues in face-to-face interactions, but it also provides key background information. This article discusses the possible origins of emoticons and smilies (it appears that it’s difficult to nail down the exact time/place/creator). It discusses their usage and the various interpretations we make upon seeing an emoticon or smilie. It also provides the methodology and results of Walthier and D’Addario’s experiment, the results of which show that emoticons have a greater impact on interpretation of a message than verbal content. This article is a reliable source of information, cited by several other papers. It also includes a lengthy list of references.

Reading Response #3

In the article titled, “Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?”, Ayers discusses scholarship in the digital age. Ayers (2013) defines this concept of digital scholarship as “disciplined-based scholarship produced with digital tools and presented in digital form.” Despite the advances we have made in technology, especially in information gathering and sharing, the format of scholarship remains vastly unchanged. Ayers (2013) expresses his disappointment with the lack of progress towards digital scholarship, stating that in the 1990s when the internet was a new technology, the opportunities were limitless in this “place where scholars might want and need to create something new for themselves.”

While there was some movement in the first decade toward the development of new scholarly tools, such as the Perseus Project and the Walt Whitman Archive, the popularity of digital scholarship is lacking. This is due in part to a shortage of opportunities at universities for scholars who are actually willing to dedicate their careers to digital scholarship. Additionally, many scholars think that digital scholarship isn’t worth their time. There is a lack of incentive to enter into new formats, and the academic world as a whole is set up in such a way that printed works are what is valued and rewarded. However, Ayers (2013) does have a solution for this, stating that in order for digital scholarship to advance, it “needs to do things that simply cannot be done on paper.” We need to imagine all of the possibilities that digital scholarship creates, and then put those possibilities into motion. While there is no guarantee that doing so will generate the support digital scholarship needs to thrive, we must at least try.

Ripley also notes this lack of interest in scholarly innovation in “Introduction” from Knowledge Among Men (1966). Ripley addresses the stagnant nature of scholarship, stating that the very foundation of our education system is this idea that we can only learn by reading, and on this “assumption that truth can be learned, second hand, by reading what someone else has written” (p. 8). We have left behind the uncertainty that comes with fieldwork, halting our exploration and search for knowledge through the handling of historical objects. Instead, we have turned to studies that simply “[refine] segments of past discoveries” because there is safety in our financial future there (Ripley, 1966, p. 10). Ripley’s solution is a call for institutes to make historical objects, and the handling of them, a part of the curriculum. Echoing Ayers, Ripley (1966) proclaims that “in the pursuit of knowledge no road should be left unexplored” (p. 9).

While second-hand knowledge contains critical information, I agree that actual interaction with a historical object sparks a greater interest and a desire for more information than merely reading about it. I think that many children, myself included, want to be an explorer or an archaeologist or paleontologist when they grow up. Indiana Jones marathons and trips to DC had me convinced that that was the ultimate career path. However, enough years spent in an education system that encourages memorization and some seriously dry reading, and that interest lost its spark. While not every school may have access to historical objects that can be handled by students, there are alternatives to the rhetoric of read-memorize-repeat. Digital scholarship is one such solution, and U of R’s Digital Scholarship Lab is one such example. The DSL showcases projects that really take advantage of their digital nature, with interactive features, maps, digitized journals, and more, all while reaching a wide and varied audience. It allows for a more hands-on approach to learning, and if more institutes took advantage of the vast possibilities that digital scholarship and object-interaction offer, a new generation of engaged, truly excited scholars would emerge.


Ayers, E. L. (2013, August 5). Does digital scholarship have a future? Educause Review Online. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from

Ripley, S. D. (1966). Introduction. In P. H. Oehser (Ed.), Knowledge among men (pp. 7-11). Washington: Simon and Schuster.

DSL Project Report: “The History Engine”

University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, or DSL, is a digital showcase of unique projects in the fields of social sciences and humanities. These purpose of these projects is to contribute not only to scholarly pursuits at U of R, but also to reach a much wider audience. I believe the DSL’s use of visuals and interactive features, coupled with the text, is the main reason it can successfully reach those both currently in and out of the scholarly field; it’s far more engaging than being faced with just a long, scrolling wall of text.

The project that caught my eye is titled the History Engine. The idea behind the History Engine is to promote learning by doing the work of a historian. By using the Engine in classrooms, professors are able to engage their students on a much more creative and participatory level than they would through textbooks and memorization alone. The Engine promotes an environment where the students write historical articles by performing the same legwork as an actual historian.

The students must conduct research on their given topic by finding sources in university and local archives historical articles, apply that information to the greater historical context of that era, and use their analysis of this information to write their article. Students then post their works onto the Engine’s database. This allows their classmates, as well as people around the country, the chance to read and critique the work and stimulate the conversation.

The Engine maintains its academic integrity because only registered students can contribute to it; the submitted articles are also carefully screened and vetted before being added to the database. The Engine has a great search feature that makes finding articles really easy; there’s even an option to browse tags in case you’re not sure exactly what keywords to use. I think the Engine is a great way to start learning and developing the critical thinking process. While it’s currently aimed at undergraduate students and their professors, I think it has the potential to extend to those still in high school and could create a wonderful foundation for future college students.



Ayers, E. L., Torget, A., & Nesbit, S. (n.d.). The history engine [Scholarly project]. In History engine: Tools for collaborative education and research. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from

Reading Response #2

The superiority of reading on printed paper vs. electronic screens is the key argument in both Jabr’s Why the Brain Prefers Paper and Keim’s Why the Smart Devices of the Future May Be Paper. Jabr starts off his article by stating that over the past two decades, studies have been conducted that show that the brain’s ability to comprehend and recall text read on paper is far greater than when the same text is read on a screen. The tactile aspects and the simplicity of paper are arguably its strongest features. Electronics are becoming more and more user friendly with each new model, but paper still tops screens when it comes to reading text (Jabr, 2013). Screens tax us mentally as we are forced to divide our attention between the text and scrolling and clicking, all while blocking out ads and notifications that clamor for our attention. Unlike the pages of a paper text, we are unable to quickly flip back and forth through sections of the book to clarify what we’re reading or to scan ahead. The physical topography that comes with paper text actually enhances our neural connections and leads to better recall.

Keim agrees with Jabr’s arguments, stating that he himself is among those who prefer “to do their serious reading on paper” (Keim, 2014). Keim has personally experienced the fluidity of information absorbed through an e-reader, acknowledging that what he reads on screen just doesn’t seem to stick in his memory as well as what he reads in print. This could be because Keim’s brain “isn’t that of a true digital native” (Keim, 2014). Another explanation, as previously explored in the article Is Google Making Us Stupid?, is that it’s technology affecting our ability to focus on lengthy texts. Keim proposes that we look at paper as a medium for reading lengthy narratives and scholarly works, while saving our screens for browsing.

I am of like-mind with both Jabr and Keim, and I will always prefer to do my reading on paper. As a voracious reader, I have always loved going into the bookstore or the library and emerging with a pile of books to tear into. While it often contributes to a lack of sleep, there’s something inherently satisfying about seeing the pile of read books steadily outgrow the pile of unread books.

However, after dealing the somewhat inconvenient aspect of lugging around a stack of books on vacation coupled with a book light that never quite worked right, I finally broke down and purchased a Nook GlowLight. While it’s lovely for late night reading, with the crisp e-ink and the side-lighting feature that saves my eyes from the strain of reading on an LCD screen, it’s not the same. I use it because I want to read in the dark, but the feeling that I get from reading on my Nook just isn’t the same. When I hit a climatic part of a novel, I often like to flip back to a previous section of the book where I first had that “a-ha!” feeling that I’d just figured out who the story’s Big Bad is. This just isn’t as feasible with my Nook; without the physical aspect of actually turning and feeling the pages beneath my fingers, I simply lose track of them.

eBooks are convenient, but there’s something about a paper-and-ink book that hits your senses, and I would argue that’s the reason we have a greater recall of print text. The feel of deliciously weighted and textured paper and the hills and dips of the embossed title on the cover; the crisp sound of turning pages, or even the first crack of the book’s spine when you’re a little too enthusiastic; the look of dog-eared, yellowed, and sometimes coffee-stained pages that point to a book that’s been well-read and well-traveled; the distinctly familiar new-book-smell of ink and paper; even the acrid and dusty smell of old texts that can be strong enough to taste – give me an e-reader that can hit all of those marks and I’ll reconsider their worth, but until then, I’ll take paper over screen.


Carr, N. (2008, July 1). Is google making us stupid? The Atlantic. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from

Jabr, F. (2013). Why the brain prefers paper. Scientific American, 309(5), 48-53. Retrieved September 8, 2014 from

Keim, B. (2014, May 1). Why the smart reading device of the future may be … paper. Wired. Retrieved September 8, 2014 from