As We May Read (the Transmedia and Interactive editions)

In my spare moments away fromTransmedia Indiana, I’m working on a second Masters at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) in Media Arts & Science with a certfificate in Human-Computer Interaction. It’s an intriguing program particularly with my background. I’m one of those dangerous students: just enough knowledge to get me into trouble.

For my thesis, I’ll be exploring how we read and how that process is changing now that we have interactive environments such as touch-screen tablets and mobile phones. I’ve been working on a series of research studies on what we know about reading in these environments, and this is the latest version of my thinking: a 25-page rumination on reading, authorship, and design in interactive and transmedia environments.

It is neither peer reviewed as of yet nor submitted anywhere. There are a few studies I need to include in this; however, it’s my thinking on what authorship means today.

Thesis: We read differently in interactive environments, but we haven’t explored the idea of what interactivity means in a meaningful way.

Abstract: Digital, interactive environments have created a different “expectation literacy”from users. Unlike printed books, for instance, which have a very linear, author-driven format, interactive computer games have ceded much of the decision making to users. This idea of ceded-control and expectation literacy becomes important as society begins the transition from the printed book to the digital, interactive reading environment. This switch is making us consider three basic components of the reading experience: understanding how we read within interactive environments, determining exactly what it means to author a text in an interactive environment, and figuring out how design fits into the authorship process. Once we have answers (or at least once we are moving towards those answers), we can begin to understand how to make indigenous, interactive stories.

The Design of Authorship #2

This is the second post in my series of reading and interactive environments over at Jane Friedman’s blog.


The role of reading in American society is changing. We need look no further for evidence than research studies aggregated in books such as The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupifies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Dont Trust Anyone Under 30) and Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses that examine the Millennial generation who neither read nor understand the fundamental cognitive structures developed by reading.

It is terrifying to read studies about the negative views of both students and professors in regards to reading. Its even more harrowing when combined with my own experience teaching writing and storytelling.

There are days, it seems, that literate Western Culture is destined for the scrap heap, replaced by a visual, interactive world that requires less cognitive interaction and creates less educated people. (I say this summarizing the research and not as an editorial statement.)

But what if the reading problem isnt as simple as forcing students to read and write more (which we should also do)? What if the problem is that authorship has changed in the digital, interactive age and writers — the keeper of words — have failed to understand their role within this environment?

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How We May Read #1

A few months back, I began writing up my thoughts and research regarding reading and interactive environments over at Jane Friedman’s blog.

I promise very soon Jane that I will return to that endeavor. There’s more to say and my research has been parsed now. Until then, I’m re-posting my work.


In August 2010, I sat down with my friend and colleague Prof. Jennifer George-Palilonis, the head of the graphics sequence at Ball State University’s Department of Journalism, and asked her if she’d collaborate with me on a book project.

However, this wasn’t just a simple book project. This year long project, dubbed Transmedia Indiana, would have multiple layers:

  • We would gather a group of 40-50 students from different majors (journalism, creative writing, public relations, history, theater) to plan, build, finish, and launch the book;
  • The book would be something more than just an interactive, multi-media story — it would extend outside its digital pages and leak into the real world — but the actual book itself would only exist on tablets and eReaders; and
  • This book would use real life artifacts from the Indiana State Museum in a manner similar to the book The DaVinci Code or the movie National Treasure.
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As We May Read

I’m going to begin this little essay with the pitch:

I’m working on a two-year research project that will examine how people read, extract what makes the experience pleasurable, and prototype how that experience can be re-created in a digital environment.

There two reasons I’m doing this:

  • I’ve returned to graduate school, both to update my current skill set and to learn new frameworks for thinking, and this project will be the eventual final project for my schooling; and
  • I believe reading — and storytelling — is at the heart of humanity, and as we move into the digital reading age, I want to explore what that means for us.

If you have some time, please take a few minutes to help me understand how you read today.

My hope is to reach 250 people so that I can create a series of personas related to reading. While I will be publishing this work academically, I will be releasing the results of the survey publicly. (Information wants to be free.)

But I’ll also be sharing this journey with my students (and you) in hopes that they begin to see science, creativity, and school in a different way.


In 1945, Dr. Vannevar Bush — the man who founded the National Science Foundation and revolutionized how Americans perceived science — wrote an amazing think piece in The Atlantic called “As We May Think.”

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Social Media + Your Friendships

Finally, other material in the report indicates that texting is happening in addition to other forms of social interaction. Thus, another interpretation is that teens actually have more access and more informal, casual contact because of texting. This is because texting is woven into the flow of other activities. In essence their friends are always there and always available for a texting "chat."

From the Pew Internet + American Life Project report.

As it turns out, we are more involved with our friends today than weve ever been. We have more access to more information about the people in our lives. We stoke the embers of the fires of friendships using these medias.

Text on, people.

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