Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

You Know You Love It: Screen Reading

Taking a play out of Nicholas Negroponte’s playbook on our transition from atoms to bits, Cory Doctorow makes one of the most concise points I’ve heard with regard to why the more common form factors of art are beginning to shift:

“Take the record album. Everything about it is technologically pre-determined. The technology of the LP demanded artwork to differentiate one package from the next. The length was set by the groove density of the pressing plants and playback apparatus. The dynamic range likewise. These factors gave us the idea of the 40-to-60-minute package, split into two acts, with accompanying artwork. Musicians were encouraged to create works that would be enjoyed as a unitary whole for a protracted period—think of Dark Side of the Moon, or Sgt. Pepper’s.”

In general he was talking about people claiming to not like reading on screens; making the point that we all read on screens these days. ((At least if you’re reading this, you are!)) What we don’t like is a long format on screens. I’ve made the argument for a time that our eyes are simply not evolutionarily used to staring at the sun. Paper is a reflective medium, screens are emissive. This means that the light is more unidirectional like a light bulb, then scattered randomly like most (unpowered) surfaces. ((I’ve not seen or found the human factors study, but I am convinced that looking at a screen causes more eye strain than paper)) That’s mainly why I think the form factors of most art (for all media) will shift to smaller bite size bits until screen media becomes reflective again.

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