When I started this class, I was absolutely terrified. I’ve heard of Dr. May and how much work he asks from his students. But I’d also met him before, and thought any class of his was bound to be interesting. Plus, it fit my schedule perfectly. After seeing Dr. May’s syllabus, though, I wasn’t so sure. I launched forward with the first reading, though, and quite enjoyed it.
This week’s reading was looking at how we read now, specifically how hyper-reading (quickly skimming through an article, or reading in an F pattern, which is often the way we read online) affects our brains and our comprehension. The article by N. Katherine Hayles titled “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine,” was writing back against earlier research which suggested all people exposed to online texts no longer have the capacity to read closely or to focus for long periods of time on a particular text. At one point in the article, Hayles looked at hypertexts, texts displayed on a computer screen with links to other pieces of the text. Hypertexts create an interactive yet fragmented stories, letting the reader create the text with the writer.
The example most academics turn to for hypertext is The Patchwork Girl by Shelley Jackson, but I began wondering how I encountered hypertext stories as I searched for entertainment online. One hypertext I love is Pottermore, the website J.K. Rowlings created to sell e-books of her popular Harry Potter series and on which fans can explore illustrated and interactive scenes from the books themselves to find hidden snippets of text from Rowling, either definitions from the books or notes from Rowling on her ideas and inspiration. Pottermore contains hypertext which makes the books themselves more fun and interactive. Rowling’s old website was great, but this takes interconnectivity to a new level.
Another hypertext where I’ve wasted considerable hours is The Potter Games, a chose-your-own-adventure where you either play as Katniss making her way through Hogwarts or as a Harry Potter Character battling it out in the Hunger Games.
The article continued on to talk about how hypereading can be a good thing, especially when doing research. Hayles agrees close reading is an important part of reading comprehension and literary study, but she also sees the value of online text and combining literature with digital in new and unexpected ways. She encouraged teachers to integrate media with literature, and discusses “Romeo and Juliet: A Facebook Tragedy, ” a project through Literature + which staged Romeo and Juliet on Facebook and examined data through the Friend Graph tool.
Scholars have always been interested in the intersection of Internet interactions and drama, and in my Global Drama class at DBU, we talked about a live chat version of “Waiting for Godot” in which avatars named Didi and Gogo delivered lines from the play, while other chartroom members chimed in occasionally.
More recently, Hank Green and Bernie Su wrote and produced The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a vlog-based version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The story was told mainly from Lizzie’s point of view via Youtube vidoes, but also featured guest bloggers, vlogs from Lydia Bennet, Tumbler posts, and Twitter feeds, letting viewers interact with the characters and see “behind the scenes.” The show recently earned an Emmy award for Original Interactive Program at the Creative Arts Emmys. This shows people are paying attention to the way entertainment is shifting as the world become more and more immersed in social media and interactive media.
There are countless other projects tying literature to social media, and spin-offs are in the works from the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, including Emma Approved, scheduled to air Fall 2013. This blend of new media and old has already captured millions of viewers, and it helps young readers interact with texts previously perceived as old and dry. Hopefully teachers will find ways to implement all the amazing content on the web today and even have their students add to the media revolution, which just might make them read those texts a little closer.