The improvement of new media and the growing collection of digital documents have had a profound impact on reading. It was argued that the development of digital libraries “is participating a general societal trend toward shallower, more fragmented, and less concentrated reading” (Levy,1997)
Previous studies tried to explore reading in the digital environment through examining the evolution of reading or observing how people read documents within a specific period of time. The goal of this study is to explore reading in with the development of new media from a different perspective. This study attempts to investigate reading behavior in the digital environment especially of the college students, who are the most direct users of new technology, by analyzing how students’ reading habits has been changed during their campus life.
The purpose of the essay is to discuss the issues that how the development of new media technology and the change of digital environment impact the college students’ habits. It might be discussed according to the different directions of reading habits including speed, context, place and subjective feelings. The digital reading environment should be a double-edged sword. It depends on how we make use of this new technology.
This study attempts to explore reading with using new media from a different perspective. There are many previous studies concentrated on the change of reading habits in digital environment but few of them had a limit of age, regardless of that there should be a serious gap generation.
To be more specific, there are three methods using to help get enough data support for the study: interview and action research.
Interview is a straight way to discuss the topic with present college students. We can ask the same questions and compare the record script to analyze the change has taken place on those students. Meanwhile, this method gives us more opportunities to know students’ attitude towards their reading habits change because of the new media.
The interview will include usually follow four questions:
- What change on your reading behaviors after using new type of media, such as computer or electric readers?
- Do you think you save much more time finding information in the digital environment? Why?
- What type of articles you would like to read them on the internet or other new media?
- What do you think of the great changes with the development of new media?
The interviewee will be selected randomly in five different universities in Beijing. Three students from each university will guarantee the sample of the answers are universal.
The research tries to investigate how college students’ reading behavior has changed over the past three years by self-reported measures of their overall reading experience (including work-related reading and pleasure reading).Since this study is dependent on participants having an accurate recollection of their overall reading habits over the past three years, careful attention was paid to the adequacy of long-term memories in the design of survey questions and answering scales.
It seems unrealistic to ask people to report detailed changes: however, it is feasible to ask people to report general changes (e.g. increasing, decreasing, no change). If participants do not remember, they can select the “don’t know” category. A pilot study of over 20 individuals was conducted in the spring of 2010 to pre-test the survey questions. The pilot study also confirms the above assumption. Final questions of this study were developed based on the pilot study as well as on other related studies.
Participants were asked to respond to the following questions based on their overall
- reading experience over the past three years:
- time spent on reading;
- percentage of time spent on reading printed documents;
- percentage of time spent on reading electronic documents;
- percentage of time spent on browsing and scanning;
- percentage of time spent on keyword spotting;
- percentage of time spent on in-depth reading;
- percentage of time spent on concentrated reading;
- percentage of documents read one time (one-time reading);
- reading things selectively;
- non-linear reading (e.g. jump);
- sustained attention;
- frequency of annotating printed documents while reading;
- frequency of annotating electronic documents while reading;
- frequency of highlighting printed documents while reading;
- frequency of highlighting electronic documents while reading;
- frequency of printing out electronic documents for reading; and
- preference of document media when reading.
The response categories for questions (1)-(5) include “more time”, “less time”, “no change” and “don’t know”; the response categories for questions (6)-(1)1 include “increasing”, “decreasing”, “no change”, and “don’t know”; for questions (12)-(16) the response categories include “always”, “frequently”, “occasionally”, and “never”; and the response categories for question (17) include “electronic media”, “printed media”, and “either one is fine”.
Two hundred and fifty copies of questionnaires will be distributed in the fall and winter of 2011 in Beijing. 150 copies will be distributed by mail to college students in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Therefore, this is a sample of convenience rather than a random sample. Participants will be informed that the purpose of this study is to explore the impact of digital media on reading behavior. They will be asked to fill out the questionnaires based on their own experiences with reading.
Preliminary results and Discussion
According to the present interview result, though there is not any data to be evidence. Six of eight interviewee believed that the use of new media spent less time to find the information they need. But in return, they wasted much more time surfing the internet and just looking around. As the passages on the net are shorter than on the books before, they also felt more difficult to concentrate on what they were reading for a long time.
Implications of research
Most data in this study are taken from the Chinese college students’ experience. It is generally believed that global reverberations from the impact of digital media on reading will be felt in the young first. However, it is difficult to know what is unique about the college student’s experience when analyzing the impact of digital media on reading behavior in other ages. Nevertheless, an analysis of relevant indicators would provide a sensitive yardstick for anticipating reading behavior with the development of new media. Future research can also extend the findings of this study by investigating similar research problems in different ages.
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