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Anezka Kuzmicova

m-Reading: Fiction Reading from Mobile Devices

6 April 2016

Long-form reading–whether for leisure, work, or education–is becoming increasingly digitized. But researchers worry that reading from digital devices may yield lesser cognitive and affective benefits than reading in print. Pioneering experiments with readers of long-form fiction show that this worry is at least partly warranted. A digital device, it is argued, does not allow readers to engage with a story as deeply as a print book due to different affordances for the reader’s body. In this lecture, embodiment in digital reading will be revisited and reappraised with a special focus on the emerging practice of fiction reading from smartphones and other mobile devices.

To the embodiment perspective that informs above comparisons between digital and print reading (most notably the work of Anne Mangen, University of Stavanger), I will apply an additional situation constraint. The situation constraint entails that the affordances of a reading technology – digital or analogue – should always be considered in relation to a particular environment and situation. Furthermore, readers’ engagement will be redefined so as to encompass fiction-induced experience beyond the instances of reading proper. Finally, I will take a more nuanced look at the range of possible affects playing into one’s interaction with a reading technology. These steps will help expose several positive implications of the mobile device for readers’ engagement.

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