Students reading traditional print in a time where this was the norm for the general population in gathering information.

Print Variability In New Media




Casey Ferguson

This week I started to think about how the switch from print to digital media affected my reading/writing experiences. I am more inclined to read physical print writings because I can connect to the author more easily. The act of holding a book creates this mental connection. I am able to understand the tone, main focus, and unity of the piece by creating a voice for the author. Whereas when I read digital print I have difficulty establishing this feeling or finding a voice at all.

There seems to be a loss that occurs when print switches to digital print. I think it is essential to determine how digital media is approached by both readers and writers. How can one eliminate this disconnect or disengagement?

Text Online vs. Words on the Page

There is a way we go about reading the letters on a piece of paper. Old media, new media, and knowledge include an idea of Eric Havelock. “Readers never question what letters are. Instead, they just decode them as they read to get the meaning of the words of the writer; they do not stop to “notice the size and shape of the letters” (Havelock 33).

The difference with digital print is that there are so many ways of changing the text you see. Different fonts, text sizes, colors, and other manipulations. This makes the letters on a screen seen for what they are in comparison to see-through on a page.

It seems that Lev Manovich’s term “variability” plays a role in this debate of new versus old media. The idea that digital media has an infinite amount choices and versions of media creates this confusion I talk about earlier. Applen brings up an interesting point made by Lev Manovich. “It is this principle of variability that has led many to believe that new media technologies celebrate individuality, as we all have our own choices about how we engage with the electronic documents we work our way through, what Manovich calls the “logic of new media” versus the “logic of industrial mass society,” where everyone had to “enjoy the same goods” such as traditional print and cinema” (Manovich 41).

I challenge this idea. I believe that traditional media or print allows for a deeper meaning to be established for ourselves. When reading digital print this is a disconnect that makes it much more difficult to form our own opinions or ideas on topics because of the variability of the environment.

When I read a book or watch a movie I can interpret it in my own way and make connections to my own life. Online it is hard to not be influenced by other versions of said media or the opinions of others.

Finding A Solution

I think determining a solution is subjective. It depends on how you feel you consume media in the most effective way possible. Me, I prefer physical print or audio readings. I think my brain consumes the information from the texts more in these forms. That’s just the way I learn. This is what we all need to build an understanding of now more than ever.

What is the most effective way of learning or consuming information for you?

If one can understand how they prefer to consume media then from there they can work on developing ways online that aid this way of learning. I do not believe that there is a way (other than audiobooks) to establish or mimic the connectivity and relationship between authors and readers in traditional print. But, with the growing remedies in technological growth, I am sure that more will appear with the use of AI.

The main solution is teaching this in education more directly. We all know, “everyone learns differently”. But now, in a world of primarily digital media, I think students and really just the general population need to be more aware of what works for them online. Once people are more aggressive with setting boundaries online to aid the way they maneuver and work these ominous environments the more the personal gap will close.

Do I believe that this new age of digital media is more effective than traditional print media? Personally, no. But I believe that if more effort is put into establishing an individual space online that had boundaries for individuals I think people will feel less lost.


One response to “Print Variability In New Media”

  1. Chris Friend Avatar

    You say you’re challenging Manovich’s view, but I think your examples actually align with his assertions. His point about variability is that New Media allows each of us to create our own media landscapes, with sources and content that we select. There is no mass reaction or mass consumption because everyone has a customized feed.

    By contrast, mass media, by definition, sends the same content to the entire mass population. People saw, processed, and digested the same content, more or less together. In the early days of television’s nightly news, only three stations ruled America’s airwaves. The broadcasters (notably upper-middle class, middle-aged, straight, white men) told the audience what happened recently and, to an extent, what they should think about it. The next day, it was a safe bet that at least one-third of the people you passed on the streets had watched the same thing. Those who didn’t probably watched one of the other two available stations. Everyone had to “enjoy the same goods” because they had no choice.

    Today, we don’t have that same shared experience, and discussing current events involves starting from vastly different places, requiring negotiation and positioning our ideas before we can engage in meaningful discourse. The variability in our source material alone creates fractures.

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