Absorbing Text : Rereading Speed Reading

Jones, Nathan (2017) Absorbing Text : Rereading Speed Reading. APRJA, 6 (1). ISSN 2245-7755

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Speed reading applications such as Spritz isolate individual words from bodies of text and display them sequentially, often with the middle letter highlighted. Known as Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), its proponents suggest it can accelerate reading speed from the average of 100-200 words per minute, to over 1000. Rather than turning away from speed readers because of their surface involvement in the equation ‘fastness = progress’, we examine how this new, temporal form of text might inaugurate a return to the technical and material fundamentals of reading – and what alternative ways of thinking through our relation to new textualities this might offer. This allows us to pose questions about technicities and materialities that converge upon the act of reading, but are not reducible to it. The paper is significant because it is the first critical reading of speed readers for media art circles, connecting it to electronic literature and new materialist discourse. The claims made for speed reading applications by commercial companies such as Spritz and Spreader are weighed against clinical research and set within emerging theoretical frameworks, setting the stage for a critical design and creative practice using and abusing speed reader-type technology. We begin by introducing our initial research to date with this new machinic form of reading, and go on to explore what alternate conceptual and practical applications, beyond simply speeding up for the sake of productivity, it may afford, particularly within poetic, performative, and typographic realms. This paper was presented at the Aarhus University/Transmediale workshop in Brussels in 2016, and as a performance at the Transmediale festival 2017. This theoretical work also provided the research outline for a series of art installation works the contributors presented in the exhibition Relearning to Read (Grundy Art Gallery 2017), where it was itself presented via speed reader.

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20 Apr 2018 12:14
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13 Nov 2023 00:21