A Whole New World
I woke up to no alarm. I stared at the ceiling for a brief moment before reaching for my phone nearby. My hand lethargically fumbled around the night stand, but I finally found it. It’s 11:36 A.M.
It’s time to get up, yet it felt so early. Coffee was the obvious solution.
While waiting for the water to boil, I tried to recall the exciting events that happened the night before. My memory was scattered; immediately after, each train of thought crashed into another, signaling the departure of the next train. The process continued until the aroma of the freshly brewed coffee beans tickled my nose. I brought my coffee mug upstairs, and cracked open my summer book that I promised myself to finish — Michael Pollan’s In the Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.
Michael Pollan discusses the changes in the agricultural and food industry due to lobbying and the revolving door effect (“the movement of high-level employees from public sector jobs to private sector jobs”). Pollan argues, in effect, that the produce consumed suffers from the consequences of corporation and political motives in that food is not as nutritious and diverse as it was a century or two ago. Basically, there’s a lot more food now, but it all sucks.
As I immersed myself in the process of refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup, my mind began to drift. The sugar train’s momentum transferred into my curious mind, and suddenly, I’m googling the health effects of refined sugars, and researching common and surprising products that contain high levels of high fructose corn syrup. Did you know the beloved Easy Mac cheese mix contains dehydrated corn syrup solids? Or that even popular cold medicines use high fructose corn syrup as sweeteners?
It’s ten past 12. I’ve spent around 20 minutes on the assignment, but only a couple of minutes were spent on sustained print reading. I revisited the assignment sheet, and realized that I should probably restart the sustained print reading with more attentiveness… after I check my email and fantasy team.
The sustained twenty minute print reading passed by pretty slowly. Pretty uneventful twenty pages. The homogenous text stunted my mind’s free flowing imagination. I guess the passion for nutrition developed in the summer subsided when the college semester started. I just didn’t care; the words on the page were simply systematic letter combinations organized into paragraph form. The author’s prose felt like a lecture from a socially awkward professor whose jokes are outdated and unoriginal. Ironically, I was more focused on staying focused for the assignment, rather than personalizing the experience, or “joining the adventure.” Needless to say, in those twenty minutes, I didn’t achieve the natural readers’ high.
I retained all the points illustrated during the twenty minutes, not because of genuine interest, but through self-coercion manifested in random annotations of random facts. The subconscious highlighting compensated my limited attention span, which resulted in more highlighting towards the end of the session.
It’s now 12:40 P.M., and I’m excited to enter the digital world.
I didn’t get to read my partner’s multi-modal essay, so I decided to find a pertinent article to my life. As a business major and son of a restaurant owner, I came across Eli Feldman’s “Why the Restaurant Industry is the Most Important Industry in Today’s America.” Feldman’s analysis of the restaurant industry is colloquial and interactive, two characteristics a standard business strategy book would lack.
The digital world offers variety and diversity in content, as well as easy accessibility to whatever comes to mind. When an online article becomes repetitive and boring, I’ll find something else related that catches my attention, or investigate a completely new topic. In this case, my imagination determines the content I read, which naturally motivates me to continue reading. Some would argue that the multi-modal features in online articles are distracting, but in my opinion, those distractions further engage readers in their specific interests. In addition, most digital articles provide communicative features that promote online conversations that incorporate individualized comments with community perspectives. In any domain, direct and indirect participation (posting an opinion and reading an opinion) entails engagement and passion.
Regardless of the position you take in the digital vs. print controversy, it really comes down to preference and interests. Print and digital both offer immersive experiences, and it’s a matter of whether the topic fully intrigues the reader.
I prefer the digital experience. Even though digital content isn’t necessary credible, I enjoy reading it. After all, recent scientific data show that the average human attention span has fallen to 8 seconds, which is lower than the believed attention span of a goldfish. And guess what? I found that trivia on the Internet.