We’ve talked a lot about how digital technology affects our interpretation of texts. We’ve also talked about how it alters the way in which we read texts by changing the medium through which those texts are delivered or on which they are assessed.
But what about changing the actual makeup of the text itself? Check out this new reading technology called Spritz. The technology’s developers aim to improve reading speed by making it completely unnecessary for the reader to move his or her eyes from line to line, or even from word to word; each word appears, instead, in a “redicle” (a play on words between ‘red’ and ‘reticle’) in the reader’s field of vision. In addition, the app centers each word on what Spritz calls its “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP), which Spritz claims cuts down on the time that takes for the brain to decipher the word.
Spending thirty seconds or so with the demo is certainly an…eye-opening experience (sorry for that one). This Elite Daily article encapsulates the technology’s efficiency, and the implications of that efficiency, with its headline: “This Insane App Will Allow you to Read Novels in Under 90 Minutes.” Sounds like a dream come true for anyone taking multiple 300 or 400 level Geneseo English courses. It’s easy to see how Spritz could prevent fatigue and distraction while reading, since the technology makes reading is less physical work (not to mention, it’s hard for a reader to be distracted by a flashing ad in his or her periphery when the flashing thing is actually the text itself). Anticipating fears that reading this quickly would prevent readers from actually getting anything out of the text that they’re being presented, Spritz also claims that their technology improves reading comprehension. The company argues that the time that a reader would usually spend scanning a text with his or her eye is instead spent on processing the content that it conveys.
But what is lost by not having words that are arranged on a page, be that a paper page or digital page? As English majors, we are aware that the meaning of a text is as much shaped by its form as its content. Under the Spritz system of reading, poems would lose line breaks and any enjambment. There seems to be no convenient way, either, to do the returning to previous lines that such enjambment often impels. And forget about concrete poetry or any other work that relies heavily on graphical codes. Assuming that the technology is intended for longer pieces of prose that demand (arguably) less attention to sentence-level form, this may not be an issue. I also wonder, however, how having a constant and electronically-set reading pace will affect the reader’s reception of meter in poetry and prose alike.