Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain Aren’t the Same Thing.” The point was that you do not read the same when you read from a screen as you do when you read from paper. But this split personality is having trouble living in you side by side. So the end result is that you are beginning to read from paper (books, journals, etc.) the way you do online, especially the little screens we all carry around with us. The problem is that we have adapted to reading online a little too well. Because we have learned too well to read by scanning and skimming (the way we do a Twitter Feed), and we are not reading from the deeper part of your brain, you lose that deep reading part of your brain and it becomes impossible to read without skimming and scanning.
Despite the centrality of the Word in God's self-revelation, individuals reading the Bible did not become routine until the modern age of cheap books, commercial printing, and public education. It is absolutely true that the Reformation happened when it did because of the existence of the printed Word. Prior to the Reformation, the Scriptures were words in the ear not before the eye. The people heard that Word of God. Even well after the Reformation, this continued to be the norm.
With the Reformation came the prospect of a new focus on individual reading and when literacy became normative, the shift from hearing the Word of God to reading it with the eye took place. Although few of us today think about it, this change did not happen until more modern times. We read the Scriptures and it is shocking to us to think that for most of Christian history this Word was heard in the ear -- even such familiar passages as “In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”
from John 1:1, as from Genesis 1, when God created the
world through the Word. The many expressions of the Word of the Lord in Scripture reference primarily an aural word heard in the ear. While this does not exclude the written Word, the written Word was not the normative way people understood or experienced the Word. Yet in a rather quick shift, the normative experience of God's Word was by reading with the eye what was printed on the page. Now, in the fastest change of all, the shift has moved again from paper to pixels.
What is even more important is that this affects reading more than many had first thought. The digital text tends to isolate verses apart from their immediate context so that what is read is lifted from its surrounding and from the Bible as a whole. It is not simply what we remember but how we read it in the first place. A digital Bible may not be exactly the same as a paper Bible -- not because the Word is different but how we encounter it, what we read of it, and what we remember of it changes. We are reading the Bible more -- just as we are reading more -- but the way we read is different. It resembles the way people encountered God's Word through the visual image of stained glass more than the way we read and recall a whole book read from the page. In the end, it will surely affect not only catechesis but preaching. It will also make it harder for us as Christians to understand and appreciate the confessional writings that mark our divisions.
Something to think about. . .