project . 2013 - 2015 . Closed

Digital Reading Network

UK Research and Innovation
Funder: UK Research and InnovationProject code: AH/K005774/1
Funded under: AHRC Funder Contribution: 30,386 GBP
Status: Closed
30 Jun 2013 (Started) 30 Mar 2015 (Ended)
Today digitisation is changing the way we consume and respond to literary texts, as we can download books instantaneously, read the same book across a range of mobile devices, and discuss our views with others on online discussion forums and book groups. Digitisation also opens up new possibilities for researching the activities of readers of literary texts, allowing us to detect patterns and trends in their behaviour, and to understand how they relate to others within their social networks. The scale and extent of these transformations of an important aspect of our cultural heritage means that there is a pressing need for research that is responsive to the changes taking place. It is also vital that we examine the truth behind many of the assumptions made about the decline of reading and the habits and preferences of so-called 'digital natives'. Although it has frequently been argued that access to literature has been greatly increased by digital devices, we must also examine the ways in which they may limit reading, for example by fragmenting the experience with constant distractions. Moreover, while online communities are often hailed as democratic, hierarchies soon emerge along with bullies and lurkers, making an analysis which is reliant on statistics alone unsatisfactory. Finally, while digitisation provides reams of data that are there for the taking, we must ensure we conduct research in this area with an attitude of reciprocal exchange rather than one-way surveillance. We need to explore and apply methodologies that allow for participatory research: focusing not on individual bits of information ("data") but instead evaluating the ongoing relationships between reader, text and medium. The proposed network brings together leading academics from a wide range of disciplines interested in collaborating and sharing best practice to address these important issues. The network also include stakeholders whose views are vital in shaping policy and commercial interests, as well as forum moderators, book club members and teachers and librarians who all work closely with readers in both real life and virtual communities. Through the network website and accompanying blog, there will be opportunities for the widest level of participation as interested parties will be able to comment on and contribute to the work of the network, and researchers will collaborate to produce a series of papers and journal articles focusing on specific issues arising from these ongoing discussions. The network will be managed by a Steering Group, with input from an International Advisory Committee and a number of consultants with expertise in digital web design, digital publishing and forum moderation. A series of themed workshops will identify key research questions and the international symposium will provide an opportunity to present the ongoing research of the network members to a wider audience. It is expected that the work of the network will extend long beyond the lifetime of the award, but the opportunity to meet regularly around a series of focused activities and events in its early years will be invaluable in establishing and consolidating shared interests and areas of expertise. Key benefits and outcomes of the network will include - new approaches and insights into digital reading practices benefiting industry, policy-makers and academia - enhancing our understanding of literary reading, benefiting teachers and students of literature - connecting with real and virtual communities of readers to harness their enthusiasm in ways that enhance research and pedagogy - developing new methods and theories which respond to the transformations affecting reading in a digital age.
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