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People of the Screen Essay

In the article “People of the Screen” published by The New Atlantis, People of the Sun, Christine Rosen (2008) talks about the demise of the book—the actual written book printed in paper. She argues that the recent, popularity attained by digital formats of literature like e-books caused the downfall of the book. “Digital literacy” has transferred reading from paper to the screen—screen reading. Screen reading has become so popular that the future of books may be threatened.

The article focuses primarily on a particular product that seems to be of greatest threat to the printed book—Amazon’s Kindle, an e-reader that allows users to download and read e-books from the web. Rosen (2008) attacks this genre of literacy by showing that this shift to digital literacy is not making humans any smarter because of the drawbacks attributed to screen reading. What We Have Become Years ago, the thought of reading sentences off a brightly lit screen for long periods of time was already considered a sore for the eyes.

Now, people do most of their readings in front of the computer screen—hence the term screen reading. Despite assurances from those self-proclaimed experts that this new form, digital literacy, is for the benefit of the human race, Rosen fears that ultimately, e-books would permanently replace the printed book, and that the generation that used to be people of the book has now become people of the screen. In a sarcastic tone, she says, “Shouldn’t we simply acknowledge that we are becoming people of the screen? Not people of the book? ” (Rosen, 2008, p. 2 ).

The Less We Read, the Less We Know Reading is our primary source of knowledge. It provides far more superior and useful information that media cannot provide to us through a screen. Unfortunately, reading, just for the sake of it, has declined in recent years. “Nearly half of Americans ages 18-24 read no books for pleasure” (Rosen, 2008, p. 3 ). If this is indeed true, then it could be blamed partly to the emergence of the new digital literacy; screen reading does not and will not replace the pleasures and knowledge that we get from traditional print reading.

There are also some studies that were done that can relate active participation to the community to the practice of reading. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has published a report that may have found a link between reading and civic engagement. “The NEA report also found out that regular reading is strongly correlated with civic engagement, patronage of the arts, and charity work” (Rosen, 2008, p. 3). Technically, it does not prove that reading makes us smart, but a person who actively participates in community work is smarter than a person who does not, at least in the communities’ perspective.

As further proof to the powers of traditional reading, the University of Michigan conducted a different study that shows “only reading novels on a regular basis outside of school is shown to have a positive relationship to academic achievement” (cited in Rosen, 2008, p. 3 ). These studies only prove that not only is traditional reading more likely to make us responsible citizens, but they also show that traditional reading are more likely to bring us academic success. Therefore, screen reading brought about by digital literacy is not making us any smarter. Disadvantages of Screen Reading

Screen reading experience cannot replace the joys and benefits of traditional print reading. As an added drawback, people who read from the screen produces excessive amounts of dopamine, a natural chemical in the brain that can also be induced through harmful, not to mention, illegal drugs. People with excess dopamine take more risks and are unable to think clearly about the consequences of their actions (Rosen, 2008, p. 4 ). The experience of screen reading may not be similar to taking in illegal drugs, but it has, according to neurological studies, the same effects.

Hence, through screen reading, we are actually stimulating our brain to produce more dope than normal—a digital high through screen reading. David A. Bell, a historian from John Hopkins University, described his experience on screen reading as distracting and therefore causes information loss. “I interrupt myself even more often than usual…a week later, I find it remarkably hard to remember what I have read” (cited in Rosen, 2008, p. 4 ). This is due to the fact that screen reading is done using a computer, a device that can provide a lot of distractions because of the things you can do with it.

If screen reading makes it hard for us to focus on reading, and retain information that we got from our reading, then screen reading is definitely not making us any smarter. E-books are not making us smarter; their effects can be seen through the younger generations. Children are easily distracted, and since e-books can be read through a computer screen or a gadget such as the Amazon Kindle, learning would be hindered. “Anyone who has read a book to a toddler knows that one experience with an e-reader would yield more interest in the buttons and the scroll wheel than the story itself (Rosen, 2008, p. 7 ).

Distraction is the main problem of screen reading. Even if gadgets are developed for its sole purpose, the simplicity of the printed book cannot be replaced by any modern invention. Conclusion The shift to digital literacy is not making us smarter. It may still be argued that it does not also make us smarter because the process of reading through a screen definitely provides more distractions than reading from a traditional book. If distractions are present, educational growth would be hindered, and therefore, screen reading does not make us smarter. Reference Rosen, C. (2008) People of the Screen, The New Atlantis, 22, 20-32.


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