9.729 reading from screen

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Mon, 15 Apr 1996 22:21:25 -0400 (EDT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 729.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu> (21)
Subject: adaptive technology

[2] From: Joseph Wilson <jwilsona@ruf.rice.edu> (37)
Subject: Re: 9.723 reading from screen

Date: Sun, 14 Apr 1996 19:25:59 -0400
From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu>
Subject: adaptive technology

Chuck Taylor, in Humanist 9.724, reminds us that reading from screen has a
much wider significance when we consider applications of the computer to
help people with various kinds of physical impairment -- "adaptive
technologies", as they are called in these parts. Perhaps it would benefit
us all to understand the full range of these techologies (e.g. in addition,
text-to-speech and speech-to-text systems for the blind) and how well they
do their job. As Taylor suggests, considering these sheds a new light on the
significance of online publishing, which without the author or publisher can
reach equally well both those who read normally and those who do not.

Or can it? Web browsing obviously works for those who are legally blind yet
still sighted, but what about those using text-to-speech systems, for
example? Are the current set of graphical browsers capable of working with
these systems, or are there "plug-ins" to allow them to communication with
these systems? Do those who are blind commonly use lynx to browse the Web?

As the co-editor of an online publication series, I would be very interested
to hear from anyone with recommendations on how to provide Web documents
that work well with the adaptive technologies. The standard advice to use
the "ALT=" attribute in image tags becomes, I would guess, much more
compelling when we consider the entirety of our potential readership.


Date: Mon, 15 Apr 1996 12:09:43 -0500
From: Joseph Wilson <jwilsona@ruf.rice.edu>
Subject: Re: 9.723 reading from screen

I like to read from the screen and I like to read from books; each
obviously has its advantages, and apparently some people subjectively
dislike or have physical problems with the one or the other. What I really
miss in reading from paper is the ability to search for words; I constantly
am thinking: who is this character in the story (did he or she appear
before?), is the piano or the color gray, as just mentioned, perhaps a
leitmotiv?, etc. In reading from paper, I waste lots of time paging back
and forth, often fruitlessly, because of such questions. Perhaps the best
of both worlds would be both together: the book to read from and the
computer text to simultaneously search with.
Two related comments:
1. Paper at first seems handier to make one's own comments on
(assuming it is one's own property), but this can also be done in various
ways with computer texts, most simply by just using italics or bold or such
to make those comments stand apart from the actual text, also by prefixing
them with an asterisk or some other unique character, so that one can
quickly search for them. This has many advantages over penciled comments
on a paper text. I have my students give me their papers on computer disk,
which I make my comments on and give back to them. Thus, for example, when
they give me a corrected copy, I can easily see how they have come to grips
with my suggestions.
2. I love books and have no wish for their departure; however, the
information explosion has made it impossible for libraries to keep up, even
in regard to the physical size of the building. Obviously, electronic
media offer an incredible escape route from the dilemma. I seriously think
any library presently contemplating a physical expansion would do well to
hold off; it seems almost certain that by purchasing at least a good part
of their future acquisitions on electronic media and by cautiously
replacing certain already-owned books and journal with the same in
electronic format, they would be able to get along with their present

Joseph Wilson, Prof. of German
Dept. of German & Slavic
Rice University
PO Box 1892
Houston,Texas 77251
713-527-8101 ext. 3227; home: 713-686-2733; weekends: 409-242-3745