Reading on Screen

  • Adamson, Ross (CoI)
  • Thomas, Bronwen (PI)

Project Details


Today's technologies allow readers to access content and share their interpretations on a scale and at a pace hither to impossible. However, some readers find these technological changes bewildering or are angered by the perceived threat to an activity that has defined them since childhood. Book retailers and publishers rarely even acknowledge such readers, while academic research is often guilty of treating readers like data. Discussion of digital reading is also beset by reliance on crude stereotypes such as those of the digital native or the silver surfer.

Two previous projects on digital reading based at Bournemouth University ('Researching Readers Online' and the 'DigitalReading Network') set out to engage with readers in both face-to-face and virtual environments. Both projects used avariety of methods to stimulate discussion with different user groups and stakeholders.

Although we set out to explore 'bigdata' approaches to reading, one of the main conclusions of our research was that the lived experiences of readers, sodiverse and often contradictory, is something that quantification is unable to fully capture. We were also surprised to discover that experts in the field argued strongly for the need to find creative means to capture the fluidity and complexity of reading experiences, and to map the myriad ways in which readers increasingly migrate across devices.

Bringing readers together to share their experiences forces into the open the complex and contradictory attitudes and emotions that the digital revolution has excited. Allowing space for reflection and discussion raises awareness of both the possibilities and problems that new technologies bring, and provides new insights into the affordances of the digital.

Reading on Screen was a new collaboration between the universities of Bournemouth and Brighton, bringing together researchers and practitioners skilled in managing interdisciplinary projects, designing public engagement activities andproducing multimodal stories.

The project used innovative methods to capture the stories of readers living through the momentous changes brought about by technological advances and to share those experiences with new audiences to stimulate further discussion and debate.

Readers had already been taking to social media and vlogging to vent their frustrations and document their reading journeys, but not everyone had the necessary skills or confidence to use these platforms, and the views represented were therefore limited in scope.The project was designed in consultation with organisations dedicated to supporting readers, as well as stakeholders from the creative industries and public sector.

Reaching out to include new groups of readers from different geographical locations, we collaborated with DigiTales, a participatory media company, to host workshops that will introduce readers to new skills, as well as giving them the opportunity to creatively map their personal reading journeys.

Project team:
Bronwen Thomas, Bournemouth University
Ross Adamson, University of Brighton
Isobel Creed, University of Brighton
Tricia Jenkins, DigiTales (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Key findings

The benefits of digital storytelling as a tool for public engagement have long been recognised by industry, the public sector and academia. We used the workshop model to enable participants with limited or no technical capacity to work withsound, words and visual imagery to express themselves and to produce stories that are highly engaging.

The stories provided a valuable resource for schools, reading charities and libraries, stimulating debate and demonstrating the effectiveness of digital storytelling for empowering participants. All of the stories will be available via a dedicated website and video sharing sites such as YouTube.

A public exhibition of the stories at the conclusion of the project further stimulated public interest and debate around the issues raised.
Effective start/end date17/04/1716/02/18


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council


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