Writing and reading on paper and screen

Writing and reading using pen and paper is perhaps less valued these days than using a keyboard and screen on PCs and multiple portable gadgets.

However, research initiated by Leopoldina Fortunati of the University of Udine, Italy, shows that, contrary to expectations, students are still keen to write with a pen and read paper documents and books (Fortunati and Vincent 2013). This is despite the fact that more and more activities – including their university coursework - are conducted online using digital devices.

Building on the research questions and methodology in their paper Jane Vincent is leading a cross cultural project for COST Action FP1104 to investigate this topic further.  A qualitative survey has been completed in each of the project member’s institutions, and some are now conducting follow up quantitative studies. Work is due for completion in 2016 with plans in preparation for continuing the studies beyond that date.

Key findings thus far show that students like to use pen and paper for personal messages. They like the smell, the feel and the intimacy of the paper and the emotions that are conveyed via a handwritten note. They also find they retain more information if they write rather than type – especially when revising or taking notes in lectures. More results can be found in the publications by the project team with more in progress.  The UK team comprises Jane Vincent, University of Surrey and Chris Lim University of Dundee.

The international survey team encompasses 11 countries and its lead members are as follows:

  • Germany: Joachim Höflich
  • Russia: Olga Vershinskaya
  • Finland: Sakari Taipale
  • Italy: Leopoldina Fortunati
  • Slovakia: Vladoslav Kaputa
  • Hungary: Rozalia Szentgyorgyvoilgyi
  • Bulgaria: Veska Lasheva
  • Hong Kong: Chung Tai Cheng
  • Portugal: Pedro Isaias
  • Ireland: John O’Sullivan

Naomi Baron of American University Washington D.C. is thanked for her advice with the project.

Publications from this project include:

Kaputa V.,  Paulus H., (2013) Users and attitudes towards print and digital Intercathedra 29(2) 28-34

Fortunati L., Vincent J., (2014) Sociological Insights into writing/reading on paper and writing/reading digitally in Telematics and Informatics 31(1) 39-51 doi:10.1016/j.tele.2013.02.005

Taipale S., (2014) Affordances of reading/writing on paper and digitally in Finland in Telematics and Informatics 32(4) 532-542   http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2013.11.003

Lasheva V., Blazheva A., Lasheva H., (2014) Comparative Qualitative Analysis of the Use of Paper and Computer Journal of Food and Packaging Science, Technique and Technologies, no5 (Bulgaria)

Taipale S., (2015) Bodily dimensions of reading and writing practices on paper and digitally  Telematics and Informatics 9 April 2015 doi:10.1016/j.tele.2015.04.001