In a media environment that bombards us relentlessly with “content” (once called “reading matter”), who can honestly claim to both consume and comprehend everything they come across on their filtered Internet?
Content—which includes everything from Facebook updates to Twitter rants to Tumblr posts to think pieces—has ceased to be created for the purpose of being read and understood. Instead, it exists chiefly, for mere encounter.
It stands to reason therefore, that the goal of emergent technologies is to help us cram more and more interactions with such content—for it isn’t “reading”—into thinner and thinner slices of time.
Spritz is a new speed-reading app that promises to do just that: to accelerate your reading by the flashing of key words in a fixed position on a digital display.
This method, known as Rapid Serial Visual Presentation, isn’t new, but Spritz has improved on it, by adding an “Optimal Recognition Point” on the display—a red letter—which its developers claim helps readers recognize each word most effectively.
You can read a “Harry Potter” volume in an hour. But you can’t hope to understand it, at least, not in full. Speed-reading sacrifices comprehension for efficiency.
Research in the 1970s showed convincingly that as the text speed increases, the capacity to understand and retain it falls rapidly. Reason: there isn’t adequate time for the brain to process all the information that’s whizzing past.
Spritz only makes matters worse. If traditional reading is reading with an intent to comprehend, reflect, and ruminate, then Spritzing is reading with an eye only toward completion, nothing beyond.
But take away comprehension from reading, what’s left of it?