Screens, Research and Hypertext

Powered by 🌱Roam Garden

Mobile Screens and Lean-Back Reading

Mobile phones aren't made for lean-forward reading.

Mobile phone screens are good at accomplishing discrete activities with defined workflows. Indeed, they're much better than a desktop computer for things like:

Paying for gas.

Depositing a check.

Scanning groceries at the market.

Checking in to a flight.

Buying something from an e-commerce shop.

They're also amazingly good at a certain kind of reading—the lean-back kind, where you're meant to consume content in a linear fashion. Indeed, the (relatively) small screen distills reading to its purest form—one where you can't even see much more than the paragraph you're currently reading.

Phones truly excel at providing content for what Ben Thompson calls "the available time around intent," those moments when you're waiting in line or riding the train or any of the million other situations in which we have a few minutes to kill while waiting for something.

The time around intent is perfect for the feed. Content streams by and we dip in and out as something catches our eye. It's all short enough to be consumed before the next register opens up.

There is value in the feed. It's an important part of a content everywhere approach to transmedia storytelling. Sometimes the tweet version of a research report is all someone really needs.

But leaning back in the time around intent is not how research is done. Research is a sprawling mess. It needs more real estate than a phone provides.

For more context

What is lean-back reading?

What to read next

What's the alternative to the feed?

Other items of interest

What would this mean for presenting research online?

What is transmedia storytelling?

How do people read research content, anyway?