American magazine, May 2013
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news If you are reading this story in the print magazine, you’re likely comprehending it differently from someone scanning it online. Whether one medium is superior to the other is up for debate; that they’re poles apart is not. College of Arts and Sciences professor Naomi Baron is exploring both worlds in her forthcoming book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World. “The real issue is whether the ways we are reading on screens are altering our notion of what it means to read in the first place,” says Baron, executive director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning. “Without passing judgment about whether one should read in one format over another, what’s clear is the amount of reading we’re going to do, the seriousness with which we take our reading, is going to change. Our notion of education is going to change, and our notion of what reading is about will alter as well.” Among Baron’s primary concerns about e-readers is how easily users can become distracted. “The fact that on screens we don’t read long, connected text is leading people to write differently, and once they write differently, mainly in shorter texts, our expectations as readers are going to change,” she says. “So it becomes this snake chasing its own tail phenomenon, whereby we’re going to change the notion of what it means to read and also to write. If you write longer prose, are people going to read it?” Baron’s book will be about 90,000 words. “I hope it will be interesting, but the number of people willing to read 90,000 words is shrinking,” she says. This story is 282 words. Did you read them all? Pause, rewind, listen—to a prerecorded lecture while tackling an assignment. Interact live with a classmate four time zones away. Right-click to raise your hand for discussion. This is the milieu of a new online master’s degree in international relations set to launch at the School of International Service in May. The first top-tier graduate program of its kind nationally, it will offer concentrations in sustainable international development or global security and conflict resolution. The pioneering two-year program will use a familiar social networking platform to create scheduled Brady Bunch–style discussions in which 15 students appear on the screen via web cams. “Sections may have students in them from several continents with multiple experiences and points of view,” explains program director and SIS professor Stephen Silvia. Students will do self-paced readings and course work between the live discussions—a format that encourages participation and echoes, through technology, the complex world of international affairs. It’s a twenty-first-century program designed for busy adults. Learn more at IRonline. american.edu. NEW SPECIES NAMED FOR AU biologist SPOTLIGHT ON MIDWIVES trayless = Way less waste Biologist Christopher Tudge is in crab heaven after fellow researchers named a new species of crustacean for him. Areopaguristes tudgei, a hermit crab that Tudge discovered off the coast of Belize in 2010, joins more than 3 million other known species. SOC documentarian Brigid Maher explores the changing face of midwifery in The Mama Sherpas. Funded by a Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., grant and slated for release in 2015, the film follows Washington midwives and their patients. Going “trayless” in the AU dining hall led to a 32 percent reduction in food waste and a 27 percent reduction in dish use, according to a new study by environmental scientist Kiho Kim and Stevia Morawski, CAS/BS ’12. Let’s talk #americanmag 11