Revisiting the Future of Reading: The Research and Design Behind XFR


Reading is part of how we understand the world, how we share knowledge, how we play, and even how we think. Although reading text is the dominant form of reading, most of the text we read— letters, numbers, words, and sentences—is surrounded by illustrations, photographs, and other kinds of symbols that we include as we read. As dynamic displays migrate into the real world at many scales, whether personal devices, handhelds, or large screens in both interior and exterior spaces, opportunities for reading migrate as well. As has happened continually throughout the history of reading, new technologies, physical forms and social patterns create new genres, which themselves may then combine or collide to morph into something new. At PARC, the RED (Research in Experimental Design) group examined emerging technologies for impact on media and the human relationship to information, especially reading. We explored new ways of experiencing text: new genres, new styles of interaction, and unusual media. Among the questions we considered: how might “the book” change? More particularly, how does the experience of reading change with the introduction of new technologies…and how does it remain the same? In this talk, we’ll discuss the ideas behind the design and research process that led to creating eleven different experiences of new forms of reading. We’ll also consider how our technological context for reading has changed in recent years, and what influence the lessons from XFR may have on our ever-developing online reading experiences.