The Impact of Digital Bible Reading

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Aug 22 2019 4:10 PM

Christianity Today just published a very interesting article on the impact of digital Bible reading.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2019/spring/people-of-ebook.html

Probably, like most of you, I've heard more and more research about this. Here is a quote from the article that is typical.

Many survey respondents complained that digital text tends to isolate verses apart from their immediate context as well as the Bible as a whole. These respondents noted that the physical layout of the biblical text is important for comprehension, memory, and “correct interpretation.”

Furthermore, despite findings that digital Bibles result in increased Bible reading by many users, challenges to memory and comprehension “persisted even when the frequency of reading actually increased.” As one survey participant reported, “I probably read the Bible more (more often) but possibly less deeply.”

I've been thinking quite a bit about this later and have not personally found that my digital Bible study has suffered compared to my previous paper-version study. Perhaps it may be that I grew up in a paper context and migrated to a digital one.

I am curious to hear what others are observing about this. Do you think that digital Bible reading/study is negatively impacting your "comprehension, memory and correct interpretation"? Or do you think that it may be different within a Logos environment?

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PetahChristian | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 5:31 PM

Spending time with a physical text helps us recall information we've seen. We also tend to learn where to open a book, when locating what we're looking for. Handwritten notes contribute to comprehension and retention. These physical processes become associated with and reinforce memory.

Perhaps there's also something rewarding in holding a book in your hands, which emotionally affects how we remember. (I'd like to think so, but that just might be me.)

Digital reading and notetaking tend to lack those associations which also help us to recall, as well as remember.

Logos offers much power and convenience in terms of searches and study, but I do think we miss out from the lack of natural Bible markup and notetaking in the margins.

Bruce Dunning:
Do you think that digital Bible reading/study is negatively impacting your "comprehension, memory and correct interpretation"?

Time and aging is probably having a more significant impact on my memory and retention. Confused

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Jan Krohn | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 5:34 PM

In Germany we now have a Bible version that is optimized for digital reading, both in layout as well as in translation.

https://www.logos.com/product/166058/basisbibel-neues-testament-und-psalmen

Whether that's a helpful or unhelpful development is probably a matter of opinion... As for me, I don't use it very often.

The biggest danger are distractions by emails, WhatsApp, push notifications from "Simpsons Tapped Out" etc. For that reason I have a dedicated device for Bible reading and study only. At Bible study group, we all use digital tools. But then, I'm the only non millennial in the group. At church, I'd say Bible usage during the service is low because of the projector.

Bruce Dunning:
Or do you think that it may be different within a Logos environment?

Absolutely. Logos provides the tools to make digital Bible study even deeper than paper Bible study. However, most people I know don't use Logos but much simpler tools such as YouVersion.

Speaking of Christianity Today, has anyone ever received the complimentary one-year subscription?

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 6:01 PM

Bruce Dunning:
I've heard more and more research about this. Here is a quote from the article that is typical.

A good book on memory is 'Searching for Memory' by Daniel Schacter. It's primarily 'brain' based ... what happens when something bad hurts part of the brain, and how the brain tries to re-build.

One interesting part is that memory has much to do with how it arrived ... auditory, visual, language, all different parts of the brain, and linked through the arriving channel. Re-covering a memory (verses, grouping, etc) can even involve a font, a size, and placement on a page. All varying from person, to person.

That's why I think EastTN's comment on translations today was so apropo ... the recipient of the gospel as key. Each themselves.


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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 6:16 PM

Jan Krohn:
The biggest danger are distractions by emails, WhatsApp, push notifications from "Simpsons Tapped Out" etc. For that reason I have a dedicated device for Bible reading and study only.

I totally get this part of the challenge of a digital environment and great discipline is needed not to get distracted. I was recently exposed to a book called "Digital Minimalism" by Cal Newport - http://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/ that showed how distractions are a major factor in lack of productivity these days. Studies show that our effectiveness is reduced by 10x when we shift focus even for a few minutes which is pretty normal in our "connected" world. I've been working to try to focus more - especially when in the digital world.

Jan Krohn:
Logos provides the tools to make digital Bible study even deeper than paper Bible study. However, most people I know don't use Logos but much simpler tools such as YouVersion.

I too think using Logos in a disciplined way can make a huge difference and agree that just reading a Bible app without context can be a big challenge.

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Robert M. Warren | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 6:19 PM

I hereby invoke the Marshall McLuhan quote tax.

$50 US on every quote. Surcharge if the words 'medium' or 'message' are included.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 6:19 PM

PetahChristian:
Logos offers much power and convenience in terms of searches and study, but I do think we miss out from the lack of natural Bible markup and notetaking in the margins.

I'm not convinced that using Logos for study is less effective than taking notes in a physical margin. I think the key thing is actually engaging your mind and heart in the text.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 6:26 PM

Denise:

A good book on memory is 'Searching for Memory' by Daniel Schacter. It's primarily 'brain' based ... what happens when something bad hurts part of the brain, and how the brain tries to re-build.

One interesting part is that memory has much to do with how it arrived ... auditory, visual, language, all different parts of the brain, and linked through the arriving channel. Re-covering a memory (verses, grouping, etc) can even involve a font, a size, and placement on a page. All varying from person, to person.

That sounds like a good read. (Do I have to read a paper version? Smile)I don't doubt that there are benefits of receiving information in the same location such as on a page or font size but I also think that it must vary from person to person.

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Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 6:59 PM

Bruce Dunning:
I am curious to hear what others are observing about this. Do you think that digital Bible reading/study is negatively impacting your "comprehension, memory and correct interpretation"? Or do you think that it may be different within a Logos environment?

Ah, nostalgia is not what it used to be. :-)

Does reading digitally change the way we perceive and receive the message? Yes, in subtle ways it does. These changes can both detract (e.g. being interrupted by notifications) and enhance. A balanced response discusses both.

Personally, I never use a paper Bible any more. I read on a large-screen phone, and research on a laptop with 2nd monitor. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages by an order of magnitude, including piquing my curiosity to read and research more.

Yes, it means managing interruptions, and I’m ruthless. Zero interruptions from social media apps: I’ll go there and read them when I’m ready.

Of course, Logos isn’t just a reading app; it’s is a research tool that empowers us to understand things in ways previous generations could not. For example, last week I asked it to show me all the places where Augustine used baptism NEAR “original sin”. It’s a link protestants are not always aware of, but anyone with an interest in soteriology needs to understand how this giant of the church shaped the way we receive salvation (long before Luther). This would be > a week’s work on paper; < an hour in our digital research world.

That’s why don’t use paper anymore. There’s no comparison.

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 7:03 PM

Bruce Dunning:
I'm not convinced that using Logos for study is less effective than taking notes in a physical margin.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I certainly prefer digital for many reasons. However: I have known a few godly men (and women!) who had "that one bible" for many years (if not nearly a lifetime). They had notes scribbled in them and knew exactly where everything was. They had their own form of crosslink references. I can understand the advantages of that and think it was something special. 

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mab | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 8:01 PM

I spend a lot more time in Logos now. But I am still using a print Bible for daily reading. It's not even a question in my mind, but that might change. I really do like a large tablet and the bigger font I can get. 

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Sue McIntyre | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 9:06 PM

Interesting to consider the different opinions.

I have found that over time a pattern has emerged of preferring a paper bible for devotional reading and electronic formats for digging deeper and academic study. Picking up a physical Bible brings a sense of anticipation that is difficult to define.

As far as I can tell there is no difference in reading comprehension. I am a big fan of electronic versions which enable quick access to background material and that is my first choice for study, but find that holding a physical copy is more personal somehow for prayer and liturgical reading.    

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 10:44 PM

Distractions are necessary for survival in a jungle. Reading a book for a long time or listening to one sinle voice in a meeting causes me to sleep.

In Africa one person may read a book aloud and a group of people is sitting around listening and they comment the reading regularly (often together as a choir). That kind of process might be quite natural for humans and I just wonder how to apply it in our current igital environment.

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 22 2019 11:50 PM

Bruce Dunning:
I've been thinking quite a bit about this later and have not personally found that my digital Bible study has suffered compared to my previous paper-version study. Perhaps it may be that I grew up in a paper context and migrated to a digital one.

Thanks for starting this topic, Bruce. I've been thinking about it a lot too. Some random musings:

I know both my personal bible reading and my deeper study have been enhanced because of Logos. Due to my location and circumstances, I simply would not be able to have all the resources I have in Logos if I had to get them in print. Plus being able to study in the dark has a lot of advantages for me. At this stage, I've very satisfied with what I'm doing in my personal study.

At my church, the majority of people use a digital Bible (usually phones) both in services and in Bible studies. Yes, they get distracted by other things on them. It's been my habit for a very long time to include all the Bible verses I'm using in my printed notes, so I just read off of that and rarely bring a print Bible. I don't feel bad using my phone or laptop to look up something impromptu, but I sometimes feel bad about not having a paper Bible with me. I have a nice, nearly pristine (well, pristine till very recently Sad) one I've reserved just for preaching and teaching that I bring sometimes and tell myself to use to try to set a good example. And then I see how small the print is and pull out my phone.

I do nearly all of my reading on my computer or phone (not bragging, but it's a lot). I read maybe one paper book a year. I got a bit alarmed last year as I had lots of difficulty focusing on it as I had become unaccustomed to holding a book and leafing through the pages, etc. That was a popular book. This year I finally finished E. Brunner's Dogmatics, also in paper; I didn't have any problems with that one. I've discovered that regardless of format, I have difficulty with non-academic books--they meander way too much and seem to have difficulty getting to the point. But that's getting away from the topic of this thread.

In conclusion, though, I do share concerns about how going digital may impair learning while it simultaneously empowers it.

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Liam & Abi Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 23 2019 12:31 AM

It is an interesting topic and one that seems to pop up from time to time.

I'm 30 years old and in my case, I almost never use a paper bible anymore as all of my regular bible reading and study is done through logos (web app, iOS app, laptop, etc.). I can't say I have noticed any decline in memorisation over the time I have been using Logos nor in depth of study (in case of the later the opposite is true. But then again, as others have noted Logos is a different beast. Or maybe I did notice a decline in my memory retention but then couldn't remember it or did I remember but fail to recall... :-P

When I read on Logos, I tend to read the bible on my laptop with a Morphological visual filter which colours each word based on whether it is a noun, verb, adjective, etc. and I have a very visual highlighting system which places coloured symbols in the margin based on whether it is a key point in the authors argument, a standout quote, a pastoral application, etc. I believe these visual elements help me retain the information better, but of course, I can't prove it. I do think too, that it can be harder to see connections in the text on digital bibles simply because you can't 'zoom out' and scan four columns of text across two pages or quickly flick back and forth - although logos column view on a large monitor helps, not so much on an iPhone.

The only exceptions to my digital-only approach are that I tend to use a paper bible when I lead our elderly folk's bible study group, whilst some in the group use tablets for bible reading, a number are made uncomfortable by the sight of the study leader using one. I'm happy to be one less distraction, so I take a paper bible. I'd do the same for pastoral (home and hospital) visits and when reading in the Sunday service. Aesthetically speaking, I think the visible presence of a bible is important in those contexts but this may be generational. I also tend to have a paper bible on my desk when sermon writing (but not during the sermon's study phase), but that is more to do with Logos search speed ;P. Finally, I mark up my passage, by hand and write out my study notes and outline by hand. Again, this is a preference thing, if I don't write them out by hand I end up making notes like I'm about to write an academic paper. The physical sermon I type in Atom.

One thing which will be interesting is to see how these trends change over the next 15-30 years. Currently, even most millennials are digital migrants; the vast majority of us can remember a time before home computers, smartphones and the internet. Further, most children still learn to read and write using physical media (wooden pencil, paper book). I suspect (but can't prove) that those born post-2010 will not struggle with the dilemma (digital v. paper) as much as there parents and grandparents generation have and for those who are (eventually) schooled in a digital-only environment will probably look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. 

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 23 2019 5:05 AM

Veli Voipio:
In Africa one person may read a book aloud and a group of people is sitting around listening and they comment the reading regularly (often together as a choir). That kind of process might be quite natural for humans and I just wonder how to apply it in our current igital environment.

I think you may be on to something here. Reading out loud definitely changes comprehension. For the last couple of years I've read my Greek NT out loud and this year I'm using the Logos voice of John Schwandt which I'm finding extremely helpful. When you think about it, in generations long ago most of Scripture was communicated orally as there were few copies and most did not read.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 23 2019 5:14 AM

Sean:
I have a nice, nearly pristine (well, pristine till very recently Sad) one I've reserved just for preaching and teaching that I bring sometimes and tell myself to use to try to set a good example. And then I see how small the print is and pull out my phone.

Thanks for your honesty about bringing a physical Bible to be an example. It reminds me of a pastor friend of mine that would put his giving envelope into the collection plate every week even though he gave bi-weekly as he wanted to be an example. I think the condition of our heart and actions far outweighs how we appear to others but I also understand why people do it.

Sean:
I've discovered that regardless of format, I have difficulty with non-academic books--they meander way too much and seem to have difficulty getting to the point.

I find this to be the case with me as well. I much prefer study over reading for personal enjoyment. I think that's why it is much more of a discipline for me to read fiction than non fiction.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 23 2019 5:19 AM

Liam Maguire:
I believe these visual elements help me retain the information better, but of course, I can't prove it.

I think the key to remembering anything is actually engaging in the text. Whatever tools we use that help us do that will surely help us with memory and comprehension.

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Perk | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 23 2019 8:10 AM

I think the visual experience is much different. The device I read the Bible on is the same device I use for reading the news, ,texting, checking email and FB. And somehow that feels less "sacred" (Hope that makes sense).

 With paper we quickly have to learn the order of the books in order to find references. With digital, I can go to Habakkuk 3:16 just as fast as I can go to John 3:16. Before I needed to know that Habakkuk was one of the minor prophets and located near the end of the OT and John was the fourth gospel in the NT.  With digital I don't need to know the order of the books. I don't even need to know if it is in the OT or the NT. I can see how coming to a digital Bible first really changes the experience.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 23 2019 4:11 PM

Perk:
I can see how coming to a digital Bible first really changes the experience.

Certainly if someone doesn't have any understanding of the context of what they are reading, digital Bible reading would be a challenge. But this applies to physical bibles too.

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