Pinball Wizard

There appear to me to be three types of reading – or should I say layout:

  • printed, linear text
  • printed text – largely linear but featuring distracting insets, “emboldened extracts…” and photos/diagrams bearing descriptive information – frequently found in Sunday supplement features and New Scientist articles. Enticing as they are these distractions are to narrative flow what high-heels are to sumo wrestling.
  • online text, whose myriad hyperlinks result in the eyes and attention having the self-determination of a steelie in a pinball machine

The third type, led me to reflect upon a reality described by Erin McKean (Dictionary Evangelist) in her fascinating TED talk – that the refined searchability of online dictionaries reduces serendipity*. The flip-side of this in pinball reading seems to be that increased lostness increases serendipity. Often I stumble across something very interesting with little idea of how exactly I got there and this has led me to keep Notepad open during all such excursions.

One such find was an article in Science Daily ** featuring research by Michael Ullman into links between the processing of music and language in the brain. Reactions to violations of expectation in grammar as opposed to memory were prompted through the use of familiar and unknown tunes (their unfamiliarity ensured by Ullman being the composer). The article is very accessible to the lay reader, but I have taken the liberty of providing audio illustrations of the following musical concepts:

Familiar tune – correct version

Familiar tune with in-key deviant note

Familiar tune with out-of-key deviant note

Unknown tune – correct version

Unknown tune with in-key deviant note

Unknown tune with out-of-key deviant note

* Ewan McIntosh touches upon serendipity in the classroom in his very interesting keynote at Ulearn07

** Beware myriad distractions 🙂

4 thoughts on “Pinball Wizard”

  1. Hmm. Interesting. I think I get it, but I’d be the better for your audio illustrations Alan. Hope you get those up soon. See what you mean about distractions in Science Daily 🙂

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