On Sat. Nov. 16, 2013 I presented the paper "The Image of the Book: What cognitive psychology tells us about the interplay of the visual and aural when experiencing a printed book." at the Resurrecting the Book Conference. Birmingham, U.K.
You can watch a video of the slides with the audio presentation and also download the presentation handout or the slides: Birmingham documents.
The abstract from the paper is below:
printed book, working memory, image, imageability, visual, aural
This paper aims to show that the physical properties of a printed book are intrinsic elements that aid the verbal content in communicating to the reader. This may sound obvious to the book designer, of indifference to the writer, or unimportant to the reader, but there was a time when the physical and verbal elements combined in the single personage of the author, publisher, designer and printer. Paraphrasing the title of a book by urban planner Kevin Lynch and borrowing on his concept of a cityâ€™s â€œimageabilityâ€, we aim to show that the construction of the â€œmental imageâ€ of a text can be enhanced by the visual and physical context in which the text is presented, and that the printed page can retain its privileged status between the author and the reader in part because of this physical character.
Cognitive psychology points to the verbal-visual interaction in perceiving and remembering things, and that the atemporal visual and the temporal verbal are each both temporal and verbal. Through the example of books designed and printed by co-author Jack Stauffacher, we aim to present the printed book as an object lesson in the integration between the visual and the verbal in Alan Baddeleyâ€™s model of working memory, which postulates an interaction between the â€œphonological loopâ€ and the â€œvisuo-spatial sketch padâ€.
Subvocalisation occurs when reading, and also when viewing and â€œnamingâ€ images, thus helping visual organization. Similarly, images are invoked in metaphors, and used as mnemonic devices for easier storage and retrieval. These strategies are crucial if a readerâ€™s â€œworking memoryâ€ is going to successfully retain meaningful information that will be available for later retrieval from long-term memory. While in principle there should be no difference between the hypertext properties of the physical book (footnotes, cross-references, bibliographies, etc.) and those of the digital book or digital text in general (hyperlinks, word definitions, etc.) the act of turning the pages or opening another book involve a physical, spatial activity that complements the aural, phonological process of reading the text. This activity punctuates the temporal process of reading with the spatial equivalent of landmarks and monuments. They are markers that stake out and record a path for a new reader, or confirm and validate the readerâ€™s path through the text.