Computers Pose Important Social Questions Technology Is a Part of God's Creation Introduction Computer Dilemmas Computers are Everywhere Introduction
Chapter 1: Introduction

A "Web book"?

This "Web book" is a brief introduction to some key aspects of information technology, a subject that includes computers, databases, digital libraries, electronic books, cell phones, and other digital devices that are designed for information and communication.

Of course, this Web book is itself an instance of information technology! Thus, while this Web book is a communication medium—an attempt to communicate a variety of messages to its readers—it is also the case that, as the late communication theorist Marshall McLuhan said, "the medium is the message." In other words, reading this Web book is itself an example of the kinds of technological experiences it is asking you to consider.

Electronic text on a computer screen is an information technology, and it has many characteristics in common with the textual information technology we are all most familiar with: the printed word.

However, there are also many differences. For instance, Web browsers currently do not allow the reader to

  • highlight
  • underline
  • write notes
  • create any other kinds of mark-ups on the on-screen text

These are significant differences, and they mean that users must utilize different reading and studying strategies when working with electronic texts: since you cannot mark electronic text, it is a good idea to take notes as you read.

There are other significant differences between on-screen texts and hard copy. As you experience these differences in reading this Web book, consider each difference and reflect critically upon it: is this difference a strength or a weakness of electronic text compared to hard copy? And if a weakness, what might be an appropriate way to correct it?

For instance, some readers find that they prefer larger text when they are reading on the screen. Thus, in the case of text they find uncomfortably small, they use their Web browser's View menu to change the size of the on-screen text.

It is important to cultivate an awareness of the dynamics of electronic text. Acquiring understanding and skill in regard to this new medium is not optional: we will all be asked to read more and more electronic texts in our lifetime. Moreover, we will be required to generate electronic texts of our own.

So don't get discouraged if you become frustrated with reading electronic text. Instead, rise to the unique challenges it presents, realizing that in doing so you are developing a mastery of a powerful new information technology.

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These pages were written by Jeffrey L. Nyhoff and Steven H. VanderLeest and edited by Nancy Zylstra
© 2005 Calvin University (formerly Calvin College), All Rights Reserved.

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