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Scientific Program

Program 4.1. Reading and Writing

Eye movements during writing: reading as a writing subprocess

Very little is known about eye movements during writing and notably the interplay of the processes of reading from sources and reading an emergent text. The aim of this program will be to identify the characteristics of eye movements while writing.
For instance, young developing writers (primary and secondary schoolchildren) will be compared with more experienced writers (advanced students, experts such as authors and professional writers). Data will be collected and analyzed by means of the Eye and Pen (for handwriting), ScriptLog, EyeWrite and Inputlog (for typewriting).

Both reading and writing occur through our sensorimotor interaction with some material, technical, interface. The haptic affordances of new reading and writing technologies are distinctly different than earlier technologies (e.g., the print book and the pen and paper). In order to be able to design, develop, and implement new reading and writing technologies, as well as employing the existing technologies in optimal ways, we need extensive knowledge about sensorimotor (and, particularly, the haptic) affordances of different technical interfaces and how these play a fundamental role in the reading and writing process.

Empirical studies of reading and writing, as well as lab experiments will be conducted. Various tasks involving reading while writing will be administered to assess the impact of:

  1. the structure of the information in the source texts: presence or absence of subtitles; Hyönä & Lorch, 2004); the presence of pictures in the sources (Holmqvist et al., 2006; Holsanova, 2001)
  2. the text production goal: copying or summarising the source (cf. Alamargot & Quinlan, 2005; Grabowski, 2008)
  3. the writers’ memory capacities (determining the exploration of the sources; Alamargot, Dansac, Chesnet, & Fayol, 2006; Hyönä, Lorch, & Kaakinen, 2002)
  4. the writer’s production strategies: planning vs. constituting strategy (cf. Galbraith, 1996, 1999); formulating vs. revising (cf. Leijten, Van Waes, Quinlan, 2008)
  5. the cognitive and phenomenological impact of different technical and material features (Zellweger, Mangen, & Newman 2002).

Program 4.2. Impact of digital technology

The impact of digital technology on writing and the learning of writing skills.

A better understanding of the impact of digital technology is both important from a theoretical and a pedagogical perspective. The research tools described above facilitate this kind of research and enable researchers to describe the writing process in much more detail than ever before.

Comparing different writing modalities

Handwriting, typewriting and dictation with speech technology are three different manners of writing and learning to write, with contrasting uses in different countries. The aim of this project will be to understand how the low-level processes involved in each writing mode differ and can impact on higher-level activity such as spelling and induce variations in working memory demands.
In handwriting, monitoring the trace can be spatially merged with controlling execution (the eye follows the pen). In typewriting, however, monitoring (on the screen) is dissociated from controlling execution (on the keyboard). In order to compare these two situations and assess the consequences for writing quality and the course of the writing process, participants will be asked to write under dictation or to copy out a series of geometric symbols, numerals, arbitrary letters, words, sentences and texts, with and without a concurrent task increasing the load on the various components of working memory (Grabowski, Blabusch & Lorenz, 2006, 2007).
The eye movements recorded using Eye and Pen and ScriptLog software will be processed using datamining analyses in order to identify and formalize specific patterns. A comparison with dictation as input will be considered (InputLog).

Other projects & people of interest:

- Digital glove handwriting recognition technology: Mikhail Lebedev (Duke University, Department of Neurobiology - expertise in modeling and statistical analysis), and Joseph Erlichman (St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.)
- Writing by hand vs. typing: neural mechanisms involved in the perception and production of written alphabetic characters (behavioral and fMRI methods). M. Longcamp & JL. Velay, Mediterranean Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience (INCM), France
- Translog: study of writing processes in translation tasks, Arnt Lykke Jakobsen, Kopenhagen Business School, Denmark.

Observing one’s own activity via digital recordings

Previous research has demonstrated the effectiveness of observational learning of the writing process (Rijlaarsdam, Braaksma, Couzijn et al., 2005; Lindgren, 2005). The aim of this project will be to provide feedback to writers about their writing process by allowing them to watch and think about online recordings of their writing processes (i.e. observing and thinking about their pauses, eye-movement activity, etc.).
This retrospective analysis, based on extremely fine-grained feedback, should enhance the meta-analysis of their own activity by showing highly proceduralized behavior. Instructional software will subsequently be developed, based on this approach.

Program 4.3 Standardization

Data standardization

At the present time, each digital writing tool uses its own formats and data analysis modes. For this reason, it is important to standardize the data that is gathered (XML format, introduction of standards) so that recordings can be compared and processed using a common tool. This technical and methodological harmonization will foster the development of such tools and stimulate further analytic challenges.

The project also strives at building a digitized multilingual corpus of writing process data that could be shared among researchers. Next to this corpus it is important to build a knowledge center presenting different research perspectives, best practices and analyzing methods.


Good to know

The Working Group met in Barcelona (Spain) 5-7 april 2009

Last update : 15 June 2009


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