The Labour of Reading tags: agency
Reading is not just a process which has a cognitive load. It is a physical task and process as well. It takes a certain set of physical steps as well. We believe that even if you don’t take on the cognitive load of reading, even if you just read it optically, the text should work. Optical reading means following each word, character by character and read sentences, paragraphs and passages. Text works by the simultaneous operation of the optical and the semantic layers. That means that meaning is made and at the same time the friction produced as a result of the placement of words next to each other and the placement of sentences next to each other produces a certain kind of reading. The process that leads to the production of this reading is laborious and we refer to it in the title of this text. But this text is not just a text, this text is the schematic for a laboratory. The Labour of Reading laboratory studies non-cognitive formats of reading.
Reading is of these two types and we cannot prioritise one over the other. We can read and expect the emergence of meaning and we can read without paying any attention and expect to feel something. The laborious process of reading might not yield exactly the same thing as the semantic but whatever it is, it has been specifically thought about by the author of the text. The typography is not included in this layer of experience of the text. For the layer of typography to be applied, the text at least has to be decided. The text gets decided at the same time as the nature of labour required for reading the text gets decided. Both of these variables do not have any hierarchy between them. They get framed at exactly the same time without one determining the other. The flux of this process simultaneously get set into a typographical form.
Typography does not affect the labour of reading in any way. The font does not either increase or decrease the labour involved in reading a word, sentence or passage. And so in this laboratory we do not reflect on the typography design process at all. In the optical experience, the perception of the font is a very part. As our optical experience is analytical our eyes are part of the sense making complex in our physical system.