On Thursday, November 11, 2021, the Department of Communication Science at the Catholic University of Croatia organized an online international interdisciplinary scientific conference Reader and Reading in the Digital Age. The conference brought together leading experts from Croatia and abroad – communication scientists, psychologists, neurologists, media literacy experts, rehabilitation educators, teachers of various professions and fields dealing with reading and facing many challenges related to reading – and approach the phenomenon of reading from different starting points.
The conference brought together 130 speakers and about 1,000 listeners, with the intention of answering numerous questions about reading habits and culture, and the conference was attended by Jelena Zadro, as a psychologist from the Catholic University of Croatia, and Anamaria Malešević, as a member of the Digital healthcare ethics laboratory (Digit-HeaL) from the Catholic University of Croatia. Colleagues Zadro and Malešević attended with paper “Info(pan)demia – Out of our Reach?” and showed how wide availability of information and data, as well as instant messaging, e-mails, notifications, mobile apps, social networks and digital aids allowed creating, sharing, and skimming content. They stressed out that the availability of information in the digital age has changed reading habits, created many benefits and potentials, but brought challenges and risks that the average digital reader faces daily. They pointed out the consequences of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 disease and highlighted the problems and challenges of the infodemic faced by the digital age reader. The easy availability of sharing and creating content has led to the emergence of fake news, hysteria, conspiracy theories, panicked shopping, and taking fake medical supplies. This condition is first reported in Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book Future Shock and indicates difficulties that an individual may have in understanding and making decisions based on too much information available. Colleagues Zadro and Malešević explained that this situation can occur due to too much information, many different sources, lack of time to understand what is read and the inability to distinguish the important from the irrelevant. Instead of deep reading, the reader now skims and scrolls through content. They concluded that exposure to content above the possible speed of information processing can lead to changes in the psychological and physiological state of the reader, such as stress, anxiety, insecurity, information addiction, high blood pressure, headaches, lack of concentration, memory difficulties, and others.