The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Hi Everyone,

My research project is at

ETEC540/2009WT1/Assignments/ Research 


November 3, 2009   No Comments

Speech Recognition: Will it change the way we write?

At the beginning of his book, Bolter (2001, p.xiii) states, “At present, however, it seems to me that the computer is not leading to a new kind of orality, but rather to an increased emphasis on visual communication”.  While it is true that we are seeing an increase in visual modes of representation, we are also seeing an increase in the availability and usefulness of speech recognition technologies.  Perhaps the “pendulum” is also swinging back towards a new kind of orality (Bolter, 2001, p.xiii).

Speech recognition, also known as voice recognition, converts speech to text and allows users to verbally direct their computer to perform specific commands. With the use of a microphone (either an external one or one internally built into the computer) words dictated are reproduced into a word processor document.  Speech recognition allows the user to verbally specify punctuation, spell out acronyms, move the cursor, format texts, change fonts, save files (and more), all without touching the keyboard.   Errors can be corrected by speaking the name of the word which is incorrect and then saying “correct that”.   This will produce a list of words that closely match and one simply needs to speak aloud the number of the line that the correct word is on, followed by “click ok” and the word is corrected. 

 Speech recognition technologies are extremely beneficial for people with learning disabilities and those who are physically disabled.  A relative of mine, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a motorcycle accident, is able to dictate and send emails and update his Facebook page by using speech recognition. This technology could also help young children learn to read and write by allowing them to see on a computer screen, their spoken words turn into written words.  Cavanagh (2009) found that “Students who use speech recognition are writing more, writing independently, spelling correctly, using longer words, using more complex written language and writing thoughts that have never been written before”.   Another advantage, for people of all ages, is the ease of translating conversations, interviews, notes and other information into a word document, enabling easy access to all sections of the material.

 With the use of speech recognition, we will no longer be restricted by the speed at which we can write or type, but by the speed at which we can produce and form ideas and thoughts within our minds.  Speech recognition would allow us to reduce distractions and keep our minds on what we are saying.  This would be like a “funnel” which according to Ronald Kellogg (1989) is, “an aid that channels the writer’s attention into only one or two processes”.  By removing the desire to edit while speaking, speech recognition allows for the uninterrupted flow of ideas into words.

 Clearly there are some valuable advantages to the use of speech recognition technology, however, is it simply another method of getting our thoughts into words on a document, or does it alter the way we write?  McLuhan’s (1994) expression, “The medium is the message”, seems to say that as dictation is a different medium than writing, each would create a different final product.

 Gould, Conti, and Hovanyecz, (1983) research found that participants performed at least as well when dictating to the listening typewriter as they did when writing.  John Gould’s (1978) experiment found that after considerable experience with dictation, participants were 20-65% faster at dictating than at writing similar quality compositions. 

 As stated by Willard (1997), “Speech and writing are fundamentally different; people seldom speak as they write, or write as they speak (unless they are preparing a written copy of a speech)”.  When dictating and using speech recognition technologies, one might have the tendency to speak more formally, in a style more ‘suitable’ for writing.  If, the typically more informal style of conversation is used, this would change the style of writing produced.  However, speech recognition is generally used to get main ideas and thoughts onto a word document, with most users then editing and re-writing sections of their original draft.

 Dictation and writing are different, but effective methods to get words on ‘paper’.  As Gould (1978) states, “Composition is still the fundamental skill necessary for quality writing, and method of composition is of secondary importance”.  Each individual’s writing style is different; therefore, it will be up to the individual who uses the speech recognition to decide if and how it changes and defines their own personal style of writing.



 Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

 Cavanagh, C.A.  (2009). Speech Recognition Trial Protocol.  Closing the Gap, 26(5), 8-11.   Retrieved from:

 Gould, J. D. (1978). How experts dictate.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 4(4), 648-661.

 Gould, J., Conti, J. & Hovanyecz, T. (1983). Composing Letters with a Simulated Listening Typewriter. Communications of the ACM , 26, 295-308.  

 Kellogg, R. T. (1989).  Idea Processors: Computer Aids for Planning and Composing Text. Computer Writing Environments: Theory, Research, and Design. Ed. Bruce Britton and Shawn Glynn. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 57-92.

 McLuhan, M. (1994).  Understanding media: The extensions of man.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

 Willard, E. (1997). Technical Speaking? Automatic Speech Recohnition and Technical Writing.  Cal Poly State University.  Retrieved from:

November 3, 2009   4 Comments

The Future of the Universal Library?

Here’s an interesting article about Google’s global library project.  It certainly makes our Bolter readings very relevant.

Click here….

November 3, 2009   No Comments