Digital Readability Research Community-Building Workshop

VSS 2024

The Vision Science of Digital Readability: a fundamental part of the everyday lives of people all over the world



A community of scientific inquiry is emerging around reading in the digital interface. On-screen text is indeed now a fundamental part of everyday life, the world over.


Lives are increasingly impacted by the ability to quickly comprehend button text, navigational menus, news reports, chat messages, advertisements, emails, search results, articles, and digital publications.


Academic disciplines ranging from vision science to computer science are finding it central to their work to have a mechanistic and applied understanding of reading processes.


The research is highly distributed, and this diversity is both valuable and challenging for each researcher to build and maintain an overview of emerging significant research knowledge and trends.


Workshop goals

In this workshop, participants will share experimental approaches and current pressing issues in digital reading research and promote future collaboration across:


Disciplines. The workshop participants will include specialists from diverse academic disciplines including, but not limited to, vision science, machine learning, and accessibility.


Cultural perspectives. The workshop participants will include people from diverse cultural perspectives, through regional and 1st language diversity. We will promote cross-cultural studies through emphasizing readability research beyond English and the Latin writing system.


Collectively we will create guidelines that emphasize the important current challenges and possible future directions in readability research that will help researchers ask more directed questions and develop better experimental designs.


Chairs: Ben D. Sawyer (University of Central Florida) and Nilsu Atilgan (The Readability Consortium)

Opening remarks (10 minutes)

Ben D. Sawyer (University of Central Florida)
Nilsu Atilgan (The Readability Consortium)

Short talks (90 minutes)

Denis Pelli (New York University, USA)
Benjamin Wolfe (University of Toronto)
A new (old) space to ask vision science questions: reading on screens
I’ll discuss how the vision science of readability draws on new digital tools as well as psychophysical techniques and why we’d like to see more vision scientists join us. My talk will focus on how readability changes for individual readers, and open questions of attention, eye movements, crowding and peripheral vision.
Minjung Kim (Meta Reality Labs)
Why should we study reading in the age of extended reality?
Near-eye displays and head tracking have enabled immersive digital experiences, called extended reality (XR). XR opens the potential to display text to users whenever they need it, wherever they need it. Here, I review some promises and challenges of text in XR and describe possible connections to vision science.
Hilary Palmén (Google LLC)
Inclusive characters and script
The way people read is changing. The English language is a declining proportion of the internet and reading on handheld devices is increasing. Our research agenda must extend beyond the Latin writing system and desktop monitors. We must use research materials with global relevance, and methods for ecological validity.
Shaun Wallace (University of Rhode Island, USA)
Towards Controlling the Physical Size of Text on Different Screens
While digital interfaces streamline text presentation, they threaten the validity of naturalistic readability studies. Text’s physical size can be inconsistent across readers. They use varying zoom/accessibility settings across screen and browser dimensions. We present a solution to control for and study digital text’s physical size and the reader’s visual perception.
Yingzi Xiong (John Hopkins University, USA)
Reading with low vision in the digital era
Low vision encompasses a broad range of vision status, making a universal reading parameter impractical. Digital reading offers flexible text settings, and “a single optimal condition” seems to be obsolete. Can low vision individuals choose ideal reading settings on their own, and is research on low vision reading still needed?

Coffee break (15 minutes)

Small group discussions (20 minutes)

Creation of a mind map for future research directions and guidelines

Whole group discussion and closing remarks (40 minutes)

Dr. Ben D. Sawyer

University of Central Florida

Dr. Steven Clapp

University of Central Florida

Dr. Nilsu Atilgan

The Readability Consortium


Dr. Shaun Wallace

University of Rhode

Dr. Hilary Palmén


Dr. Ben Wolfe

University of Toronto Mississauga

Dr. Denis Pelli

New York University

Dr. Minjung Kim

Meta Reality Labs

Dr. Yingzi Xiong

John Hopkins University