Efferent vs. Aesthetic
Louise Rosenblatt  explains that readers approach the work in
ways that can be viewed as aesthetic or efferent. The question is why the reader
is reading and what the reader aims to get out of the reading. Is the site established
primarily to help readers gain information with as little reading possible, or
is the site established in order to create an aesthetic experience?
- Efferent reading: reading to "take away" particular
bits of information. Here, the reader is not interested in the rhythms
of the language or the prose style but is focused on obtaining a piece of
information. Rosenblatt states, "the reader's attention is primarily
focused on what will remain as a residue after the reading -- the information
to be acquired, the logical solution to a problem, the actions to be carried
out." [110, p. 23] An example would be a deep sea fishing guide
to decide where to go fishing, or a textbook to learn about the economic causes
of the Great Depression.
- Aesthetic reading: reading to explore the work and oneself.
Here, readers are engaged in the experience of reading, itself. Rosenblatt
states, "In aesthetic reading, the reader's attention is centered directly
on what he is living through during his relationship with that particular
text." [110, p. 25 ] An example would be reading Hemingway's Old
Man and The Sea to live through a deep sea fishing adventure, or the Grapes
of Wrath to plumb the emotional depths of living through the Great Depression.
One would not read the Old Man and The Sea to learn how to deep sea fish,
nor the Grapes of Wrath to examine the economic factors that caused the Great
We have found that these two categories are also useful when assessing the
aims of a hypertext site. Various layouts, structures, and anchor properties
of sites seem to privilege efferent or aesthetic readings. While we are using
these as categories, it is important to remember that these are not absolute.
They are better viewed as poles on a continuum. For example, while War
Games--Catch the LandMine!!  is an aesthetic work, it is more toward
the center/efferent side because it contains many statistics and facts about