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  • Poe in Cyberspace: The “Mobile-Friendly” Sites
  • Heyward Ehrlich

It had to happen sooner or later: last year smartphones finally reached the tipping point and accounted for the majority of Google Internet searches. Although traditional desktop, laptop, and tablet searches are increasing, smartphone use has been expanding much more rapidly. Of course, Poe research on smartphones can be regarded as simply a continuation of decades of Internet inquiries on PCs, but smartphones must also be regarded as a radical departure in their ubiquitous presence, their limited size, and their more intimate rapport, paradoxically offering delightful convenience at certain times and, unexpectedly, maddening inconvenience at others. Always at hand, your smartphone eagerly awaits your bidding—assuming you have not forgotten to take it along, have charged it up, have arranged and paid for a wireless connection, and have acquired the special skills (intuitive to children) to manage the little fellow. Some Poe site managers, proud of their full-screen sites but aware of what lies ahead, have made welcome adjustments for the cohort of smartphone users that lies ahead. Some have not. Here are a few observations on smartphones in Poe research that may prove interesting and even useful, whether you are a veteran, a newbie, or a nonuser.

The obvious advantage of smartphones is their great portability and versatility, but they are physically constrained by their small screens and their limited memory and storage capacity. Lacking a mouse, they cannot respond to mouse clicks or mouse overs; their miniaturized keyboards require for many an unaccustomed effort for extensive data entry; and their file operations, such as saving, retrieving, editing, moving, and printing, must be relearned, being fundamentally strange for the user accustomed to the personal computer. On the other hand, countless “apps” of every imaginable purpose are now available for scholarly purposes, allowing us to escape from the confines of the traditional desktop and its hardware and software: the built-in camera can supply images for scanning and text conversion; and the built-in microphone can capture voice to be converted into text or commands.

It is worth trying Siri, the virtual assistant on the iPhone (or its Android equivalents), which accepts commands and voice queries and uses the Bing search engine. It can answer many Poe questions even without extensive training (just speak clearly and distinctly). Overly simple queries do not always do well: asking for “poe addresses” produced the wrong Poe; “edgar allan poe addresses” did a little better; and “what were edgar allan poe addresses in 1845” [End Page 229] did best of all. On my smartphone tests, I received identical results from a voice query in Siri, a typed query in Google, and what I got from the Google Now voice service, using the microphone on a Windows 10 desktop. The takeaway: first, try using voice input, and second, make the search engine do the work—think of it accessing a global concordance of all texts on the Internet. Incidentally, I did not do nearly as well using the Cortana voice virtual assistant on Windows 10 (it uses Edge browser and Bing search engine). By the way, avoid using just “poe” in searches—by voice it is hard to discriminate and when typed will yield too many hits on “poet” and “poetry”; instead use combinations of “edgar.” Be warned that searches that include the word “research” may bring up paper mills. Keep in mind, too, that you cannot reliably test mobile versions of websites on a regular computer—nor vice versa.

In the United States, smartphone ownership is becoming almost universal. According to Pew Research, about two-thirds of people now own a smartphone; moreover, they are apt to be younger, richer, and better educated than other Internet users. Yet there is a persistent digital divide, as those who are the most dependent on smartphones (having the fewest other options) are likely to be younger, poorer, less educated, and less white. The most frequent activities for all smartphone users are text messaging, with 97 percent of users engaging in it; voice calling, at 92 percent; accessing the Internet, 89 percent; and e-mail, 88 percent; the lesser activities are social networking, at 75 percent; taking pictures...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-2932
Print ISSN
2150-0428
Pages
pp. 229-235
Launched on MUSE
2016-11-17
Open Access
No
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