Ambient Reading

| | Comments (2)

Paul's got a great entry today, on "How to Read Everything?" Seriously great. Lots of good thoughts in there.

One of the things that's instructive about his entry is the list of various strategies that he's tried and abandoned, which is one of the things I recommend to folk on a regular basis. There are all sorts of ways to manage one's "mental intertextual map," and the trick is find the ones that will work for you at a given time.

One thing that I would add to Paul's account is that you have different needs at different times. My own strategies tend to resemble his quite a bit--I don't take a lot of notes myself, although that's changed a little as I've gotten older and more forgetful. Like him, I tend to have a very strong procedural memory--I remember colors, covers, the place on the page where an important quote is, etc. But I do do a little bit of underlining, not so I can go back through a text and cull the marks, but because I find that it reinforces my procedural memories. It keeps me on a given page and at a particular spot on the page a little longer, which seems to burn that spot into my memory a little more.

A couple of other points worth raising. There's a difference between reading a book and reading a discipline, even if we tend to use the same verb. So in "reading everything," I hear "everything" to mean the discipline, and that's a different strategy. You can "read" a journal in 10 minutes if you're reading it to know what's there, so that you can return to what's valuable to you later. And that kind of reading is ultimately quite valuable--Brian has written recently about "ambient research," and I just finished a collaborative piece with a friend on a similar topic--it's a matter of entering the flow of a discipline, getting a feel for what's going on, before you make the choices about where to drill down.

So maybe I'd describe this as a difference between ambient and directed reading. We are trained very heavily in directed reading, and rarely are advised about ambient reading. In part, this is because it comes as a result of enculturation, and so seems a "natural" outgrowth of that process. I think I could argue that what I've been working on in my graduate teaching in the past 4-5 years is pushing my students more towards a model of ambient reading, an approach that could productively complement the emphasis on directed reading that tends to dominate graduate coursework. And I think that part of my current interest in Web2 stuff is how those tools can help us accomplish that.

So there's that.


I highlight and underline to retain information--if it's something I want to go back to, I fold the page--if it's something I want to use in my teaching, I use a sticky paper to write quick note about why I want to use that idea. By semester's end, my books look pretty ragged, but given that I teach developmental-level undergrads, I want them to see that books are meant to be used to dredge meaning from (if that's the right verb). The problem that I have is that the economy has been working against that kind of modeling--students want to keep their books neat so that they can resell them, which only reinforces surface reading habits.

Support of the Lou Zhu, Lou Zhu worked hard
Nothing is impossible for a willing heart.
[url=][color=black]ugg boots[/color][/url]
Nothing is impossible for a willing heart.
[url=][color=black]ugg bailey button[/color][/url]

Leave a comment



  • images
Powered by Movable Type 4.1

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on April 20, 2009 1:09 PM.

Course update #3 was the previous entry in this blog.

Stats like these... is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.