4 thoughts on “Strategic reading and bouncing”

  1. This is interesting as a follow-on to your last post about serendipity. And, I suppose, this is more to the point. What we view as serendipity is often not at all “chance” — these encounters are statistically much more probable in an appropriately rich context. The aim of the scholar is to throw themselves into such a rich context and “look around” a bit. The rich context might be a subject-specific database, but could as likely be a hallway lined with offices of like-minded scholars (and doors ajar), or a well-stocked library. To make distinctions between “digital” and “physical” is quite beside the point. It’s the geography we are after, and the hit count of a search might be as relevant as the span of shelves in a given subject area.
    In my years as a reference librarian I always recommended that undergraduates embarking on an honors thesis spend some quality time with the big red volumes containing the Library of Congress Subject headings. It was (and remains) a superb jumping-off point for an understanding of the “geography” of a particular subject area. This is especially important for those subjects that may be only tangential to the main subject matter (the geography of which is likely to be quite evident in the normal course of research).
    Of all of the “Semantic Web” projects, the work being done at id.loc.gov is to me the most exciting. Here is data not designed to give us answers, but data designed to give us context (using SKOS — the “Simple Knowledge Organization System”). Librarians need a sophisticated understanding of “strategic reading” and we must develop systems that make it easier AND to emphasize its importance.

  2. Quick P.S.: Most of my time in a library “scanning shelves” (I do a lot of it) is spent looking at book indexes. It’s my #1 strategic reading, well, strategy. Let’s get all of those indexes into RDF (or whatever data format is most useful) and start building systems that allow researches to do interesting searches/visualizations/aggregations of that data. Combine that with the subject headings of each book, published date, and (perhaps) citation information and now we have a very powerful system ready to aid “strategic readers.”

  3. Indexes in books also have been to me a key factor in whether to acquire (for the library or personally). What Peter Keane suggests is exciting as long as somehow “accompanied,” as with shelf browsing of those indexes, whose context includes a range of things from cataloging to experienced intuitions that use visual and tactile factors (even size, age, condition, proximities) as well as intellectual acuity brought to the encounter–and subconscious prejudices or inclinations admittedly affected somewhat differently by physical versus digital interaction.

  4. As a librarian this reality has been an interest of mine for some time. In my estimateion training in semantics, a sub-discipline of linguistics, can augment this type of reading significantly. While it is important to acknowledge and describe strategic reading, it would also be interesting to know what aspect of the linguistic mind is at work. (Note that linguistics is rarely occupied with texts and focusses rather on speech and sound.)

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