Pure Digital Reading

Family friend, writer and film director Mojgan Khadem once told me “writing is all about managing your ideas”. And even though I don’t need to write a thesis during my “coursework” Master in Applied Linguistics with Macquarie University (MQ), I am convinced my ability to manage my ideas and learn the discursive formations of Applied Linguistics will be greatly enhanced if I can practice Pure Digital Reading.

Pure Digital Reading? I am, hopefully, coining this phrase. I mean:

  • Reading only digital material that is keyword searchable. Whose words can re-flow and re-size happily on every black mirror (iPhone, iPad, Kindle and Laptop) in my possession. A standard of content not offered (unfortunately) by the MQ e-Reserve. There students like myself receive (not ungratefully) ‘scans’ of articles prepared by the hardworking Library Reserve team. Scans that are for the practitioner of Pure Digital Reading just raw materials that must be further processed with OCR software and hard work. Of course, sometimes it is worth looking outside your own institution for that journal article.
  • Tagging keyword searchable materials with the same purpose in mind as the act of underlining words, phrases or passages from paper books.
  • Annotating content. Not just with comments or notes, but with images, videos, audio notes, hand drawn diagrams, URLS etc. New tools can handle this! iAnnotate PDF reader is my current weapon of choice on the iPad.

And all this in my opinion is far from new-fangled. Infact, the need for Pure Digital Reading is a direct result of the accumulating human record predicament so clearly described by Dr. Vannevar Bush in As We May Think back in 1945. The specialist in any given area of human knowledge – the Master student, the PhD candidate, the Professor – naturally amass and organise their learning. And they used to do this by creating their own private libraries accompanied by index cards full of notes/references and clouds of post-it-notes or white(black)board jottings. But now, I can access my library digitally. Without even leaping out of my chair to pull down a paper book, without flinging open a drawer and flicking past reference cards I can sift and share my thoughts and notes.

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