Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 290.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 08:36:39 +0100
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Francois Lachance)
Subject: browsing functions
It'a an old thread with a new twist.
I know that electronic versus print has been discussed in regards to ease
of annotation. I'm curious about "browsing". There is a distinction to be
made between browsing a single codical volume and several. How often to
users toggle between windows which is the equivalent in the electronic
medium to a table top or desk littered with open volumes or tiered to
toppling with bookmarkers?
What is browsing? Is it three operations? One, reading a snippet. Two,
searching for related passages (there have been many eloquent messages to
Humanist on the value of indices despite the value of full text
searching). Three, recording the insightful passage for future reference.
And of course four -- reiteration, adjustment and further reiteration of
the scan, search, record process?
There is also a type of reading that is not browsing. Best characterized
as burrowing, this type of reading benefits from the cultural experience
of the book form. However, the relationship of speed and contemplation is
not built into the hardware of what you call "our new-fangled gadgets". I
would suggest that the images of the computer user in popular and mass
culture have become more diversified. I recall some very fine advertising
by Apple a while ago which played upon the, for me, incredibly resonant
image of a male adult teaching a child to read -- the scene begins with a
lone user engaged in using the product in a domestic-like setting, the
audio delivered as voice over is all about making time to be with a
growing child as the camera circles to reveal at the adult male's side
a wide-eyed toddler -- permitting viewers to identify with either. It is a
page pulled from a literacy campaign.
If my recall is correct, we learnt to linger over a particular story,
rereading and familiarizing ourselves with it before graduating to the art
of browsing. In both activities, there was the magic of sharing. For many
of us big kids it continues to be so.
-- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/ivt.htm per Interactivity ad Virtuality via Textuality
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