Revisiting rereading

Following up on my writing in books post, I had another thought on BART today about how I read and how it relates to how I process information. I figured out long ago that I like to have the big picture first when I’m learning something. I often struggled in my physics classes because they’d start out teaching us individual equations out of context, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And then about two thirds of the way through the term, they’d finally bring everything together into a unified thought structure, and I’d go “Ohhhhhh!!” and everything would become much easier. I think it’s because I tend to be a deductive thinker, working from the global down to the specific. In an odd twist, I also do a lot of inductive thinking (generalizing from the specific to the global) as anybody who reads this blog can attest, but I think that’s mostly so that I can have a global model in my head which I can then apply deductively. Anyway.

So how does this apply to reading? I realized today that a lot of times when I read a book for the first time, I’m basically skimming it, without necessarily absorbing all of the details or, in the case of fiction, appreciating the language. If I like a book, I will often go back and re-read it and because I have the big picture in place from having read it through once already, then I can slot details as they come up into that big picture and I appreciate it more. So it often takes me a couple times through a book before I feel like I understand what’s happening.

One of the reasons that the Latour book made such an impression on me is that Latour had provided a four page summary at the back of the book of his overall argument (which came with a 15 page glossary to define the terms he was using). I actually read the summary first, and while I didn’t understand the details, it gave me the big picture of where he was going and how it was all going to fit together. Then when I read the book itself, it made a lot more sense to me because the structure was already in place in my brain, and I could just hang ideas off of it without wondering where they fit.

This relating how I read to how I think isn’t all that deep, but I thought it was interesting.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that driving is better for my blogging than bike/BARTing. When I’m driving to work, my hands and backbrain are occupied with the task of driving, but my conscious mind is free to wander and gets bored and thinks up things to blog about. Meanwhile, on my bike, too much of my body is involved for me to be able to daydream about blogging. I actually tried the last couple days to see if I could after I noticed this, and just couldn’t come up with anything interesting. And, of course, when I get on BART, I pull out a book and my brain’s concerned with understanding that, instead of coming up with my own ideas. So with gas still in the $3/gallon range and with the Bay Bridge messed up indefinitely, there may be fewer posts in your future as I drive less. But reading on BART often gives me a chance to tackle harder books, which provide fodder for future lines of thought. So maybe it will work out.

Oh, as long as I’m putting up a journal-type post, I went to Dorkbot on Wednesday. I’ve only been once before, but it seems like a group I should support, and I actually didn’t have a conflict for once, so I went. But I was surprisingly disappointed. Partly I think it was just me feeling like the wallflower because I didn’t know anyone. Partly it’s because I’m starting to realize I’m not a maker, a creator. Building stuff is not my yen. So being in a room full of people who love to build stuff just didn’t do a lot for me. I think it’s great. I admire them. I wish I were more like them a lot of the time. But I’m not one of them. I build programs for my job because I’m competent at it, but it doesn’t really give me a charge. Of course, this leads to the question of what kind of person am I if I’m not a maker? I’m still working on the answer to that one.

Speaking of makers, my friends at Squid Labs got prominently mentioned in Wired this month. Check out the top right thumbnail for their centerfold pose.

Okay, I’ve rambled on enough for this evening. More interesting posts coming your way as soon as I think them up. Or, heck, I’ll take requests – if there’s a topic you want me to ramble about, or a question you want me to address, let me know.

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