Out of all of the pieces this week, I most enjoyed Hayles’s “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine”. Hayles states that hyper reading has become necessary in a digital environment, which does not surprise me, nor does it worry me. Hayles offeres James Sosnoski’s definition of hyperreading as, “reader-directed, screen-based, computer-assisted reading” and includes “search queries, filtering by keywords, skimming, hyperlinking, ‘pecking’, and fragmenting” (p. 66). I realize that in order to make it in this digital world, I rely heavily on hyperreading to sift through an inordinate amount of information and text to arrive at what I’m actually looking for. But then when I find what I’m looking for, I switch to close reading.
I am intrigued by Hayles’s description of the close reading technique of “symptomatic reading”. Hayles states that literary scholars do not find “symptomatic reading” productive because it typically results in formulaic reading and interpretation. I can see how this could be, but it is something I teach my own students. I use the College Board’s AP Vertical Alignment text as a guide for teaching my students “close reading.” I haven’t really thought of this as a strategy yielding formulaic results. I think it’s important what we do with the artifacts of our “symptomatic reading” that matters most. For instance, I use the strategy SIFT (symbolism, imagery, figurative language, tone, and theme) to help students “sift through the parts in order to understand the whole” (AP College Board). However, I don’t just stop there. We hold Socratic seminars over the piece of literature and the SIFTs to delve deeper into the literature. I also use other strategies such as SOAPSTone for rhetorical analysis and LEAD for analysis of diction.
I use these strategies that Hayles would call “symptomatic reading” as a developmentally appropriate introduction to literary and rhetorical analysis to make close reading more accessible for high school freshmen and sophomores to understand and master. I wonder if this is enough for students to form a foundation for reading literature from a critical and interpretive perspective or if if this is producing students who come up formulaic responses to literature well into college? I am curious what others think about this.
I also appreciated Hayles’ critique of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows and Mark Buerelin’s The Dumbest Generation. It is helpful for someone like me, who does not know much about the studies which these authors cite; I am specifically thinking about the fMRI study Carr mentions in his book. I wonder if there has been a study on hyperlinks where researchers have studied people who regularly read texts with hyperlinks and interact with them (and not just on novice users)? I wonder if the results (levels of comprehension) would be different? Have there been studies on “Choose Your Own Adventure” books in this same way?
On a larger note, I am really fascinated by the articles about analyzing writing with a quantitative methodology. I understand that it can be troubling when data is reduced to conclusions that may be superficial or insufficient explanations, but I still find it an interesting piece of a puzzle when it comes to understanding writing. I found it comforting when Ramsey states that we can look at literature in quantifiable ways without giving away the humanistic qualities. I haven’t really looked at quantitative analyses of writing much, or at least I haven’t been drawn to them (or required to read about them), therefore, I am not sure I can offer much discussion in this area, but I can at least say it’s interesting.