Reading can be shallow or deep
There are two modes of reading we can engage in, each with a unique set of benefits and tradeoffs:
- ‘Shallow’ reading: Characterised by rapid, efficient skimming of content, this is the method commonly employed when engaging in content online. The purpose of this reading mode is to rapidly ascertain whether it is worth engaging with more thoroughly, or whether it presents no useful information. This non-linear engagement of text at a fast pace allows for large amounts of information to be processed, but only at the most basic level—it does not provide the brain with enough time to move the information being consumed into the working memory and, as such, prevents further insight and contemplation of the ideas being presented. The key question a reader should seek to answer in this mode is “does this material require deeper investigation?”. If the answer is yes, ‘Deep’ reading should occur. If not, the item should be considered processed and discarded.
- ‘Deep’ reading: This is the more rare, more difficult form of reading to practice. It is an entirely new way of interacting with the medium of choice and focuses on engaging with the text in a more participatory and contemplative way: taking notes, pausing to reflect on particularly insightful passages, etc. More than just knowledge transfer, this reading mode aims to gain perspective from the author and sit with the ideas presented for longer periods of time—really attempting to understand how the ideas and examples presented in the book or blog post relate to other concepts or theories. The readers’ wisdom begins where the authors ends i.e. ideas presented by the author must be comprehensively contemplated and understood. Reading in this fashion can be seen as a counter-practice against the values of efficiency and speed commonly pushed by the techno-social environment we currently reside in.