Did You Do The Reading?

This question was the bane of one's existence in English class, especially if you did not do the reading. Class discussion separated the wheat from the chaff. Some people were great at spinning up explanations to make it appear as though the read. Others were not as lucky.

But the question has a more universal application. Today we have the ability to share content at the click of a button. With that comes suspicion over whether a person has read the article she's sharing. Does she know what the article is actually proposing? Did she do the reading?

Not doing the reading has impact – an unfulfilling class experience, a muddied culture. We all need to be on the same page if we are to move forward.

This is where annotation comes in. It offers a window into the mind of the reader. As Ann Blair put it in this New York Times article,

“The note is the record a historian has of past reading,” said Ann Blair, a professor of history at Harvard and one of the conference organizers. “What is reading, after all? Even if you look introspectively, it’s hard to really know what you’re taking away at any given time. But notes give us hope of getting close to an intellectual process.”

So when we want to share a piece of writing on the web, I wonder if it better to share one's notes. Then there is a glimpse of an intellectual process. We can see that you have done the reading. That is a jumping off point.

Because then a worthwhile conversation can happen.