Mining the archives

As I draft, and mobilise my knowledge to build an argument, I need to refresh my memory of the written work of others, to effectively cite.  I have an impression that so-and-so said such-and-such, but don’t quite know exactly where  (ie committing verbatim text and chapter-and-verse to memory is not something well developed in my childhood, excepting by the accompaniment of music).  But I do have this memory-remnant, and in regularly revisited reading (eg of the three synoptic gospels, or of Paul’s letters to the churches) I have a greater remembrance of basic context, so I can  scan relatively quickly for it, and with concordances or electronic search engines these days I can use ‘key words’ to search efficiently and find.

But not all of the documents I have accessed are in a digital form, yet, and my processing of my reading includes integrating the material into my frame, with its selective attentivenesses, and involves some synthesising re-expression, so that when I go ‘back to the literature’ I cannot always find a sentence, or form of words, that captures the remnant memory impression of how I want to speak of the idea I want to reference.

Going back to the literature, however, and searching again, by reading afresh the detail that has been forgotten, can have its own rewards: sometimes, as today, while re-reading Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind, I see things in detail that I don’t remember having seen before.  The hermeneutical spiral and iterative process, that is ongoing for me, has prepared me so that I can read and understand the same words read before, in a different way now.

The process of developing a habit of capturing reflective thinking as I work with my practice issue has now built a large repository of similar data.  The task of drafting, and redrafting to be more concise, has given me some polished resources that can be revisited and sometimes it is there that the precise reference, including a page number, is found.

The process of slowing down my reading, of theoretical and technical writing, by transcribing the material that first caught my attention, which I have used since undergraduate days (1963-6) to assist my memory and understanding has been enhanced recently.  Since 1996, I have captured the transcribed material digitally, and since 1998 I have been consciously capturing my contemporaneous reflective thinking about that first read and transcribe, so that now I have another resource of digitised data to search via simple ‘find’ commands (or someday soon, when I have tidied up my archived files of redundant duplication, I might invoke Google to search my desktop).

So, today, while mining the archives, I have found:

To what extent I need to explore disciplines like semantics, linguistics, psychology, xxx, to be able to deal with the issues that arise in my practice, is open, and may depend on whether I can find a group of cooperative inquirers where these disciplinary resources are available, and I can engage with cooperative inquiry with them (May 2004 draft of thesis conclusion)

Ha! I knew it! add to “semantics and linguistics”,  ‘syntax’, and maybe even ‘TESOL’,  and you have some of  the issues that my current practice is throwing up … prepositions, vocabulary and categories and possible ontologies, developing abstractions, literacy, the context of writing,  etc

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