Writing as a means of data comprehension

Something I am thinking about today.
Through-out grade school I was always taught to write notes on whatever I was reading and to rewrite any other notes as a means to comprehend the material I was studying. I think I read somewhere since that writing involves higher level cognitive processes that aid in memory (I don’t have time to find the source). Even my Mandarin teacher forced me to write ad nauseam pinyin, and later characters, on the white board as a means to remember and to help keep me warm in winter.
Up until the past five years or so most of my learning and research activities were slow – the act of writing, high-lighting, reading books, and bookmarking passages took time. Time which allowed for greater absorption of the data at hand. Generally, you had to read through allot more material to help support your arguments.
Contrast that with the methods I, and many others, use now for the light research activities I am involved in in an almost daily basis. It’s all at the meta level – delicious for reference material, textedit for in-use snip-its of text, Google docs for draft sharing and collaboration, Flickr and iView for images, weblogs and micro-blogs for sharing, Yojimbo for data stores, and Google and host of other sources for research. It’s all fast and shallow with an emphasis on cut ‘n’ paste.
In effect we’ve become curators and convenors of other peoples material. We don’t absorb, we regurgitate. We don’t take the time to allow for that transformation of data to knowledge.
What effects does this have on the ability to concentrate? When I told a doctor I was having trouble focusing he advised to read real books slowly.
I wonder if there is anyway to actually slow down the process and still use digital tools? I’m not convinced I ever truly read anything onscreen as well as in a book. It’s more scanning and collecting.
The Effects of the Shared Writing Process on Reading Comprehension of Second and Third Grade Students.
Improving Reading Comprehension Through Higher Order Thinking Skills (pdf).
An insight on designers’ sketching activities in traditional versus digital media

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