Wednesday, February 09, 2005

(Enconium on Sticky Notes)

Originally posted: Wed, 09 Feb 2005 19:03:30

I've been told that smart people use sticky notes for annotating their readings. Not sure if I really qualify, but I certainly use sticky notes for everything.

Part of the reason is the embarassing nature of the annotations I've seen in books I check out from the library. Recently I checked out Vygotsky's Thought and Language (2ed) and discovered copious notes in pencil. Bless his/her heart, the previous reader had written notes such as "is Vygotsky trendy right now because of his critique on Piaget?!?" Um, no.

The problem is that annotations -- for me, for this hapless author, and perhaps for others -- are a way to make sense of readings rather than a collection of pronouncements. The reviews I write on this blog are public writings, so I take a minimum of care in writing them and making them coherent. My annotations are spaces where I try out ideas, try to make connections, and look for recurrent themes in the book; they aren't especially coherent, they're often wide of the mark, and I often cringe when I read them a few months later. Do I want them to become a permanent part of the book? Surely not!

In addition to allowing me to cover my tracks, sticky notes do other things. They allow me to find my annotations at a glance. They let me prioritize my insights: I'll star the notes that I think are the best points or the strongest connections. I'll use different colors for different readings. (Right now I'm rereading Medvedev's The Formal Method of Literary Scholarship, this time with dialectics as a special emphasis, so my dialectics-related notes are in hot pink while my other notes are in a pale blue.) And if there's something that relates directly and immediately to a project, I orient the sticky note so that it protrudes from the bottom of the page rather than out the side. Sticky notes, as Clancy implies in her comments, can actually transform the book; as Deleuze and Guattari might put it, they striate the book in ways that let me get a better handle on it. And they've transformed my scholarship so much that I'm frankly not sure what I'd do without them. Keep a journal, maybe.

How do you take notes?>

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