Jarosław Kopeć

READING/WRITING IN ICT. HABITUAL ALLIANCES AND INDIVIDUAL STYLE.

In the “fundamentally intertextual landscape” of the Internet, “reading processes and outcomes vary considerably”.1 Zhang and Duke have concluded that these processes are different for different aims that readers/users try to achieve.2 Cho concluded3 that even within the groups of people trying to achieve similar aims, the strategies of constructing meaning out of texts in the ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) environment vary considerably. The aim of the qualitative study presented in this paper is to explore how these processes may vary between individuals in task-orientated attempts undertaken by students of various fields. The main questions of this paper are: how these processes vary, why they may be so different in each participant’s case, and what role the machines and software play in these processes.

The research is based on empirical data collected during and after the participants undertook given tasks to prepare written responses to questions given. The theoretical approaches employed during interpretation of the results are discussed in another part of the paper.

Theoretical framework

CONSTRUCTIVELY RESPONSIVE READING COMPREHENSION

This study is an exploration study into strategies undertaken by readers/writers while conducting Constructively Responsive Reading Comprehension (CRRC) tasks. The term names goal-orientated attempts to construct meaning out of texts and includes a variety of skills necessary for doing so successfully.4 Research on strategies employed for CRRC in the environment of ICT has already been conducted. The conclusion made by Byeong-Young Cho5 was that readers use both traditional and novel strategies for reading online texts. Zhang and Duke6 analysed the relation between aims of reading (one similar to CRRC was also taken into account) and strategies employed, concluding that the choice of strategies is different for different reading purposes.

The aim of this study is to describe strategies employed during CRRC in a more detailed way, investigate the possible causes of diversity of behaviour between individuals, and let non-human actors7 “speak for themselves” about their role in the participants’ processes.

The CRRC process can be recorded in laboratory conditions, and may be analysed and interpreted in the wider context of everyday practices of reading/writing online. As reading strategies are invisible, research aiming at understanding them must employ methods enabling a researcher to get reliable data about the decisions taken by readers.8 In the case of this study, the data is gathered through screen-capture recordings of participants’ processes of locating information and preparing written responses to questions given to them as a task to complete. Supplementary data used for stating hypotheses and building arguments about causes of certain behaviours is gathered in interviews with participants concerning their everyday practices of using the Internet for reading and constructing knowledge. 

ACTOR-NETWORK THEORY AND SOCIALLYDISTRIBUTED COGNITION

It is impossible not to notice that the difference between novel and traditional strategies used for reading9 is based on a type of non-human actor taking part in the network in which a human actor is reading. This is why employing the basic principles of Latour’s Actor-Network Theory10 is crucial for a better understanding of the processes in which both humans and non-humans take part. Whenever a person reads, he or she engages in a relation with non-human actors: books, newspapers, online texts, computers, computer peripherals, online applications, desktop applications, and many others. Pieces of content may also be treated as non-human actors. In this paper Latour’s basic terminology is used to emphasise and interpret the role of non-humans in the processes of reading.

Latour also uses the words collective and alliance to name certain groups of actors (human or non-human) who act together after the phase of constructing this alliance is complete or at least temporarily complete.11 My term habitual alliance is used to name such configurations of actors, which are constructed by human actors in some situations and recalled in similar situations. These habitual alliances are learnt and sometimes used unconsciously, like when one drives a car. He or she uses the steering wheel, gearshift, pedals, gets into relations with traffic lights and other cars. Whenever one finds oneself in a similar situation, for example in someone else’s car, the way of constructing this alliance may be recalled and the same configuration may be used to manage the new task – both cars are similar, even when one’s gearshift works differently or the steering wheel’s response is a bit weaker. At this point the understanding of the term habitual alliance is similar to Afllerbach’s and Cho’s understanding of strategies as “skills under consideration”.12 The difference is that when one state of the alliance is recorded, a researcher can seek similarities in different situations. These alliances can “migrate”.

My hypothesis is that it happens similarly with reading. The habitual alliances constructed in professional or academic life may be recalled in CRRC tasks given in a laboratory experiment, and they can be observed through the comparisons of participants’ processes. If this hypothesis holds in the light of arguments presented in the further part of the text, it will be possible to conclude that there are individual habitual alliances, and habits of working with information. It will also be proved that non-human actors take part in the process and are an important actor on which the positive effect of CRRC in the ICT environment depends.

Socially Distributed Cognition as understood by Edwin Hutchins and Tove Klausen13 is a way of understanding cognition as an effort undertaken by a functionally extracted group, not just an individual. In this paper a method similar to the one employed by Hutchins and Klausen, in their paper on an airplane cockpit, is used to describe the structure of the “hive mind” of a reader/writer and all non-human actors taking part in the process, especially when it comes to storing information for further refinement.


1 B-Y. Cho, “Adolescents’ Constructively Responsive Reading Strategy Use in a Critical Internet Reading Task”, Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 48(4), 2013, pp. 329–332.

2 S. Zhang, N.K. Duke, “Strategies for Internet Reading with Different Reading Purposes: A Descriptive Study of Twelve Good Internet Readers”, Journal of Literacy Research, vol. 40: 1, 2008, pp. 128 – 162.

3 B-Y. Cho, “Adolescents’…”, op. cit.

4 P. Afflerbach, B.-Y. Cho, “Identifying and describing constructively responsive comprehension strategies in new and traditional forms of reading”, in: Handbook of research on reading comprehension, S.E. Israel, G.G. Duffy (eds.), 2009, pp. 69–90.

5 B.-Y. Cho, “Adolescents’”, op. cit. B.-Y. Cho, “Competent Adolescent Readers’ Use of Internet Reading Strategies: A Think-Aloud Study”, Cognition and instruction, vol. 32(3), 2014, pp. 253-289.

6 S. Zhang, N.K. Duke, op. cit.

7 B. Latour, Reassembling the Social: an Introduction to Actor–network theory, Oxford, 2005.

8 P. Afflerbach, B.-Y. Cho, op. cit.

9 B.-Y. Cho, “Adolescents’, op. cit.

10 B. Latour, An Introduction…, op. cit.

11 B. Latour, An Introduction…, op. cit. B. Latour, Politics of Nature, Cambridge, 2004.

12 P. Afflerbach, B.-Y. Cho, op. cit.

13 Hutchins, Klausen (http://pl.scribd.com/doc/235402441/Hutchins-Distributed Cognition-in-an-Airline-Cockpit).