One of the most interesting questions starring in the latest discussions is : “How long does it take to generate a visual marker?”. When we describe generation of visual markers we include several different activities, that light up different parts of the brain. Some of them take longer, others are lightening fast. Moreover, the complexity of the task is inversely proportional to the amount of experience in the particular area. In this post I will try to address different sides of the issue.
What are the activities involved in creating a visual marker?
When we create visual markers we perform at least some of the activities below:
- Analyse the concept of interest and its attributes
- Generate visual associations
- Assign an object/icon to represent the concept
- Define several details associated with specific context in which the concept appears and encode them as colours or shapes of the object elements
- Analyse connections of the concept with other concepts within the context and within the whole body of knowledge
- Encode the connection links as physical placement or motion and indicate an element generating the link
- Verify that we encoded only the details that are relevant and encode all the details that are relevant…
There may be other activities involved, or we may have missed some activities that are specific to a particular method or field of knowledge,
How complex is a marker?
Clearly it is hard to do all the tasks involved with sufficient accuracy. An average visual marker I use has 3-4 details encoded into it and has 3-4 connections to other markers. Moreover it may have colour and size, fade-in and fade-out animation corresponding to its context. So it is about 10 pieces of information per marker.
How to generate markers fast?
Fortunately we are usually reading documents that appear very similar to each other. This means that about 90% of what a skill reader reads already generated some markers in his brain. Probably about 70% of the marker details may be reused. This means that if we focus only on the new stuff, we have to encode from scratch much less than half of what we read. As long as we do not modify the markers – and we do our best NOT TO MODIFY the markers, we could work pretty fast. It is much easier to add a feature or attribute to an existing template than generate a new template….
Generating brand new markers
When generating brand new markers, it is very important to understand the whole context of the marker before we generate the marker, otherwise we would nee to modify the marker. Here pre-reading kicks in. If you find something brand-new when pre-reading paragraph/section you should stop and generate the marker. You need to make sure that the marker is sufficiently wide and accurate so that you will not change it later on. Typically the generic marker would be icon-like representation or stylized object. You fill in the missing details as you reread the paragraph or deepen your knowledge in the subject.
How many markers to use per text?
The density of information within text may vary wildly. Some texts are not very informative and your reading speed will be limited by your saccade speed (~3000wpm). In this case you will probably have a marker per section. Some will include 2-3 markers per sentence and your reading speed will drop to ~200 wpm. But on average you will end up with a marker per paragraph and reading speed of ~1000 wpm.