The Sixth Sense: the Internet and Perceptual Set


I stumbled across this review of Daniel Levitin’s non-fiction work, The Organized Mind, while roving through my Scoop.It site , CurationEd. Levitin seems to have embodied what I have been thinking should be the largest part of what I do as a university comp teacher–information management. And here’s why according to the reviewer

“The digitization of our lives hasn’t just created more information than any of us can realistically process, it’s more than we can fathom. (Levitin offers the figure of 300 exabytes of data, which, accurate or not, is too many zeros to show you.)”
Well, here’s the zeros: 300,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes
How does one learn to manage the tsunami. Well…that is a bad metaphor. By definition, one can’t manage a tsunami or a flood. Those are acts of Mother Nature that are created in nature. So how does one manage the human-made equivalent. Happily, none of us is faced all at once with that wall of noisy zeroes. In fact our senses and mind already do a damned fine job of filtering out this near nuclear onslaught already. It just ignores most of it. Or as Anaïs Nin put it: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

I am beginning to think that, while hand-made by humanity, the enormous pulse of energy we call the Internet can be treated as a sixth sense, the feel of information in the world. If it is a ‘sense’, then perhaps we can treat this information in much the same way our senses do. In his book, Levitin tries to tease out four major ways we could and do attend to that task.


According to the reviewer, Levitin divides this attentional system into four parts:

  1. “the default or “mind-wandering” mode;
  2. the central executive mode;
  3. the attentional filter;
  4. and the attentional switch that moves us from one mode to the other.”

The review also mentions that Levitin regards the key to ‘managing’ this information maelstrom is to remain calm, even Buddha-like in order to drain fear and uncertainty from the system. I know for certain that this is first step in creating any effective classroom learning environment so it makes sense to also do this in one’s own personal learning ecology. I had not consciously thought of this before. I know that in my on again, off again meditative practice (vipassana meditation) I focus on the breath as I sit. Might the same practice work in doing research? Instead of focusing on breathing, one would center on a particular question in calmness before the monitor. One’s research question? Or if you are earlier on in the research process, perhaps a topic of a few words. If you move away from that topic, then you gently bring yourself back to the center just the same as in vipassana meditation as you return to the breath.

So…I haven’t read the book, I have only read a review of the book. This post is rife speculation. Still, I am very excited by its prospects. I will grab a copy of this book. Perhaps we will run across each other via Kindle comments or the comments in this post? Wherever we find each other, we will be connecting outside ourselves just as when we read we connect within ourselves. I think this inner connecting through reading, writing, thinking is the work I need to refine and make public so that I can model it and share it with my students. They can then do what they will with it in their own inner struggle to connect.

Enjoy seeing and connecting with the video below:

Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See from Edward Tufte on Vimeo.

Connected Links of Interest:

Perceptual Set

Daniel Levitin on Getting Organized

Learning to See

The Organized Librarian

Inge Druckery: Vimeo above on “learning to see”.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Curation Favors the Connected Mind

Photo by SparkCBC ( (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo by SparkCBC (
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

A very interesting and useful blog post on curation and student learning in the context of digital literacy by Ibrar Bhatt.  I have stripped out the parts that were relevant to me and commented below in an attempt to come to terms with curation in my composition classroom.

 “The term [‘curation’] has usually been employed to describe such work which is carried out in museum settings, and has now evolved to describe what is often done in digital environments and online spaces.”

I think it is interesting that we always come back to the idea of digital spaces.  Well, of course we do, but do we ever define what these spaces are?  Is it clear that digital spaces and real world spaces are distinct from each other?

“[P]ractices that people tend to do in “information thick worlds”.
I love this embodied description of information as being thick.  It is also textured and noisy and redolent with smells             and awash in movement and colorful and…tasty.  Three and four dimensional, too.  Like a drama on stage.  Tufte is trying to bridge the gap between digital and real worlds.  It is all one thick informational reality.

 “Select, edit, single out, structure, highlight, group, pair, merge, harmonize, synthesize, focus, organize, condense, reduce, boil down, choose, categorize, catalog, classify, list, abstract, scan, look into, idealize, isolate, discriminate, distinguish, screen, pigeonhole, pick over, sort, integrate, blend, inspect, filter, lump, skip, smooth, chunk, average, approximate, cluster, aggregate, outline, summarize, itemize, review, dip into, flip through, browse, glance into, leaf through, skim, refine, enumerate, glean, synopsize, winnow the wheat from the chaff, and separate the sheep from the goats.”(Tufte, 1990, 50)

Great Tufte quote re-defining curation as an ‘umbrella’ term inclusive of all the skills/verbs he exhaustively lists.  I wonder how useful it is to make the term carry so much freight.

“Anthologising older content to produce new content and creating a new experience for readers, by giving a new life (or new ‘reality’) to an older text. This is curation as a digital literacy practice.”

Ibrar Bhatt’s take on Tufte and on defining digital curation. According to Bhatt, everyday curation includes retweeting, liking, plussing, faving, storifying, patch writing. He contrasts that kind of curation with the exemplary writing of Maria Popova in her blog, Brain Pickings. What does she do that is such a model for others to follow?  She ‘re-contextualizes’ by collecting and interpreting and creating a new experience for the audience with the curated text. Bhatt then  redefines curation as the  “process of problem solving, re-assembling, re-creating, and stewardship of other people’s writing.”


The image above amounts to a template for curating a digital space:

  1. Find something timeless to curate.
  2. Fit it into a pattern that makes sense.
  3. Find a larger context for why this matters.
  4. Share widely.

I think this fits into Harold Jarche’s simpler seek-sense-share framework.

Why does this matter?  If curation is all that Tufte and Bhatt say it is, then why aren’t scaffolds like these being used more often for training and in learning systems?  I am using the curation tool to do curation with my freshman comp students.  They use as their introductory platform  for beginning to acquire the skills  Tufte enumerates above that are part of the academic and business spaces they will eventually live in.  I am hoping they will demonstrate why it curation matters as they seek-sense-share their way to long and short form ‘texts’ that they will be writing all semester. That will include essays, tweets, G+ community posts, blog posts, research papers, emails, plusses, favs, instagrams, zeegas, slideshares, pictures, and a massive mobile presence from their own digital spaces.  Wish me luck.

Interesting links from article and from comments:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.