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. I perceive that it fits.

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.

One thought on “The Sixth Sense: the Internet and Perceptual Set

  1. Thanks for putting this concern on the table. As I prepare for Fall term which includes a grad-level Teacher/Action Research class, the tsunami (“300 exabytes of data”) and wasteland (boo-koo “studies” using dead methodology, unaware of quantum age, irrelevant variables, hegemonic “professional” organizations in “voodoo value added” accountability structures) cast a formidable landscape in which to compose joyful learning.
    My response seems similar to yours; I’d like to support our teachers in sensing destiny with moment by moment attunement that stretches across from the individual reason-for-being through sensitivity to meaningful community and on toward more cosmic alignment, unity. For me, this doesn’t have to go all gooey, new-age-y; I connect with oneness, perhaps more than anywhere else, in horsemanship where the goal reaches for the most subtle and caring engagement with power. And the investment also finds justification in articulating or knowing a “feel” that translates to capacity to find my way in what otherwise lurks as a tsunami wasteland.

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