That's the title of an Economist article about synaesthesia.

A few times in my life I've met people who say that particular letters or words are associated with colors, or sometimes tastes--words that ordinarily would not evoke colors or tastes. That's called synaesthesia. The article refers to a Nature Neuroscience study that uses a particular type of brain analysis. "Diffusion-tensor imaging measures the direction of movement of water molecules. Since the filaments that connect distant nerve cells are surrounded by fatty sheaths which restrict the movement of water, such molecules tend to move along a filament rather than out of it. The upshot is that the technique can detect bundles of such filaments running from one part of the brain to another." Although the researchers did find atypical connections between two areas of the brain, "...the phenomenon is more complex than had been appreciated." (The Economist, May 24, 2007)

Synaesthetes show more connectivity than other people; these people have cases of certain senses being blended or woven together.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone on CL2.0 experience synaesthesia?

Or, to take this just one step further and propose a preposterous question, through active participation in Web 2.0 technologies, are we all developing a new kind of sense, which may possibly be called "thinking in linking"? (And is that sort of thinking any different than regular thinking, anyway?)

OK, shoot me now. Another off-beat topic. Just for fun.

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So, I would have no trouble believing that our brain wiring is significantly impacted by the types of activities we do. And then I start wondering about all the kids whose adolescent lives have been actively involved in technologies that are new, and have to imagine that the studies of how their brains have been impacted/improved/wired differently will be fascinating.
I was so suprised to see that someone else has heard of this. I first understood synaesthesia when I read about it in a Smithsonian article six years ago. I've always associated numbers with colors. One is white, two is yellow, three is red, etc. And higher numbers are a blend of colors. For example 23 is a combination of yellow and red, which makes brown.But since the number two comes first, it would be more of a yellow. And if I take certain words, like bird, I might look associate it with certain colors, like the color pink. I make that connection because pink equals the number four, and the word bird is made up of four numbers. It's a little muddled, I know, but I've always made these associations.

You asked through active participation in Web 2.0 technologies, are we all developing a new kind of sense, which may possibly be called "thinking in linking"?

I think it's too early to tell, but I can see where you're going with this. For students, however, it's almost an organic thing. I think that when they're older, we'll realize that they have been making different types of connections that we made (just as our teachers noted with us as a result of the development of computers). This is a fascinating subject. Anyone else out there have strange associations?

Your post is fascinating! Have you figured out whether it runs in the family? I have a friend who has synaesthesia, and her father and grandfather also do. She is Native American, and she said that she knows other Native Americans who think this way.

Regarding the Web 2.0 activity and brain changes, I agree with Steve, that it's likely that brains of today are being actively wired in new ways. I'd really like to hear about this from the neurologists. So much information is available now that wasn't before, through brain-imaging techniques. (Recently read that violinists have different patterns of neural activity than others--if they began young enough, and pursured the instrument in depth. Violinists are of particular interest to neurologists because of the particular asymmetry involved in their hand-brain work.)

So much to think about. I'd also like to know whether there are studies of elderly people and how computer use may be impacting their neural patterns. Anyone know of such studies? One thing I have experienced through extensive use of computers is much-improved memory! (And I can hear my son piping up with, "Yeah, well, there wasn't any other direction to go, other than up, if you know what I mean...")
Fascinating subject matter! How did the play go Connie?

I spend much time reading brain research and considering how fascinating it is that this organ is working so hard to understand it'self. I liken the use of tools like the web, computers mind-sharing tools like blogs, wikis and social portals like Classroom 2.0, to the adding of peripherals to our existing nervous system. The extension of existing senses to enhance the brain's already amazing functions. What excites me is the myriad ways I can use these technolgies to fill in holes in my understanding or to overcome or work around neural disfunction that limited me for much of my life. I believe that we are on the edge of a very exciting age that will allow people to circumvent some of their biggest challenges and become and achieve anything they can imagine. What will these amazing new tools do to fire imagination in people who felt they had none. I could spend a lot of time talking about the brain and the changes that have come and are still coming and what we could/should do to maximize the human potential in all of this rapid change. : )

Leave it to you to find such an astounding reference for what we're discussing. How do you do this?! My synapses are firing all over the place; it makes me want to jump up and scream that we've got to get going! I do think the heart of the matter is about us becoming actively involved in storytelling and story sharing, something so simple, yet something of infinite potential. This part of your post resonates for me: "...enabling contact and communication in unheard-of ways, transcending physical proximity, yielding a kind of network that criss-crosses the planet, driven by electricity or digital technology, pushing the frontiers ever further."

How to keep the humanness in this?

How to learn our own stories, within?

And how to guide the students we teach, while we're groping for direction ourselves?

I'm going to have to reread your post several times to even begin to understand it. Thanks for "Technology as Voyage Out." You keep us all thinking.
Thanks for this comment, Kevin. You and I share the interest in neurology. Where in the world are we going, with this ability to extend our brains--to increase our personal capacity? (But that word's fuzzy, because where is the "capacity" actually located, what does that word now mean?) Where are we going when we can become just a small brain in a world network of brains? I get dizzy just thinking about it, dizzier than usual.

I'm very curious about your comment regarding how new tools "fire imagination." That is a new take for me. I typically see the new tools as implementing the imagination, giving form to it. You're talking about the new tools revving it up! Let's hear more!

Regarding how new technological tools help us overcome disabilities: Doesn't it feel like the promise-land? So much is possible. Voice for the voiceless, limbs for the limbless, organization for those with organizational challenges, freedom for those too bound. This should be a forum topic right here--how people have used computers to help bust through challenges. We need to join thoughts with the Inclusion Revolution group. That's profound stuff.



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