I have an obsession with a 3 digital number.

Of course it’s 106 for the greatest ed-tech thing that’s ever happened. But I’m just talking here about the 3 digit number.

Since January 2011, I have collected 367 photos of finding 106’s in the world.


Milepost markers. Scale measurements. Fuel prices (Canadian liters). Addresses. Time. Blood glucose measurements. Hotel room numbers. Bus routes. Highway numbers. License plates.

You get the idea.

Here’s my first, taken on December 18, 2010. It was so long ago I was running, and while visiting friends in Phoenix, AX, thinking about this weird class Jim Groom was starting, I noticed a 106 marker on a pole along one of the canal paths in Mesa.

I did apply some wild effects to it. But it clicked that it might be fun to celebrate this DS106 thing by finding photos of the number. It’s also the “Illustrate 106” assignment, which now is on the order of difficulty of an easy Daily Create.

But that’s not the point.

But when I am out and about, especially in a new location (this is my last day of a week’s visit to Washington D.C.), my eyes are tuned to glance at signs, and license plates seeking 106’s. I’m not always looking for them, but it’s something that seems to float somewhere between subconscious and higher.

Yup, I saw a bus with a 1106 on it, so crop the image, and kaching

Why am I even blogging about this beside showing you how dull my life is that I look for a 3 digit number?

I think there is value into having what I found among naturalists is called a “Search image”. I rad about it first in Alexandra Horowitz’s book On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes which is the author’s learnings while walking familiar areas of New York City with different experts, so she begins to see things she never noticed before.

The idea is that birds find a food that really appeals to them, and they pretty much scan their surroundings looking for that very thing:

Tinbergen noticed that songbirds did not prey on just any insect that had recently hatched in the vicinity; instead, they tended to prefer one kind of bug — say, a particular species of beetle — at a time. As the numbers of young beetles rose through a season, the birds gorged on these beetlettes, ignoring any other available young insects nearby. Tinbergen suggested that, once the birds found a food they liked, they began to look just for that food, ignoring all others. He called this a search image: a mental image of a beetle—with its characteristic beetly shape, size, and colors—with which the bird scans her environment.

The naturalist that Horowitz walks with describes this as:

Once you have an eye for these things, even when you’re not looking for them, they just jump out at you. Everything is a sign of something.

I think of it as more like tuning your observation to one signal, one frequency, so that it becomes less overt, and more of something that pretty much picks it up almost like a radio signal.

But what it also does, I think, is it heightens your overall observation intensity. I find that’s what photography does in conjunction. I’m always tuned into noting things like vivid light, contrast, juxtaposition, and of course, 106s.

I’ve thought if I taught any other media class that was not ds106, that I might the course number as such a talisman. I could ask students, to pick their own favorite number to look for. Three digital seem ideal- 2 is too easy, and 4 too hard. Numbers seem better, as it affords them in signs, phone numbers, street signs.

But by having every person doing the same number, then you are able to compare and appreciate what others are doing. And you celebrate the course number. And jealous people call you a cult. And you get an idea to offer your students socks with the number on it, you fail yo deliver, and they still love you. Hypothetical story.

Or maybe I just have a useless obsession with a three digit number.

Top / Featured Image: For anyone who watched the Lost series, just me saying “the Numbers” triggers an association.

While there are attributed images I really wanted to use from the Lostopedia, the rights are thin there for fairuse, and thinner for me to download.

So the image I am using is a public domain one from pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/pay-numbers-infinity-digits-fill-937884/

If this kind of stuff has any value, please support me monthly on Patreon or a one time PayPal kibble toss
Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *