Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Linda Stone - Continuous Partial Attention and More

Earlier today I had the opportunity to hear Linda Stone speak at an Applications of Interactive Telecommunications Technology class. Linda has worked in the technology industry for over 20 years, having spent time at some of the sector’s biggest and most innovative organizations, such as Microsoft and Apple. Most recently, her attention has been focused on the phenomenon of “Continuous Partial Attention”.

Continuous partial attention refers to an artificial state of crisis that we create (that’s right we have to take responsibility here) because of our attempts to not miss anything and to be connected, always on, anytime, anywhere. This is a distinct phenomenon from multi-tasking, which usually connotes a focus on productivity (not the case with continuous partial attention). There is more information about this concept on Linda's blog.

Below I’ve compiled a brief overview of my notes from today’s event. My focus here has been to capture high-level ideas that may serve to inspire my future projects and research at ITP.

Top Three Ideas
  • Our current always-on state of being is unhealthy and unsustainable
  • Trend society’s focus moving from thinking and doing to sensing and feeling
  • Opportunity to bring the body back into our interactions with computers
More Detailed Overview

The condition of continuous partial attention keeps people in a constant state of fight or flight at a low-level. This state is not healthy or sustainable.
  • Physiologically, the chemical impact of remaining in this state for prolonged periods of time has a negative impact on our mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Medical research shows that being in a chronic state of fight or flight has negative physiological and psychological impacts (e.g. depression).
  • Breathing exercises and meditation are one of the many tools that we can use to manage state of mind (and upstate the parasympathetic nervous system).
To date, our interactions with technology have for the most part ignored physicality, which has had a negative impact on our lives.
  • When we engage with computers we often have bad posture and even neglect to breath.
  • Breathing is linked to attention and emotions. Thus physical ways to engage with computational devices can help us on these levels as well.
A new era is beginning, where people are going to be looking for technologies that provide quality of life (not just simplicity).
  • Opportunities to explore how to use ambient or environmental technologies to create contexts that help people relax by stimulating/engaging our parasympathetic nervous system.
Technology can be used to change people’s behavior with the need for using incentives and punishments
  • The Prius demonstrates how providing individuals with the ability to self-regulate is often sufficient to change behavior.
  • The Fun Theory campaign from VW shows examples of how creating new interactions that are fun can also change the behavior of people. I've embedded one of the videos below.

Book Recommendations

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