Digital Overload Is Frying Our Brains | Wired Science from Wired.com
It's not a pretty picture: a never-ending stream of phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, text messages and tweets is part of an institutionalized culture of interruption, and makes it hard to concentrate and think creatively.
Studies show that information workers now switch tasks an average of every three minutes throughout the day. This degree of interruption is correlated with stress and frustration and lowered creativity.
"Paying attention isn't a simple act of self-discipline, but a cognitive ability with deep neurobiological roots — and this complex faculty, says Maggie Jackson, is being woefully undermined by how we're living. In Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, Jackson explores the effects of "our high-speed, overloaded, split-focus and even cybercentric society" on attention. It's not a pretty picture: a never-ending stream of phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, text messages and tweets is part of an institutionalized culture of interruption, and makes it hard to concentrate and think creatively. Of course, every modern age is troubled by its new technologies. "The telegraph might have done just as much to the psyche [of] Victorians as the Blackberry does to us," said Jackson. "But at the same time, that doesn't mean that nothing has changed. The question is, how do we confront our own challenges?" Wired.com talked to Jackson about attention and its loss."
The other important thing is to discuss interruption as an environmental question and collective social issue. In our country, stillness and reflection are not especially valued in the workplace. The image of success is the frenetic multitasker who doesn't have time and is constantly interrupted. By striving towards this model of inattention, we're doing ourselves a tremendous injustice.Can Twitter Survive What is About to Happen to It? | Twine
I am worried about Twitter. I love it the way it is today. But it's about to change big time, and I wonder whether it can survive the transition. Twitter …Relationship Symmetry in Social Networks: Why Facebook will go Fully Asymmetric - Bokardo
Why Facebook will go Fully AsymmetricThe Benefits of Distraction and Overstimulation -- New York Magazine
Twitter, Adderall, lifehacking, mindful jogging, power browsing, Obama’s BlackBerry, and the benefits of overstimulation.
In Defense of Distraction
If I didn't write this sentence, most of my friends who started to read this article would quickly lose focus and start scanning it.Why can't we concentrate? | Salon Books
090608The Brain: Stop Paying Attention: Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State | Memory, Emotions, & Decisions | DISCOVER Magazine
I'm not staring into space, I'm trying to live a balanced life
Everyone who knows me needs to read this articleA Short Manifesto on the Future of Attention: Observatory: Design Observer
Making something "free" is obviously an allocation strategy. "Free" attracts attention. Making things brief is an allocation strategy as well. The problem is that free isn't sustainable, and that brief is underpriced. We need a Ronald Reagan of attention, someone to inspire us away from the fight over smaller and smaller pieces of the attention pie. Someone who will inspire us to make the attention pie bigger.Stanford study: Media multitaskers pay mental price
[Multitaskers are] "suckers for irrelevancy. Everything distracts them." "They couldn't help thinking about the task they weren't doing," Ophir said. "The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can't keep things separate in their minds."
You might think a lot gets done when you multitask, but a study conducted by Stanford researchers Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass and Anthony Wagner says it isn't so.
People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.Chris and Malcolm are both wrong | Union Square Ventures: A New York Venture Capital Fund Focused on Early Stage & Startup Investing
Since Craigslist collapsed a multibillion dollar classified advertising business into a fabulously profitable $100,000,000 business, perhaps we should be talking about the potential deflationary impact of more "zero billion dollar" businesses.
. As the radical efficiencies of the web seep into more sectors of the economy, and participants in social networks exchange attention instead of dollars, will governments at all levels need to make do with less tax revenue? That's a scary thought in an era of high deficits unless traditional governments can learn from the efficent governance systems of social networks and provide more for less.
In a world where facts are readily available, from multiple sources, basic information will be commoditized. But the explosion of sources will create a real burden for the consumers of information. Raw information will become not just a commodity, it will be a nuisance. In that world, consumers will value scarce, relevant insight over abundant facts.
In a world where facts are readily available, from multiple sources, basic information will be commoditized. But the explosion of sources will create a real burden for the consumers of information. Raw information will become not just a commodity, it will be a nuisance. In that world, consumers will value scarce, relevant insight over abundant facts. Computer scientists have been working for years on algorithmic ways of mining text for insight with only modest success. It turns out that people still out perform computers at this task. Web services like Google, LastFM, and Facebook, succeed because they do a good job of harnessing the explicit or implicit input of users to sift through an overwhelming supply of information to deliver relevant insight. Google uses in-bound links to filter search results. LastFM uses other people with similar tastes to recommend music. Facebook filters information by the strength of relationships.
t"Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media"
Some in the room might immediately think, "Ah, but it's a meritocracy. People will give their attention to what is best!" This too is mistaken logic. What people give their attention to depends on a whole set of factors that have nothing to do with what's best. At the most simplistic level, consider the role of language. People will pay attention to content that is in their language, even if they can get access to content in any language. This means Chinese language content will soon get more attention than English content, let alone Dutch content or Hebrew content.
In his seminal pop-book, Csikszentmihalyi argued that people are happiest when they can reach a state of "flow." He talks about performers and athletes who are in the height of their profession, the experience they feel as time passes by and everything just clicks. People reach a state where attention appears focused and, simultaneously, not in need of focus at the same time. The world is aligned and it just feels right.
As we continue to move from a broadcast model of information to a networked one, we will continue to see reworkings of the information landscape. Some of what is unfolding is exciting, some is terrifying. The key is not be all utopian or dystopian about it, but to recognize what changes and what stays the same. The future of Web2.0 is about information flow and if you want to help people, help them reach that state. Y'all are setting the tone of the future of information.
Via Jon Stahl - very interesting stuff
essayapophenia: I want my cyborg life
My colleagues aren't that much older than me but they come from a different set of traditions. They aren't used to speaking to a room full of blue-glow faces. And they think it's utterly fascinating that I poll my twitterverse about constructs of fairness while hearing a speaker talk about game theory. Am I learning what the speaker wants me to learn? Perhaps not. But I am learning and thinking and engaging. I'm 31 years old. I've been online since I was a teen. I've grown up with this medium and I embrace each new device that brings me closer to being a cyborg. I want information at my fingertips now and always. There's no doubt that I'm not mainstream. But I also feel really badly for the info-driven teens and college students out there being told that learning can only happen when they pay attention to an audio-driven lecture in a classroom setting. I read books during my classroom (blatantly not paying attention).
None of my colleagues brings a laptop. I do. And occasionally my interns do (although they often feel like they're misbehaving when they do so they often don't... I'm more stubborn than they are). My colleagues interrupt the talk with questions. (One admits that he asks questions because he's more interested in talking to the speaker than listening... he also asks questions to stay awake.) I find the interruptions to the speaker to be weirdly inappropriate. I much much prefer to ask questions to Twitter, Wikipedia, and IRC/IM. Let the speaker do her/his thing... let me talk with the audience who is present and those who are not but might have thoughtful feedback. When I'm inspired, I ask questions. When I'm not, I zone out, computer or not.
"danah boyd is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She recently completed her PhD in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley."
What will it take for us to see technology as a tool for information enhancement? At the very least, how can we embrace those who learn best when they have an outlet for their questions and thoughts? How I long for being connected to be an acceptable part of engagement.
Danah Boyd on the discussion of using a notebook in a conference (or lecture)
"I desperately, desperately want my colleagues to be on IM or IRC or some channel of real-time conversation during meetings. While I will fully admit that there are times when the only thing I have to contribute to such dialogue is snark, there are many more times when I really want clarifications, a quick question answered, or the ability to ask someone in the room to put the mic closer to the speaker without interrupting the speaker in the process. I have become a "bad student." I can no longer wander an art museum without asking a bazillion questions that the docent doesn't know or won't answer or desperately wanting access to information that goes beyond what's on the brochure (like did you know that Rafael died from having too much sex!?!?!). I can't pay attention in a lecture without looking up relevant content. And, in my world, every meeting and talk is enhanced through a backchannel of communication."
Danah blogs about who "began his question by highlight that, unlike most of the audience who seemed more invested in the internet than scholarly conversations, HE had been paying attention. It's not very often that I feel like I've been publicly bitchslapped but boy did that sting. .... Of course, I haven't become that much of an adult because here I am blogging the details of said encounter. There's no doubt that I barely understood what the speaker was talking about. But during the talk, I had looked up six different concepts he had introduced (thank you Wikipedia), scanned two of the speakers' papers to try to grok what on earth he was talking about, and used Babelfish to translate the Italian conversations taking place on Twitter and FriendFeed in attempt to understand what was being said. Of course, I had also looked up half the people in the room (including the condescending man next to me) and posted a tweet of my own.
Had multiple conversations about iPhones / laptops in meetings last week. Agree that it's helpful to be connected during a meeting / presentation, but I wonder sometimes if we could cut meeting time in half if everyone was paying attention for the entire thing. Half of the onus is on the presenters IMHO: get better at presentations.Findings - Ear Plugs to Lasers - The Science of Concentration - NYTimes.com
How to concentrate and get rid of distractionsSalon.com Books | Why can't we concentrate?
Article on challenges of living/working in a world that is full of distractions and the impact that this has on us as individuals - both in terms of productivity and sense of well being
Review of Gallagher's 'Rapt'
April 2009: Twitter and e-mail aren't making us stupider, but they are making us more distracted. A new book [Winifred Gallagher's "Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life"] explains why learning to focus is the key to living better.
Twitter and e-mail aren't making us stupider, but they are making us more distracted. A new book explains why learning to focus is the key to living better. By Laura MillerThe Life and Times of A Twitter Link :: Blog :: Fuel Interactive
We asked the author of @thewholeworld, who has about 2,500 followers, to run a series of three tests promoting various funny videos or articles. What we found was surprising; nearly all traffic to those links was within five minutes of the tweet. After that… nothing.
A marketers view in some respects but interesting none the less. "The moral of the story is that twitter is like any social event you've ever attended. You can't expect the person you've just met to know what you told someone in a previous conversation. So get involved, have fun and make connections with your consumers."
Based on anecdotal empirical testing, the average useful lifespan of a link shared on Twitter is only ~5 min.
with 5 take aways
Fuel Interactive is a full-service web design, development and marketing agencyFindings - Ear Plugs to Lasers - The Science of Concentration - NYTimes.com
Review of "Rapt" by Winifred Gallagher -- focuses on the culture of distraction
For the focused life, forget multitasking and try meditating.
The book’s theme, which Ms. Gallagher chose after she learned she had an especially nasty form of cancer, is borrowed from the psychologist William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.”How to Reclaim Your Attention | Zen Habits
Consider what you give your attention to each day. It’s a precious resource, & determines the shape of your life.
If instead, you choose to give your attention to work you’re passionate about, that you feel is important, that will change your life and the world in some small way … this will become your life
A great little post on paring down to the essential in everyday life.Scrolling and Attention (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
RT @kevinmarks:»@tomcoates: Nielsen on the fold: http://bit.ly/90qKYr « tl;dr? 'Scrolling beats paging' 'nice morsel at the very bottom'
Guideline/Ru;e of Thumb: Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold.Horizontal Attention Leans Left (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
Thing is: if the amount of time you devote to lite correspondence with individual people exceeds the amount of time you spend on making things, then you may be in a different line of work than you’d originally thought you were. my sense is that western culture would be a damn sight poorer today if John Lennon had been forced to carry a goddamn BlackBerry.
What is it that you really do? What’s the last thing you made that really excited you? Where are you and your work in all that “communication?”
Part 2 of Merlin Mann's "Making Time to Make." Yeah, I've read it all kinds of out of order (3-1-2), but they're gems of writing and advice for personal productivity. The best part of this one? "The power of connecting with people in an authentic way (no, not in that cheesy, half-assed, internet “friends” way) falls apart at the point where its resource consumption curtails your ability to keep making new stuff. It’s a twisted paradox, for sure. But, in essence, it’d be a little like the Beatles skipping the writing and recording of Rubber Soul in order to catch up on 1964’s fan mail."
If you’re a publisher, journalist, author, blogger, musician, artist, designer, cartoonist, or any other sort of person whose job it is to connect with people by communicating ideas, it’s natural and wholesome for people who are interested in what you do (and many of whom are certainly makers-of-stuff in their own right) to develop a relationship with your work and to want a way to participate in it, add to it, and build upon it.
, it’d probably be a lot of fun for the makers to do. But, is this a sane, scalable, and sustainable way to do your work? I’d say no. No, it is not.
my sense is that western culture would be a damn sight poorer today if John Lennon had been forced to carry a goddamn BlackBerry.Seth's Blog: Warning: The internet is almost full
Warning: The internet is almost full Due to the extraordinary explosion in video, blogs, news feeds and social network postings, the internet is dangerously close to running out of room. Nothing can grow forever, and exponent
Seth Godin's point about information overload seems well made: Ten years ago, you had a shot of at least being aware of everything that mattered. Five years ago, you had to be really selective about what you took in, but at least it was possible to know what you didn't know. Today, it's impossible. Today, you can't even read every article on a thin slice of a thin topic. You can't keep up with the status of your friends on the social networks. No way. You can't read every important blog... you can't even read all the blogs that tell you what the important blogs are saying. Used to be, you could finish reading your email, hit "check email" and nothing new would show up. Now, of course, the new mail is probably a longer list than the mail you just finished processing. The internet isn't full, but we are.
Of course, the decentralized nature of the net means that it will never be physically full. As long as we can keep making hard drives, we won't run out of space to store those inane videos of your Aunt Sally. What is full is our attention.
Great insight on the digital/internet ageResearcher Claims “Attention Spirals” Hold Key To Predicting Success Of YouTube Videos
Riley Crane claims every time a YouTube video turns into a hit, the development takes the form of an “attention spiral”, a geometric pattern that partly follows physical laws. He discovered that a decrease of popularity with certain videos, for example, can be explained through methods usually utilized in modeling the aftershocks of earthquakes. He believes social systems on the web follow the rules of physics and can therefore be analyzed mathematically.
Interesting perspective on the spread of information online. Curious how this fits with current social network research
Riley Crane, an American post doctoral fellow currently researching at the Chair of Entrepreneurial Risks at ETH university in Zurich/Switzerland, says he has the answer: According to him, the success of online videos can be explained with physics.the new work ethic: just paying attention at intellectual properties
get things done
"Distractions mask the toll they take on productivity. Everyone finishes up their work days exhausted, but how much of that exhaustion is from real work, how much from the mental effort of fighting off distractions and how much from the indulgence of distractions? "
Only just able to finish reading this.Author Nicholas Carr: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains | Magazine
Nicholas Carr: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains
The book excerpt: the ShallowsYour Brain on Computers - Attached to Technology and Paying a Price - NYTimes.com
Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored. The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks. And for millions of people like Mr. Campbell, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.
Scientists say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information from e-mail and other interruptions.Op-Ed Contributor - Mind Over Mass Media - NYTimes.com
Mind Over Mass Media http://ping.fm/Y9SGX
Steven Pinker - Accomplished people don’t bulk up their brains with intellectual calisthenics; they immerse themselves in their fields. Novelists read lots of novels, scientists read lots of science.
Mind Over Mass Media http://nyti.ms/b4IVOC | Twitter, e-mail and PowerPoint are far from making us stupid — they are keeping us smart.
The effects of consuming electronic media are also likely to be far more limited than the panic implies. Media critics write as if the brain takes on the qualities of whatever it consumes, the informational equivalent of “you are what you eat.”
RT @kenanmalik: The Internet does not make you stupid any more than an encyclopaedia makes you smart: http://nyti.ms/d3LP6fWhy I Returned My iPad - Peter Bregman - Harvard Business Review
Peter Bregman returns iPad for boredom, spending time w/8YO daughter, laughing, talking, letting minds just wander. http://bit.ly/c3FR6G
come on bro, contain yourself
Sappy with good points about getting away from being connected 100% of the time "Why I returned my iPad" from HBR: http://bit.ly/8WXvQH – Akash Pathak (apathak) http://twitter.com/apathak/statuses/16556395104
blog about boundary blurring!
Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that's where creativity arises. My best ideas come to me when I am unproductive. When I am running but not listening to my iPod. When I am sitting, doing nothing, waiting for someone. When I am lying in bed as my mind wanders before falling to sleep. These "wasted" moments, moments not filled with anything in particular, are vital.Rough Type: Nicholas Carr's Blog: Experiments in delinkification
The gist: Links are distracting, so what if we tried putting them off till the end of each post?
read this too, this is the man who said the thing I was interested in the other week . LInk from Scripting News
delinkificationAJ Jacobs: My colossal task burden | Life and style | The Guardian
AJ Jacobs: My colossal task burden - loved this article! http://bit.ly/bcwvQx
Is multi-tasking bad for you? As somebody who suffers from a chronic butterfly mind, I do wonder whether becoming a a 'uni-tasker' wouldn't be a bad idea. A thought provoking and amusing read.
As a counterpoint to the NYTimes article, AJ Jacobs on his experiment living life with no multitasking http://bit.ly/bhMVL9
When AJ Jacobs learned multitasking was bad for you, he decided to kick his chronic addiction to mental juggling. Get ready for Operation Focus…On Distraction by Alain de Botton, City Journal Spring 2010
i agree 100% on the following One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.
A brief post by Alain de Botton about fasting from cultural consumption.
... @ City Journal. "Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting."
Curiously, boldly short comment on distraction: "The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting."
The obsession with current events is relentless. Our minds need to go on a diet - by Alain de Botton
@ale_benevides Yes, we probably need to go on a "diet" and change our relation to knowledge, people, and ideas http://ow.ly/1Zjzcdanah boyd | apophenia » “for the lolz”: 4chan is hacking the attention economy
They are showing that Top 100 lists can be gamed and that entertaining content can reach mass popularity without having any commercial intentions (regardless of whether or not someone decided to commercialize it on the other side). Their antics force people to think about status and power and they encourage folks to laugh at anything that takes itself too seriously. The mindset is deeply familiar to me and it doesn’t surprise me when I learn that old hacker types get a warm fuzzy feeling thinking about 4chan even if trolls and griefers annoy the hell out of them. In a mediated environment where marketers are taking over, there’s something subversively entertaining about betting on the anarchist subculture. Cuz, really, at the end of the day, many old skool hackers weren’t entirely thrilled to realize that mainstreamification of net culture meant that mainstream culture would dominate net culture.Does the Internet Make You Dumber? - WSJ.com
picture emerging from the research is deeply troubling, at least to anyone who values the depth, rather than just the velocity, of human thought. People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read traditional linear text. People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner.Monitor: Stay on target | The Economist
Computing: Software that disables bits of your computer to make you more productive sounds daft, but may help keep distractions at bay
Stay on target: Software that disables bits of your computer to make you more productive. http://bit.ly/bK4SIq
Column - block web access to increase productivity
LeechBlockHow to Focus - A Healthy Information Diet - InfoVegan.com