This is What the Future Looks Like

These days, the discussions about information overload are contributing to the overload!  It’s refreshing to the tenth power when there’s a glimpse of what IS preferred vs. where we’re stuck.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing that about 1/3 of people walking, crossing streets, or standing on the sidewalk, are ON their cell phones.  In most cases, they are not just talking; they are texting or emailing — attention fully focused on the little screen in front of them.  Tsunami warning?  They’d miss it.

With an iPod, at least as the person listens, they visually attend to where they’re going.  For those walking while texting or sending an email, attention to the world outside of the screen is absent.  The primary intimacy is with the device and it’s possibilities.

The lovely Xeni Jardin, boingboing partner, video host, and executive producer, posted a video that brings the conversation toward the future we will create.

Do you intentionally take time away from the screens in your life?  Please share your story.

Published by Linda Stone

I coined the phrases continuous partial attention, email apnea, and screen apnea. I write about attention and our relationship to technology.

9 thoughts on “This is What the Future Looks Like

  1. I just tweeted a link to that BoingBoing post & video … & have to admit that I felt some cognitive dissonance about doing so.

    I don’t know if you’ve read Hamlet’s Blackberry yet, but author William Powers offers a history of people (including Socrates, Seneca and Shakespeare) struggling with – and sometimes overcoming – information overload.

    I know that screens often unintentionally take time away from life … and thus far, I’ve been unable or unwilling to take significant time away from the screens of my life … but this book – and insights offered in Tiffany Shlain’s movie, Connected – have helped heighten my awareness of the costs.

    BTW, one of the most provocative quotes about information overload I’ve heard was shared by Paul Dourish at CSCW 2006:

    One of the diseases of this age is the multiplicity of books; they doth so overcharge the world that it is not able to digest the abundance of idle matter that is every day hatched and brought forth into the world.

    — Barnaby Rich (1580-1617), writing in 1613 (!); quoted by de Solla Price in his 1963 book “Little Science, Big Science.”

  2. “Tsunami warning? They’d miss it.”

    No, it would show up on their Twitter feed. Good comment about books – there have always been more books than available time/attention. And the majority of them have always been middling at best anyway.

  3. Good points! Personally I hate walking around texting or talking. I, usually at least pause for the conversation because I feel like otherwise I’m stumbling around drunk. I can’t get anything done!

  4. Remeber when phones came in little sound-blocking booths? It’s not just business and device connectedness at work. All of this constant access and connectivity (through a screen) is also changing social attitudes about privacy and our comfort level with public exposure of … whatever. Love you blog.

  5. I so agree that we have to take a break from being connected and wired. It is actaully a breath of fresh air to not be looking at a device and having my brain constantly stimulated with content. Thanks for this enlightining post. Great food for thought.

  6. Great short post, I frankly find myself staring at one screen or another when I shouldn’t be. I read somewhere that we should “talk to the people around us and not look for some sort of remote communication”. Seems to me we feel safer when looking at a screen, even at such places as the street. That way we’re in control .

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