Last week I briefly mentioned The Distraction AddictionThe Distraction Addiction, a remarkably engaging, yet thoroughly erudite little book by veteran tech commentator Alex Soojung-Kim Pang that introduces the notion of “contemplative computing”, that is, an approach to our use of tech that is more mindful, directed and conscious. I’m sure I’ll be returning to the book in other contexts, but I thought might be useful to list the “eight steps to contemplative computing” that Pang gives at the end of the book.
Be human It is in our nature to become “entangled” with the tools we use – we’ve most likely been doing it for 500 millennia or more; but we need to be cautious about losing our humanity when using digital “tools”.
Be calm Be honest with yourself, do you spend more time at a screen in state of agitation than not?
Be mindful Traditional Buddhists warn against the danger of “McMindfulness”; nonetheless there are important lessons about our engagement with tech to be learned from contemplative traditions.
Make conscious choices Don’t let the tech drive you; drive it.
Extend your abilities Use technologies that extend your existing skills and abilities – in a profound way. That may sound obvious, but look at the apps and services you use and ask yourself whether they actually do.
Seek flow “Flow” is the concept – now widely discussed – introduced by Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi to describe the state entered into by us when thoroughly engaged in a task. Pang argues that we should use tech in a way that maximises our opportunity to enter flow – and this of course means avoiding distraction.
Engage with the world If your use of tech is getting between you and an experience – that is, if your experiences are mediated by technology – then rethink!
Find opportunities that are restorative It is vital to restore our mind’s ability to focus; there are many ways to achieve this, from meditation to finding/creating the right physical environment to the use of “Zenware“.
I’ve personally been trying to live by many of these precepts for some years now – and it’s not always easy – but it’s great to see them gathered and explained so coherently by this fine writer and thinker. I shall redouble my efforts!