Comments on

Sorry, what were we talking about?

Original entry posted: Wed Jun 21 21:51:27 2006

1150925432 @ EST

Wed Jun 21 17:30:32 2006Brin,

Thanks to my spotty connection, I have been cut off at home completely several times in the past year. It doesn't stop the multitasking, only lowers the amount of options available.

I think this may be part of the appeal of playing rock music for me--it's a very pure, focused experience.

Panda McGee @ Wed Jun 21 16:24:57 2006 EST

Just ex-girlfriends, dear?

Thomas @ Wed Jun 21 16:32:55 2006 EST

What are you trying to say?

Rachel @ Wed Jun 21 16:45:11 2006 EST

A couple of thoughts. One, trust your suspicions. Multitasking, while highly praised in the corporate world, is the devil in much the same way that heroine is -- not good for you, but highly addictive and hard to kick. Also, if you are moderate to highly intelligent, hard to avoid on some level. Afterall, how do you risk the allure of this much information?

Two, go read Feed by M.T. Anderson if you want a frightening vision of the potential results of continuing down the information superhighway at the rate our society is currently travelling.

Finally, I think you touch on something important when you bring up the marketing messages and Minority Report style of advertising. Not to get off on a marketing rant here, but I honestly don't think that the real problem is the technology, per se, but rather the economic system that requires increasing levels of consumption to grow. This is what feeds the marketing machine and has brought us to a point where our lives are filled with a cacophany of product placements and promotional materials. While the quantity of information out there has continued to increase, the quality of information has not.

Very interesting post and a subject which has been coming up a lot lately. Recently I took a mini vacation from most of my regular Internet related activities -- it was a forced break due to some insane work deadlines, but it was amazing how much focus I had and how calm my thoughts felt. I got more done focusing on one thing at a time than I ever do when I'm immersed in a hundred different tasks.

Brinstar @ Wed Jun 21 17:21:33 2006 EST

I think I have NADD, and I don't think it's a good thing either.

Sometimes I take "breaks" but they are almost never proper breaks in the sense that I totally cut myself off from the internet. Usually I take breaks from Messenger (I am on one right now) for a few weeks at a time. This cuts out a lot of the distractions for me. I try not to read my Bloglines feeds at home. When I am watching TV or a movie, I try not to do other stuff (like play my DS). But when I am watching something on the computer, this is when the multi-tasking monster can rear its head, especially whilst watching 22-minute episodes of anime.

To try and be more productive, I didn't install Trillian on my laptop. I just have MSN and Google Chat on there, so it cuts down on the number of IM distractions. Most of all the other time-wasting distractions (music, pictures, games -- except for Planescape: Torment) aren't on notebook either. I intend it to be a "work" machine for my other hobbies (drawing, writing) and for mobile Otakon work, too. This is actually working pretty well for me, though the true test will come after Otakon when I don't have quite so many things keeping me busy.

I blame the broadband connection and my voracious need for stimulation for this multi-tasking problem. I struggle to keep myself balanced sometimes.

Thomas @ Wed Jun 21 17:28:16 2006 EST

Rachel, thank you for your comment. It's always a good addition to the discussion.

I've heard good things about Feed. I'll have to check it out sometime when I'm not temporarily broke.

Capitalist culture has a lot to do with why marketing is so widespread--but I hesitate to exempt technology from blame, however inadvertent. After all, the reason that we can be bombarded with fliers and spam and direct mail is because it has become so cheap--an advantage conferred in large part by desktop publishing, print-on-demand, and the Internet. I don't see any way to fix that, unfortunately, and withdrawing from the network is just not an option.

In keeping with your experience, I've read studies showing that most people are indeed more effective when single-tasking.

Corvus @ Wed Jun 21 17:48:29 2006 EST

R and I have a date night at least once a week in which the knitting and sketch books stay put away and the computers are shut off. This is why!

On the topic of rampant consumerism and being too broke to buy a copy of Feed... got a library near by? *kniw*

Rachel @ Wed Jun 21 17:51:27 2006 EST

Good point regarding technology not being entirely without blame. I think I have a knee-jerk reaction to laying the blame on technology's door, mostly because I still tend to believe that at the heart of all the abuse lies an improper implementation. The argument about affordability (i.e. desktop publishing, print on demand and electronic distribution etc.) still seems to me to be at its heart an economic issue not a technological one (though technology is certainly used to exacerbate the problem). The reason for this has to do with the type of capitalist economy we have. Here, demand is king. We do not question whether something should be done we only know that someone wants it to be done and that is enough. Social, environmental and economic responsibility do not enter into the picture. It is the ultimate expression of self-centered behavior. So, rather than focus on the ways in which technology is used for less than productive and even nefarious purposes, I try to stay focused on how we use that technology. The eternal question of "why" is something I try to ask myself with each new gadget, software program, gaming console or other geeky trinket that wants to come home with me.

BTW -- Corvus and I have an extra copy of Feed that needs a new home, so please feel free to toss me your mailing address and we'll happily send it along if your interested. (edit for privacy--I wrote the address down somewhere else)

Rachel @ Wed Jun 21 17:56:01 2006 EST

*** The English major in me just read over my last comment and cringed. Please forgive the typos (especially the "your" instead of "you're" at the end). ***

One final note before I log off for the evening, on the topic of the experiential nature of rock music as an antidote for multitasking and a means of finding focus -- that is precisely why I started knitting.

Thomas @ Wed Jun 21 18:49:12 2006 EST

Ah, the library. Yes. Well, there's the matter of some money owed, and I'm running just ahead of the library cops as it is. If I try to borrow a book now, I fear for my kneecaps.

I may take you up on the loan offer. That's very kind of you. Perhaps you could pitch it as my prize from the STOB, to keep me from feeling guilty about taking it.

Corvus @ Thu Jun 22 07:31:01 2006 EST

All items in and from the Attic are treated with a special Guilt Free process which has exactly the effect you'd expect from a process touting itself as "Guilt Free." Although, I think we can easily incorporate a copy of Feed into the STOB prize chain.

Josh @ Thu Jun 22 09:11:12 2006 EST

I'm a total information whore. Yesterday I wrote a PHP script to grab some weather and traffic RSS and spit just what I need in the morning.

Why? I mean, I can easily bookmark this info. But I was looking at the poor Zaurus thinking ... "it should be telling me something..."

Movies and TV, though, are really my downtime. We've got the laptop w/ wifi handy, but for the most part it's a crashfest.

At work though, and perhaps I'm making excuses for myself, but I find a constant hum of distractions to be actually productive. A lot of my job turns into impromptu troubleshooting of one kind or another and lots of times I don't have the right idea for a solution when I first look at the problem. So I'll poke at a website or maybe a blog post and then look back at it.

Kinda like when you can't remember the name of that song until you stop thinking about it.

Thomas @ Thu Jun 22 09:35:35 2006 EST

Your job might be more suited to that kind of thing than most people, though. And to some extent mine is as well, but I probably go overboard with it.

There is probably a difference between having information available, like with an RSS feed cached to your Zaurus, and having a constant urge to seek it out. On the other hand, I carry e-books with me on my iPaq all the time, because I used to be worried that I would end up somewhere with nothing to do.

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