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Continuous Partial Attention 245

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-thing-at-a-time dept.
ubercombatwombat writes "While answering my softphone and checking my mail simultaneously I ran across the following article by Steven Levy. In it he writes about a speaker named Linda Stone and something she called "Continuous Partial Attention." I finally had a phrase for the reason I turn off wi-fi, asked people to turn off their cell phones and put away their crackberrys when I am speaking to a group. I suffer from this too. Starting today I am going to do something about it, brb."
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Continuous Partial Attention

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  • The author's e-mail address is rkeller@legoebay.com (Legoe Bay Wireless, LLC) which is actually a domain for a wireless internet provider [legoebay.com] for San Juan Islands near Bellingham, Washington.

    In other news, R. Keller of Legoe Bay communications was fired today after he ran through his office complex preaching the horrors of wireless devices.

    His manager later commented that his "Continuous Partial Attention" campaign wasn't very good for business.
  • Amazing! (Score:3, Funny)

    by akheron01 (637033) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:13AM (#14980867) Homepage
    And I just discovered that I can increase my productivity my ten-fold by not opening up my IM client as soon as I get into work ;)
  • You know... (Score:5, Funny)

    by suso (153703) * on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:14AM (#14980870) Homepage Journal
    I was thinking about this and
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:15AM (#14980883) Journal

    Continuous Partial Attention is way too kind. It begs forgiveness at the promise of continuous, then betrays with partial.

    Anyone who's majored in Mathematics (I did) must spend one semester carefully defining, understanding, and proving continuity. What's described by today's "etiquette" clearly and egregiously violates the notion of continuous, rendering the euphemism "Continous Partial Attention" nothing more than an oxymoron.

    And, it's pretty easy to tell when the person on the other end is giving CPA... in person, vague and inconsistent eye contact while constantly glancing at some screen (be it PDA or computer). Remotely (phone) it's even more annoying.

    I've taken my own path to self-correct.

    • I leave my computer in computer places (office, den, back room) rather than sit mesmerized in front of a laptop screen in the kitchen, avoiding the partial-contact with friends and family.
    • I also turn off my cell phone ANYWHERE where it intrudes and is unnecessary (actually I mostly don't even carry one).
    • I don't fire up my PDA at kids' concerts and recitals to carry on text message and e-mail conversations.

    Of the last ten social events I've attended (movies, parties, recitals, concerts) every single time I saw, heard, and was distracted by someone using some PDA, or other gadget... and not one of those times did it seem appropriate or necessary (not saying there weren't necessary times, but I'm guessing there weren't).

    I've yet to meet anyone important enough they must be connected and engaged every waking moment. The world worked well before all of this, it would be a better place if we turned down the volume on the gadgetry (not that Verizon, SONY, Apple, et. al., will ever allow that to happen on their watch (literally)).

    It doesn't help that we somehow come up with a positive sounding euphemism for it.

    • I've yet to meet anyone important enough they must be connected and engaged every waking moment. The world worked well before all of this, it would be a better place if we turned down the volume on the gadgetry (not that Verizon, SONY, Apple, et. al., will ever allow that to happen on their watch (literally)).

      Santa Claus. Alright, I guess you haven't met him either.
    • Exactly, my cellphone is to keep with in touch of emergencies.. You have a flat tire? Call me. Printers not working? Either wait till I get in the office or leave a txtmsg. People tend to userstand this and respect it. Whats really strange is not so much the people who get called a lot by while they are at social functions are the people who are constantly calling others. Its akin to the I'm bored of this, I'm stepping off to the bar.. So why are you still here?? If you don't want to be here.. Leave..
    • Anyone who's majored in Mathematics (I did) must spend one semester carefully defining, understanding, and proving continuity. What's described by today's "etiquette" clearly and egregiously violates the notion of continuous, rendering the euphemism "Continous Partial Attention" nothing more than an oxymoron.

      Somehow I think an epsilon-delta proof in the middle of the article would trigger a discontinuity in the attention span of the reader.

    • by exi1ed0ne (647852) <exile@@@pessimists...net> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:10PM (#14981326) Homepage

      During my last outing a woman answered her cell to tell the caller she was in the middle of a movie and couldn't talk. She had to repeat it several times because the caller couldn't hear her whisper.

      Just confirms my theory that technology accentuates stupid.

      • by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc.carpanet@net> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:32PM (#14981475) Homepage
        See I have done that... but its usually more like "Hey this is a bad time, is this important?"

        Tho not at a movie... I am a firm believer in excusing myself and walking away from whatever social situation while answering the phone.... even in a bar, I prefer to walk all the way outside while answering the phone.

        Generally tho... if I am even having a mildly interesting conversation and I have no reason to believe the issue is pressing... the ringer gets silenced.

        The reason I rather do that (and put in on vibrate during movies) is I can look at the caller id, and I let people know if I slienced the ringer and they call immediatly back, I will assume its an emergency...

        mostly because when someone calls me back immediatly after hitting my voice mail, I usually answer like "Hey, whats the emergency?" then hang up on them if it isn't one.

        I dunno... I think cell phones would be alot less annoying if people just exercised a little common courtesy in their use.

        Remember landlines? What ever happend to going into the other room to take a call? or saying things like "can I call you back later"?

        -Steve
    • I've yet to meet anyone important enough they must be connected and engaged every waking moment.
      Obviously you don't interact much with the medical profession.

      Sorry, sunshine, some people actually do need to be continually accessible. Engaged, no, but connected, yes (for the cellphone example).
      • Stupid and trivially false. The technology to be continuously connected is barely 20 years old, and yet somehow we managed to survive without our doctors always having pagers. It's *convenient* for them. And it might be more cost effective - when you can page a doctor wherever, you don't have to employ as many of them. But it's hardly essential.
        • Managing to survive? We managed to survive before cars, but my guess is that you have a car. We also managed to survive before antibiotics and vaccines, but my guess is that you don't have a problem using them. Although, I think doctors should carry pagers and cell phones at times that doesn't really matter. Just because we managed to survive without something before is not a reason to not use it now.
    • by Ahnteis (746045) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:42PM (#14981567)
      Change the term slightly to understand better:
      continuously partial attention. :)
    • by booch (4157)
      I think an oxymoron is entirely appropriate to describe this problem. The whole point of the technologies is to provide us with continuous access, and yet on the whole, they're providing us with the opposite -- disconnectedness from those around us.
    • From the Article

      ...she explained to me when I called her a few days later. "Constantly being accessible makes you inaccessible." All so true. But during our conversation, some auditory clues led me to ask her one more question. "Linda," I asked, "are you taking this interview while driving your car?" She admitted that she was...

      I really can't think of a better punchline than that.

    • I understood the phrase "continuous partial" to imply that attention was never fully taken away (continuous), but it wasn't at 100%, either (partial). I admit, I only minored in math, but I'm pretty sure it's possible for a variable to...umm...vary, without a discontinuity. Sorry, I'm being unnecessarily sarcastic, but you get the point. Attention isn't really a binary concept. In fact, completely ignoring something is pretty tough to do. I know I'm frequenty guilty of CPA, like when the annoying guy who ne
    • Anyone who's majored in Mathematics (I did) must spend one semester carefully defining, understanding, and proving continuity. What's described by today's "etiquette" clearly and egregiously violates the notion of continuous, rendering the euphemism "Continous Partial Attention" nothing more than an oxymoron.

      You can have a continuous partial derivative though. But I think what you're getting at is that modern etiquette is not so much discontinuous anymore, as it is completely fractal.
    • not that Verizon, SONY, Apple, et. al., will ever allow that to happen on their watch (literally)

      I was unaware that all of life took place on the face of a large watch owned by Sony and Apple. Thank you for enlightening me.

      -CGP [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • Not just work... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fosterNutrition (953798) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:20AM (#14980922) Journal
    It isn't just that this kind of thing affects our productivity at work. I find it drastically affects our interpersonal relationships in general. A rather pathetic and depressing example: Whenever I and my girlfriend are talking in person we get along amazingly - we discuss interesting things, and find each other to be amusing and fun. But when I try to talk to her online or on the phone, it's impossible. She is constantly talking to about four other people, and even when she tries to devote more attention to me, it is really not possible, and these conversations usually end with me giving up in frustration, which needless to say is slowly killing our relationship, especially if I try to ask her to shut off the other stuff.

    Apart from this little side rant into bitterness, my point is that we are becoming so inundated with communications, and we are trying so hard to talk and connect with everyone, that it is impossible to talk to anyone. Mobile communications can enhance productivity and relationships if used properly, but God knows they can be a pain.
    • Maybe your gf just isn't any good at multitasking. I can carry on multiple conversations at the same time without negelecting any conversation.
    • You're lucky she pays attention when you're together. A few years ago my then GF and I were in the pub catching up on each other's day; as I was replying to a question she'd asked me, she picked up her cell phone, called a friend and started talking to them about some totally unrelated matter when I was in mid-sentence. Then she wondered why I got pissed off...

    • Dude, it's IM. Why are you expecting to have your relationship needs met through IM? It isn't working; ok, find something else. Phones are also not good; well, don't do that either. I generally dislike them for anything other than scheduling, at least as far as talking with local people goes (it's different for distant people). Try email, or more frequent dates, or something.

      I am actually pretty unusual in the degree of attention I will give to someone in IM, but even I will be running around cleaning or wo
  • not really new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:21AM (#14980926) Homepage Journal
    this has existed since humans had the ability to think about more than one thing at a time. i can be sitting in a room with zero distractions, listening to a presentation and i still drift in and out.
     
    my wife has vivid memories of sitting in church as a child while her dad made to-do lists during the sermon.
     
    it is a valuable skill, being able to give partial attention to multiple inputs. it keeps us alive in many situations. when i worked on a flight deck we called it 'keeping your head on a swivel'. and never getting too locked in to one thing. that was the way to get blown over or some other nastiness.
     
    and i'd be very surprised to find a person who would assert that surfing the web or whatever else they may do at a presentation had no effect on their attention. they know it degrades it, but the point is, most such venues don't warrant the attenders full attention. in the case that it does, they will quickly shift away from the other inputs.
    • One point that she makes (I RTFA in Newsweek last night) is that it would be OK in moderation, but the pendulum has swung way too far.
    • For more information on Continuous Partial Attention, see yesterday's 1200 comment long discussion [slashdot.org] on laptops in the classroom.

      We've definitely talked about this many times before. I guess this is more special though because she came up with a clever name for it.
  • Right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mgblst (80109) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:22AM (#14980944) Homepage
    I have difficulty focusing on one thing when I am only reading a webpage like that one. With hundreds of links on the page, nice big flash adds, and the text taking up a quarter width of the page, and split aroung an add, how can I help it. What a joke. Please don't link to that site again. What were they thinking. Can't I just read an article, without a thousand distractions on the page.
    • Re:Right... (Score:5, Funny)

      by generic-man (33649) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:29AM (#14980998) Homepage Journal
      The printable version [msn.com] (pops up "Print" dialog box, which you can safely cancel out of) has no such distractions.

      Meanwhile, I've noticed that many of the people (not you necessarily) who complain loudly about cluttered web pages run Firefox with dozens of extensions and have at least 5 tabs open at any given point not to mention all the ultra-important widgets that tell them exactly what the state of the universe is and do I have mail already. I prefer to keep things simple. [splasho.com]
      • Yes. But desired, structured information is much easier to filter out than obtrusive information. The plugins and such that firefox has rarely get in the way of actual browsing and information retrieval. I get rid of them if they do. And tabs are a "space", like multiple windows. They each have their own sub-identity that's useful for information organization and reading. Hell, I pop up the replies in a separate tab so I don't lose my place when reading in Slashdot. The way they make these ads make y
    • With hundreds of links on the page, nice big flash adds, and the text taking up a quarter width of the page, and split aroung an add, how can I help it.

      Yeah, I run Konqueror with flash turned off to stop that. Anyting that actually needs something fancy is a right click, open with firefox button push away. Garbage like M$NBC loads much faster, but still needs a tab of it's own to hide the ugly.

      Imagine the life of a M$IE user who can't easily turn off flash, has multiple adsservers installed and problems

  • Notice it in chats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:27AM (#14980985) Homepage Journal
    I notice myself typing BRB a lot as soon as someone messages me through MSN. Usually it's not that I don't want to talk to them, it's just that I was putting off something else I was going to do, and they've broken me out of what I was currently doing, so before I get attached in a new conversation I can leap over to what I should be doing.

    Some days I just throw myself at one task and get it done, rather than dabbling in everything. Dabbling in everything is fun, and feels like a busy day, but it tends to produce a lot less than a dedicated day [which is usually away from the primary computer(s) I use].
    • Which is why you don't open your chat client when you have work to get done
      • What if it's your mode of contact for works sites though?
        Status messages don't keep everyone away, because it's about the same as sending an email, as long as the other person doesn't answer the message as soon as they get it.

        My favourite quote from the article was this:
        "during our conversation, some auditory clues led me to ask her one more question. "Linda," I asked, "are you taking this interview while driving your car?" She admitted that she was. But as long as she didn't have to slam the brakes or dodg
  • Yes but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chanc_Gorkon (94133) <gorkon&gmail,com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:30AM (#14981016)
    I think that many presenters have forgotten that if they WANT our attention, they must earn it. Keep speeches and presentations SHORT! Anything over 20 minutes is overkill in my opinion unless your doing a demonstration. Ultimately, one can only be bothered by what others do if the let themselves be bothered. Too many times in this day and age people don't simply learn how to mind thier own business. If my PDA or phone is silent while I work with it, then why is it a distraction? Same goes with a laptop. If you want to avoid the picket fenc deal, then I would suggest a change....either get rid of tables at the presentation or design them such that the laptops can be used with out distracting the presenter.
    • by MacBoy (30701) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:50AM (#14981167)
      If my PDA or phone is silent while I work with it, then why is it a distraction?

      The clickity-clickity of a person (or multiple persons) thumbing a reply to every super-urgent e-mail they receive on their crackberries during meetings or presentations is not silent. Nor is someone pecking at a laptop keyboard. Nor is a cellphone vibrate alert. Yes, even that is distracting, not only to the presenter or speaker, but more importantly, to the other people who are there to participate in the meeting, discussion, or presentation.

      • Hmm...I have never heard a blackberry make clicky click noises unless I was right beside or in front of the user. Same thing goes with the vibe of a crackberry. I have heard the cliky clik of a laptop keybaord, but honestly if that bothers you when your presenting or being presented to, then go lock yourself in a dark room. People are just too damn sensative today.
    • Re:Yes but... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lpevey (115393)
      Imagine if the Lincoln-Douglas debates had been kept to under 20 minutes? Or do you think maybe Douglas did some demonstrations to keep his audience interested? I tend to think the people listening had fewer immediate distractions and longer attention spans.

      (If you think this argument sounds familiar, it is lifted from Neil Postman. circa 1980ish?)
      • Imagine if the Lincoln-Douglas debates had been kept to under 20 minutes? Or do you think maybe Douglas did some demonstrations to keep his audience interested? I tend to think the people listening had fewer immediate distractions and longer attention spans.

        More likely, there just wasn't anything else going on that day. When the highlight of your week is listening to a couple of politicians pontificate on precarious points, your life is just plain pathetic.
    • Re:Yes but... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anothy (83176)
      wtf? that's the most astounding unintentionally arrogant thing i've heard in weeks. if i had the opportunity to sit through one of Prof. Einstein's lectures, i'm not complaining if he goes over 20 minutes. regardless of whether there's a "demonstration" or any other form of entertainment. same with lots of other people. there's a lot of information in the world, and i don't know most of it. other people, collectively, know a hell of a lot more than i do.
      my time is valuable. but it's not the world's scarcest
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:33AM (#14981034) Journal
    There is an answer for this, well, several answers that partially fix the problem. I'll wager that MS won't write the software needed, nor will any educational institution instruct people on how to use technology.

    Mobile devices, computers, all this technology that serves to distract us is capable of being moderated. That is to say, my phone should only ring when the call is from list X while I have it set this way, so that while I'm attending certain functions, only list X callers will interrupt my activities. I should be able to have many such lists, and using ring tones, know which list the caller is from. The same goes for computers, any activity on the computer that demands attention can be moderated (except /. of course) so that my attention is interrupted not by every little thing, but only those things I'm interested in at that time.

    This limits the distractions, and gives us more time to concentrate on other things, to be more effective at multitasking. This, I believe, was the original reasoning for executives to have an assistant. Now we have PDAs and they are not moderating the interuptions to our lives... not really very good assistants!

    The simple idea of moderating alerts, notifications, emails, and such is just not catching on. In some 10 years or more, I can see computer programs that have some kind of AI built into them to make them really good digital assistants.... till then, pfft, people will still wreck their cars while typing an email, driving, and trying to eat lunch at the same time... There was a word we used to use - Dictation, why don't PDAs allow for dictation of emails?

    Well, so much for technological 'advances'
    • my phone should only ring when the call is from list X while I have it set this way, so that while I'm attending certain functions, only list X callers will interrupt my activities. I should be able to have many such lists, and using ring tones, know which list the caller is from.

      My two year old cell phone can do this. I can specify different ringers to different people and answer based on that. Also, there's this little thing called caller-id. In a meeting, if I need to be reachable, my phone is set
      • Also, there's this little thing called caller-id. In a meeting, if I need to be reachable, my phone is set to vibrate. If it goes off, I look at the caller-id to decide if I should answer or not. I can set it to always vibrate for certain people, or I can set it to never ring for certain people.

        This is a constant hassl ein my workplace. People get interrupted 8 times in ameeting, and distract everyone else by checkeng their caller ID. This is especially annoying when someone at their desk gets an IM from
    • I'll wager that MS won't write the software needed, nor will any educational institution instruct people on how to use technology .... my phone should only ring when the call is from list X while I have it set this way, so that while I'm attending certain functions, only list X callers will interrupt my activities.

      If M$ made it, would you trust it to work? M$ "Smart" phones have not been very smart.

      In the mean time, I'm keeping the thing on. My duty to my pregnant wife and four year old girl are more im

      • Wow, the author is a bigger ludite than I though. I should have guessed it from M$NBC.

        During the presentations the faces of at least half the crowd were lit with the spooky reflection of the laptops open before them. Those without computers would periodically bow their heads to the palmtop shrine of the BlackBerry. Every speaker was competing with the distractions of e-mail, instant messaging, Web surfing, online bill paying, blogging and an Internet chat "back channel" where conferencees supplied snarky

  • So... she basically gave a name, applying mostly to geeks, for the small amount of ADD that all of us h- ooh, shiny object!
  • by Zelph (628698) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:35AM (#14981054) Homepage
    I've actually been in church when some guy took a cell phone call. My mother was at a funeral when someone was gabbing on the cell in the back. That when CPA is REALLY a problem.
    But my comments, from a former computer science undergrad major that changed his mind in senior year to become a history major is this: I am now working on my PhD in history and I know one thing: Today's grad school students are suffering from this (even the historians!). And either they will ALL suffer from this, or most will and a select few will avoid this problem and become the real experts in their academic study. You cannot become an expert in a particular field of study without TIME and STUDY. Both of those aspects are compromised with CPA.
    • I have just one question - Is it really so heard to just turn off the damn gadgets? Technology was made to be used by man, not the other way.
    • I've actually been in church when some guy took a cell phone call. My mother was at a funeral when someone was gabbing on the cell in the back. That when CPA is REALLY a problem.

      no, this is when a lack of common courtesy and basic decency is a problem.
      CPA (although i'd not have described it that way before) is crucial to my ability to do my job effectively. then, so is managing it, and being able to decide whether to devote CPA or Real Attention to something. if i'm in a status meeting being given by my bos

    • I work at a research university that wins tons of awards, the University of Washington, and in practice our meetings are filled with people with M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc., or at the least B.Sc. and in a post-grad program.

      Our meetings are pretty much tech-free. Noone surfs on crackberries, or if they do, it's silent. If they get an urgent message, they leave the room. Always. Phones are silent (flash/vibrate).

      And since we get tons of Gates and other money, I don't think we're doing it wrong.
  • by bunratty (545641) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:40AM (#14981095)
    If you want to get deeper into total awareness, I suggest looking into Jon Kabat-Zinn's [mindfulnesstapes.com] work in mindfulness. He's a Ph.D. and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who teaches mindfulness as a way of relieving stress. Even when you turn off your cell phone, your mind might still be elsewhere.
  • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:41AM (#14981105) Homepage
    I agree that I fail to see any pressing need for crackberries. While at work in front of my main computer, however, my teammates and I run an IRC server for ourselves. Rather than be interrupted by phone calls, emails, and meetings, we are able to be in constant communication and it enhances our work rather than distract from it. Add to this a wiki for publishing documentation on what we are working on, and our own group is pretty efficient. Now the company as a whole, however, that's a different story.
  • Live Nodes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by way0utwest (451944) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:44AM (#14981128)
    As a corporate worker for years, it seemed that this was more prevalent in the upper management areas where directors, VPs, the "Crackberry class" always wanted to know what was happening.

    And like everything else, they succeeded or failed wildly. Some can handle two things at once and some couldn't.

    But more, they never had a life, being too connected. That was one thing I hated and refused to get a Blackberry for that reason. I don't like being "live" on the network all the time. There's a time for it (when I'm on call), but many other times I want to work on something else. We even had a wireless service inside the campus where your desk phone would be forwarded to your cell phone anywhere in the building, which worked great in the data center. But when I'm away from my desk, I usually don't want to be interrupted because I'm doing something, so I never used it.

    I see this at home as well, and as mentioned in the other posts so far. My wife will call me like 4 or 5 times on the way home, for these little snippets, "did you hear?" or "stop and get this" or "what about this?" and it's annoying.

    The mobile phone doesn't mean that we are always available. It's a tool and should be used as a tool when appropriate. Not for every little whim or distraction.
  • by master_p (608214) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:44AM (#14981129)
    Stardate 46539.5, USS Enterprise NCC 1701 - D...

    Picard: I am going to sleep now...Data, you have the bridge (I hope nothing wakes me up this time).
    Data: ok Sir.

    After 20 minutes:

    Data: Data to Picard.
    Picard: (sleepy) ommm, what is it?
    Data: we are 3 days away from our rendesvous point, sir.
    Picard: good...night.
    Data: yes sir.

    After 5 minutes:

    LaForge : Engineering to Picard.
    Picard: (grrr, this can't go on for ever!) what is it this time Geordi?
    LaForge: I couldn't sleep sir, so I thought to check up on the engines.
    Picard: so? you wake me up for that?
    LaForge: the engines are not performing as they should, sir.
    Picard: ok, run a full diagnostic and notify me.
    LaForge: yes sir.
    Picard: in the morning, that is.
    LaForge: yes sir.

    After 10 minutes:

    LtWorf: Security to Picard.
    Picard: (outraged) what????
    LtWorf: sorry sir, I did not mean to bother you.
    Picard: ok, tell me.
    LtWorf: I think that the teenage people on board are a little behind their physical training schedules. We need to:
    Picard: damn you Worf, don't you have anything else to occupy yourself with? it is 3 am in the morning!
    LtWorf: duty first, sir.
    Picard: GOODNIGHT!

    After 5 minutes:

    Data: Data to Picard.
    Picard: WHAT NOW???
    Data: I have never seen such a beautiful star cluster, sir. I am actually thinking of a poem for it, right now. Do you believe that...

    Picard: THIS IS THE CAPTAIN SPEAKING...ATTENTION ALL CREW MEMBERS. PLEASE SHUT DOWN ALL YOUR COMMUNICATORS AND GO SLEEP! GOD DAMN IT!!!! :-)

    moral of the story: technology and instant communication with anyone, anytime in any place is not always desirable...
    • It's a little-known Phact that holo-technology [www.exn.ca] was originally developed as a sort of virtual answering machine, e.g.

      Wesley: Captain Picard, will you talk to me?

      Holo-Picard: Sure, sonny, what do you want?

      Real Picard: (Snoozes)

    • I don't know if that was intentional, unconscious, or not, but the script above is very similar to the opening scene of A Fistful of Datas [memory-alpha.org], except they all bug Picard in person.

      Some stuff is just too important to put down in writing, after all. I have several coworkers who practice the advice of AG Eliot Spitzer [cnn.com] (speaking facetiously about criminal behavior, but if the shoe fits...) and "Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an e-mail."
    • And you thought Star Trek communicators were bad? Just wait until video IMs become more widespread. A certain scene from Spaceballs comes to mind...

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:46AM (#14981138)
    I see things like this at the gym where people are reading books/magazines while using the treadmill. I watch them get so involved in their reading that their workout suffers. Yet I am sure they think that they are having a worthwhile workout.

    There is an old chinese saying about living life that sums up a good way to live it:

    Sleep when tired, eat when hungry.
    • I think this is a poor example. They are taking a boring task and adding value to the time. It's a function of the enviroment, not the training, per se. You don't see people doing these things when engaged in the actual activity (cycling/jogging outside).

      Actually, in this case, I would argue that they are adding their exercise to their normal routine, not the other way around. If they were planning on being competitive atheletes, they would probably pay better attention to the training since that would be t
    • I notice the same thing - runners listening to the ipod or radio. They are so busy listening that they don't even realize what a lousy workout they're getting.

      They should learn to sit on the couch and listen to that stuff, and then leave the running for itself. /not
  • Parent: "ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?"

    Teenager: " Uh, yeah, dad. You're right!"

  • If you're not planning to do one thing right, then be prepared to do multiple things with a notable degree of mediocrity! And I'm being totally serious here. (Also note how many people complain about their distaste for multifunction devices.)
  • The Off Switch (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SeeMyNuts! (955740)

    Turning things off is perhaps the single most important activity people can do, today, especially when children are around. Turn the TV off, turn the radio off, close the web browser, and realize that silence is quite enjoyable at times. Toddlers' heads aren't spinning off trying to "multi task" at TV and toys, and parents' heads aren't crunching trying to watch a show while pretending to give their children attention. The same goes for co-workers in the office. People are offended when they can't get u
  • I've been in training sessions where 7 of the 12 "participants" were answering email instead of listening to the instructor, and most of them came to me after the training because they didn't know how to do what he was explaining.

    I've been in project meetings where I meticulously explained the plan, only to be whacked later because someone who was typing and reading stuff on her laptop screen as I explained what I planned to do realized she didn't know what I was doing ... and had to report on the project

    • Are you enabling? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Goldenhawk (242867)
      > I've been in project meetings where I meticulously explained the plan, only to
      > be whacked later because someone who was typing and reading stuff on her
      > laptop screen as I explained what I planned to do realized she didn't know
      > what I was doing ... and had to report on the project to her manager.

      Are you "enabling" the situation? In psychology terms, an "enabler" is someone who not only permits an undesireable situation, but often enables it to continue by fixing the resulting problems.

      Seems
  • eh sorry... (Score:3, Funny)

    by JaJ_D (652372) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:08PM (#14981312)
    ...missed what the article was covering as I was reading /., doing a build, doing two code releases, responding to emails, answering the phone and listening to music...

    What was the general gist again

    :-]

    Jaj
  • We have you partially surrounded!
  • That article yesterday about a Professor banning laptops from her classroom (although I don't know why that's major news - most of my undergrad classes wouldn't allow them, though all my law school courses do) seems to fit perfectly under this. Maybe that prof was on to something. Personally I use phones (txt msging), laptops and PDA's all the time, while doing other things - including my laptop in class - and I know for sure that I am not paying full attention to any one thing - even if I'm only using m
  • Focusing on one thing at a time is a skill that takes lot of practice, imho. Generally in the West we are not brought up to do that - just look at the trouble most folks have with meditation even for a few minutes. Focusing just on listening is hard, too, and taking notes is often a way of not listening. IME, many of the laptop/crackberry/mobile toting characters in an audience are not showing Continuous Partial Attention so much as trying to assert their dominance in the pecking order. If they are carrying
  • by Expert Determination (950523) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:49PM (#14981633)
    That's the biggest US computer graphics conference. While people present their papers the halls are usually full of people surfing the web or reading or whatever.

    BUT...it's worth thinking about why people do this. I'm as guilty as anyone. The fact is - most paper presentations are incredibly boring. A certain percentage of them are given by people whose first language isn't English and are agony to listen to. Many are simply readings of the paper itself which is of no value to anyone. You have to ask what the purpose of a paper presentation actually is - as far as I can make out it's primary function is as a reward to the paper author, not a means of technical communication. In fact there are a whole bunch of colluding parties here: the conference organisers gain prestige from the presentation of good papers, the authors gain prestige by being able to claim they spoke at SIGGRAPH, and the audience get to have fun for a few days while claiming they were working. Everyone gains.

    In fact, the way I use SIGGRAPH is this: I take my laptop with me and use the time away from my desk, in the conference hall, experimenting with speculative algorithms without the pressure of having to deliver anything. Just being in the presence of people talking about algorithms can be incredibly inspiring, even if you ignore the details of what they have to say. This has paid off for me quite well a couple of times in my life. And I'll read the papers later in the conference proceedings if something seems interesting.

    So I plan to continue my continuous partial attention at SIGGRAPH every year.

  • by rtphokie (518490) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:09PM (#14981765)
    I hate it when presenters or other meeting runners do this. Dont judge me guilty before I've committed a crime. This also implies that what they have to say is going to keep my attention 100% of the time, which it never does. Why cant I read an email or two while you fumble with your slides, make sure everyone on the video conference can hear you, take a drink of water, and whatever else takes up the first 10 minutes of every meeting?

    If someone is distracting, have the courage call them out. This premptive strike is cowardly and more unprofessional than the behavoir it is trying to prevent.
    • [quote]Why cant I read an email or two while you fumble with your slides, make sure everyone on the video conference can hear you, take a drink of water, and whatever else takes up the first 10 minutes of every meeting?[/quote]

      Because it's rude to the person running the meeting and everyone else there. Is 10 minutes of waiting at the start of the meeing, possibly chatting with the other folks there, going to kill you? And if the presenter fumbles for their slides, wait patiently and pretend it never happe
  • I think there is one syndrome that is being overlooked here, the need for attention starved people to start labelling something as a syndrome to get 15 minutes of fame. I call it RCS (Repetitive Crap Syndrome).

    I am not only a member of the RCS Anonymous help group, I am its president.
  • There are a lot of folks who are part of the Just Inattentive Rude Crowd.

    But I only have informal studies to back that claim.

  • I do that sometimes, in fact I'm playing online poker right now.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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