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Continuous Partial Attention 245

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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  • Not just work... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fosterNutrition ( 953798 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:20PM (#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.
  • Yes but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:30PM (#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.
  • Ask yourself... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:38PM (#14981082)
    Ask yourself...

    How many people do you know deserve your full attention?
    How many lecturers (hot air bags) deserve your full attention?
    At best, speech has a disgustingly low information density, why waste time listening to blow hards?

    And if you haven't skipped my message yet...I'm not even part of the IM generation. For some things, even age does not bring patience.
  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:40PM (#14981095)
    If you want to get deeper into total awareness, I suggest looking into Jon Kabat-Zinn's [] 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 ) <> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @12:41PM (#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 @12:44PM (#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 TheCarp ( 96830 ) * <> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:32PM (#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"?

  • by Ahnteis ( 746045 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:42PM (#14981567)
    Change the term slightly to understand better:
    continuously partial attention. :)

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