Linda Stone: On Attention

One of my personal highlights of DLD was the talk given by Linda Stone: “On Attention”. So i started to write this article directly after the talk on January 21st. Unfortunalety i had to wait until today in order to be able to finish it.

Linda Stone started her talk asking some questions how the audience handles different attention requiring tasks and then went on to argue that in cycles of around 20 years the way we handle opportunities and how we spend out attention are changing.

Her thesis was, that starting around 1965 people spent their attention in a multitasking mode. They did this because they had a desire to create opportunities.

This mode then evolved during the 80s into a mode that she calls continous partial attention (CPA). This is a mode where we are paying some kind of attention simulteanously to various subjects based on a desire to scan for opportunities. This is the kind of behaviour you find in business meetings where nobody is paying attention on the discussion or presentation but to their blackberry and mobile phones. Or the kind of attention teens are paying when they are simulateously playing games, listening to music, chatiing via IM etc.

She continued that there is evidence that some early adopters are beginning to switch from CPA mode into a mode that is characterized by uni-focus and presence. In this mode people are driven by a desire to discern opportunities.

I was intrigued by her remarks, because i recognized this shift in the way i spend my attention. Having been one of the first persons in germany (my guess would be one of the first hundred) that had a blackberry, i’m probably also one of the first persons in germany that no longer has a blackberry.

She continued to give examples of this shift and how this shift interplays with the success of the iPod and its reduced, uni-focal design or the trend from first person shooters to the game concept of Nintendos Wii console. This even more resonated with my personal views.

Unfortunately i forgot to ask her, if it is possible to get a transscript of her talk and regretted it ever since. Some googleing showed that she had given this kind of talk already a couple of times, but that the DLD talk was definitely an major evolution.

Thankfully, Björn Brückerhoff didn’t forget to ask her. The complete transcript of her talk is now available as a part of Volume 51 of his online magazine “Neue Gegenwart”. I wholeheartedly recommend reading it.

Another read: John Maeda’s “Laws of simplicity”

During Macworld i visited San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art and found John Maeda’s book “Laws of Simplicity”, which i read on flights from SF to Vancouver and back. While i forgot to ask her about a transscript i did ask her on her point of view on the differences between her notion of uni-focus and maeda’s notion of simplicity. Her answer was that Maeda’s “simplicity” is more along the lines of what she called “quality of live” in her talk than “uni-focus”. If you have the time and want to know what the heck my question to Linda was about, you can go on and read John Maeda’s book or visit the accompanying website.