I typically download podcasts, audio program files in MP3 or WMA format, to listen to as I jog or mow the yard. One podcast feed that I subscribe to is IT Conversations.A recent podcast dealt with a discussion panel of information overload and how that affects our attention to any one thing at a time.
In a world where information overload is common, attention is a very scarce resource and there is an increasing need to manage it efficiently. In this panel discussion, Steve Gillmor, Glenn Reid, Doreé Duncan Seligmann, David Sifry and Linda Stone talk about the problem of coping with more information than one can handle and the possible solutions.
In a connected world it is becoming very difficult to filter out the information that really needs our attention from that which is irrelevant to us. The panel discusses the work that they are currently involved in and tries to come up with answers to the problem of overwhelming information, only some of which deserves our attention. They talk about the tools, practices and new technology being developed to effectively use data which matters to the end user.
Part of the discussion dealt with what Linda Stone has termed continuous partial attention:
For almost two decades, continuous partial attention has been a way of life to cope and keep up with responsibilities and relationships. We've stretched our attention bandwidth to upper limits. We think that if tech has a lot of bandwidth then we do, too.
With continuous partial attention we keep the top level item in focus and scan the periphery in case something more important emerges. Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. We want to ensure our place as a live node on the network, we feel alive when we're connected. To be busy and to be connected is to be alive.
She then states how through the last twenty years we have come to realize that the belief that connectedness is synonymous with living is not necessarily true.
Now we long for a quality of life that comes in meaningful connections to friends, colleagues, family that we experience with full-focus attention on relationships, etc.
I for one will begin to strive to give full attention when talking and relating to not only my loved ones, but friends, neighbors, and co-workers. What higher compliment can we pay to others but attention?