13 January, 2005 at 17:59 Leave a comment

Life Interrupted – Article on Overload


life interrupted DAVID LEVY, A PROFESSOR in the University of Washington’s School of Information, believes he may have witnessed the first-ever interruption-by-e-mail. It happened back in the ’70s, when he worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, a think tank at the forefront of today’s computing world.
He and about 25 other technologists were watching a visiting scientist demonstrate how to make use of multiple parts of the computer screen. The visitor was typing and talking when a text popped up on one side of the screen. “Oh look,” he said, “I’ve received a message!” He typed a response, sent it into cyberspace and went back to his presentation.
It was stagecraft intended to highlight one of those ta-da! moments. But not everyone was impressed — or even pleased. “I remember a visiting senior computer scientist from another country got very angry about it,” says Levy. “He said programming requires focus and shouldn’t be interrupted. He basically said, ‘You call this the future!’ “
(pictured: David Levy, a University of Washington professor trying to create a center that will search for balance between technology and contemplation, often spends time at the eerily calming James Turrell Skyspace at the Henry Art Gallery on campus)

The future? Well, yes and no. E-mail, as it turns out, was just one drop in a dam-breaking flood of technology that has inundated our lives. Today, the constant pinging of your e-mail can be like the drip-drip-drip of water torture. We’re swimming in doodads and options — text messaging and search engines, Blackberries and blogs, Wi-fi, cell phones that try to do all of the above, and the promise that we haven’t seen anything yet.
We’re shooting through technological rapids that have opened doors and changed the dynamic of work, how we communicate and live, and sometimes even think. All these tools have made our lives easier in many ways. But they’re also stirring deep unease. Some are concerned that the need for speed is shrinking our attention spans, prompting our search for answers to take the mile-wide-but-inch-deep route and settling us into a rhythm of constant interruption in which deadlines are relentless and tasks are never quite finished.

Scientists call this phenomenon “cognitive overload,” and say it encompasses the modern-day angst of stress, multitasking, distraction and data flurries.

In fact, multitasking — a computing term that involves doing, or trying to do, more than one thing at once — has cemented itself into our daily lives and is intensely studied. Research has shown it to be consistently counterproductive, often foolish, unhealthy in the long run, and in the case of gabbing on the cell phone while driving, relatively dangerous. Yet it is also expected, encouraged and basically essential…

It is an interesting article and quite a long one. Read more by following the link as put in the title


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