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The Real Time Web is a Beautiful Distraction

Submitted by on May 8, 2009 – 1:40 pm18 Comments

During my study of classical Chinese it would take hours of contemplation to really get to the root of a poem.   That was the point.  It was a meditation proposed by the poet for consideration by the reader.  As with philosophy, poetry is a time-intensive practice that requires deep focus and concentration.   Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and the host of real-time-web feed services belong on the opposite side of the spectrum.  They are quintessentially distraction-based media;  shallow on context and truncated into staccato bursts of conversation…  These media play off of a very real psychological factor known as operant conditioning, the addictive need to return over and over in hopes of a reward (a great link from Scoble perhaps?)…

The dominant revenue model of the web today – the ad that urges a click -  embeds distraction into interface design.   The more clicks you take – the more Google makes in ad revenue (distraction pays).   This is not to say that social media doesn’t have extraordinary value – it does – It is at  the heart the emerging social nervous system.   Yet,   The ability to pay attention, focus and strategically disconnect will be a winning discipline of the next generation of business leaders.  As the zen phrase says, “eat when you eat” meaning, give each thing you do all of your attention.  You will be rewarded from it.    Lately I have been getting back to pen and paper brainstorming.   Away from the computer.

18 Comments »

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  • chris Jangelov says:

    Good post. Thanks.
    Conversation takes time. To build knowledge, and then to understand this knowledge, takes time. The first one, the drug, will get that time. Then, I fear, it will not do just to eat when you eat, because you will have no idea of what it is on the plate, where it came from and if it is good for you.

  • Matt Thomas says:

    Great post. Found it via Kottke. If you use a Mac, I heartily recommend a little app called Freedom which I recently blogged about. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must log off the Internet in order to get some real work done.

  • Dan B says:

    A good long walk usually does the trick, especially for philosophy.

  • operant conditioning = Discovery is the New Cocaine? check out the slideshare at:
    http://www.slideshare.net/mingyeow/discovery-is-the-new-cocaine-going-beyond-engagement

  • [...] The Real Time Web is a Beautiful Distraction: The ability to pay attention, focus and strategically disconnect will be a winning discipline of [...]

  • Larry McKeogh says:

    Interesting thoughts that I supported initially. However, social media, has many similarities to your description of studying Chinese poetry.

    Yes, a single tweet or facebook update is a distraction. Just as little can be gleaned, I suspect, from a single line of a poem. However, aggregating them over time for an individual or group begins to create the story.

    The focus comes by following someone over time and taking note of their content. Something like 60% of twitter users drop out after a month. How many of those that are left are transmitting data but not taking it in? Reading and recalling take effort.

    The concentration is remembering what was said last week or last month and filling in the gaps. Creating a picture of a person and validating that against the real life version if you get the chance.

    The best part is making a connection with someone you may not know or have known in a very long time. Without the medium you don’t have the ability to grow in that direction.

  • Joshua-Michéle says:

    Matt — Freedom is incredible — to think that there is a product that uses self-imposed inconvenience to impose discipline is just crazy! What is so sad is that I think I am going to download it!!

    Paul – thanks for the slidehshare link — that is a great presentation. I was talking with Linda Stone at Social Foo camp this year about these same topics (she is quoted in the presentation).

    Larry – What you are talking about reminds me of the concept of “ambient intimacy” first coined I believe by Leisa Reichelt of Disambiguity in March 2007. I am speaking about the ability to prioritize and pay attention for a prolonged period of time. The act of recollection you describe is probably best done while away from Tweetdeck…

  • Ross Hill says:

    “The ability to pay attention, focus and strategically disconnect will be a winning discipline of the next generation of business leaders.”

    This is awesome!

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  • Mike Boyd says:

    Extremely valuable thoughts and insight Joshua!

    I love this quote and completely agree: “The ability to pay attention, focus and strategically disconnect will be a winning discipline of the next generation of business leaders. ”

    By strategically disconnecting and processing only the quality information without further distraction is key.

    Fantastic in concept but what about in practice? Can you truly eliminate all distractions that distort business focus?

    Mike Boyd

  • [...] Joshua-Michéle: The Real Time Web is a Beautiful Distraction [...]

  • Marcy says:

    I understand what you mean about it being a distraction. I love the old form of writing – through pen and paper. But don’t get me wrong, social media is good too. Though it may be a distraction, it also helps in ways. You get to socialize and maybe talk about shallow things stress free. But you’re right about the distraction part, that it also may be just a phase or something.

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  • [...] é uma bela distração by ExtraLibris on jun 7, 2009 • 8:41 pm Nenhum Comentário Texto de Joshua-Michéle Durante meus estudos de chinês clássico, levaria horas de contemplação para realmente chegar à [...]

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