Nathan Torkington blogs about Linda Stone'e recent speech at Supernova 2005. In 1997 Linda coined the phrase "continuous partial attention". Linda says, 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. We've been working to maximize opportunities and contacts in our life. So much social networking, so little time. Speed, agility, and connectivity at top of mind. Marketers humming that tune for two decades now. Now we're over-stimulated, over-wound, unfulfilled.
A consequence of email culture is that we don't make decisions: send emails around. We're shifting into a new cycle, new set of behaviours and motivations. Attention is dynamic, and there are sociocultural influences that push us to pay attention one way or another. Linda sees twenty year cycles in the tension between collective and individual, and our tendency to take set of beliefs to extreme then it fails us and we seek the opposite.
1945-1965: organization/institution center of gravity:Lucy paid full attention to phone conversations, Seinfeld does not. Belief that by serving insitution of (marriage|employer|community) we'd leave happy and well-ordered lives. Marketing, command-and-control lifestyle, parents and authority figures, all fit in. Service to institution would bring us satisfaction. We paid full-focus attention to that which served the institution: family, community, marriage.
1965-1985: me and self-expression: Self and self-expression new center of gravity. Trusted ourselves, entrepreneurial. Apple, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines. Marketers said we have our power to be our best. We paid attention to that which created personal opportunities. Willing to fragment attention if it enhanced our opportunity. Multitasking was an adaptive. Our sense of committment dropped: rising divorce rate, 3 companies/career, etc. Became narcissistic and lonely, reached out for network.
1985-2005: Network center of gravity: Trust network intelligence. Scan for opportunity. Continuous partial attention is a post-multitasking adaptive behaviour. ADD is a dysfunctional variant of continuous partial attention. Continuous partial attention isn't motivated by productivity; it's motivated by being connected. 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.
Linda is quite optimistic when she concludes that the next aphrodisiac is committed full-attention focus, where experiencing this engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back. This may need other convergent forces - sociological and economical to operate in alignement with this technological adavance.
Category :Emerging Trends, Continual Partial Attention