I have been working through an exciting new book in preparation for the Taming Our Digital Lives workshop on the 21st. The book is The Shallows, What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by American tech observer, Nicholas Carr. He is stirring up considerable debate around the transformation of our lives into digital, or at least digitally-constrained existences. It particularly resonated with me because of the way he distinguishes Net-based activity as being structured around superficial (in a good way) activity which can collapse into mindless distractability and that part of our lives which needs to be open and reflective, even contemplative.
It drew my attention to the many ways I experience distraction when online. Just as a test, I loaded and reloaded a typical page without attending to the content and was sharply aware of how many built-in distractions there are on a typical page. It is an exercise of will, usually a failure to sustain any firm attention for more than a second or two.
Contrast this with my recent experience on a midnight beach in Cuba. I drew a chair into the surf and sat, just above the waves and did my sitting practice staring at the gentle shimmering of the full moon. Even allowing for my ADD-ish tendencies, I was aware of the drive in my senses to jump around, looking for new information, links, video, clickables and so on. Since then, I’ve been deliberately reining in my usual unrestrained Net activity to re-set more of the mindful, contemplative mind I need.