Wednesday, February 01, 2006


It has come to my attention that "Attention" is currently being overloaded with a new meaning. One of my sometimes-readers, Alex Barnett, also works in software and is interested in this thing he calls Attention.

Well, it's an interesting concept. Attention according to wikipedia boilds it down to concentration on one thing, like listening to a single conversation at a cocktail party.

Every day, we are selective about what we pay attention to -- usually this is predominantly decided by our physical location. We see what is in front of us, we hear what is near us, we taste what we eat. At work we pay attention to people who contact us, or people from whom we need something.

Our attention is mostly directed by (1) our physical surroundings, (2) our current goals, desires and intentions, and (3) manifestations of things into (1) and (2). By manifestations, I mean for example an arriving email, telephone call, etc. There is attention-pull and attention-push.

When our goals and desires take up all our time, or while our physical surroundings are very interesting, or there are many manifestations, our attention gets mostly used up. Sometimes, however, we realise that manifestations are preventing us from pursuing our goals, desires and intentions, or that our physical surroundings are also affecting them.

We may then be said to have a higher-level goal to modify have such surroundings and manifestations that best enable us to fulfil our goals, desires and intentions.

Alex, when discussing attention, is primarily concerned with manifestations. How do we improve their quality? How can we more quickly locate information on the web? How can we get better news, more interesting emails, etc? Can technology help us achieve these aims?

He lists a number of sources of information which he believes could /inform/ our beliefs about what information sources are best to pay attention to. He includes: Tag clouds, wishlists, reading lists, book catalogs, blogrolls, RSS / OPML lists, contacts, social networks and buddy lists, photo collections, photostreams, playlists, music collections, bookmarks, blogs, game lists, community memberships, calendar entries, video collections and lists, favourite places and social guides and subscription lists.

All of these things are, in effect, a kind of /expression of preference/. How is it that we can improve the quality of manifestations based on our preferences?



Blogger Lee said...

I've come back to this posting a few times, trying to get my mind around it.

Ultimately, I think, the decison is what are my goals and what manifestations lead that way and what manifestations hinder the trip.

When do you turn off the phone and disconnect the door-bell? When do you do the opposite?

When they suit your goal, I guess.

It is very easy to let 'monitoring the manifestations' become the task rather than the tool.

2/03/2006 05:35:00 PM  

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