Contemplative Computing

by Kevin Makice

Alex Pang, a visiting fellow at Microsoft Research Cambridge, has proposed a new paradigm called contemplative computing. I love this notion: it’s a process of reflection, not a product to manage distraction.

“Technologies that were supposed to help us think better, work more efficiently, and connect more meaningfully with others now interrupt us, divide our attention, and stretch us thin. … The problem is that today’s information technologies are often poorly-designed and thoughtlessly used: they’re like unreliable prosthetics that we have to depend on, but can’t quite control or trust.”

Pang is starting to produce papers, talks and a book on the subject. His work so far has identified a few parts to the framework. Namely,

  • Build awareness through DIY and self-experimentation
  • Recognize that we are cyborgs, and humans
  • Create rewarding challenges
  • Support mind-wandering
  • Treat flow as a means, not an end

I like most that this challenges the belief that productivity is tied to limiting information (e.g., information overload) and not something that we each need to become individual fluent about. This is an exciting area to watch this decade, as I strongly believe that reflection and tools to make visible old digital footprints will be a key development in the next several years.

ReadWriteWeb (July 8, 2011, by Klint Finley)