The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

Technology, attunement to content, the iPad and new modeling of computing place.

I started writing this missive a couple of weeks back, and it would appear to becoming a reference of increasing topicality. Even today, a detailed overview of the challenges of an device-driven work/life/world, laden with multiplicities and tasking complexities popped on the NYTimes, authored by Matt Richtel, references the day in a life of one family — shot by Chang W. Lee, the NYTimes — the Campbells and their wildly converging approach to devices, communicating, and living. Newly cropped imagery, from the family, show snapshots of Lee’s visitation to the family.

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

From working with multiple computers, doing different levels of communications, with different ports, simultaneously, constant engagement online engagement, to storytelling with an iPad — it’s a big power overload of activity — all linked in, all sorting the specifics of focus at the same time. Big feature on focus, NYTimes, over all, here.

I have a friend, from college that I recently reconnected with, at the Evergreen State College. We were down there with Lynda Weinman and her husband, Bruce Heavin, the co-founders of Lynda.com. Lynda.com is led by another friend, Eric Robison who I had the opportunity to work with in the past at The Habit. Both propositions, both relationships are ultimately about storytelling and strategy, relationship development and community, messaging and visualizations. Lynda was talking about new media, at the Evergreen State College, as well as her link to the creation of a new media center. Great people.

I’d first connected with Linda Stone during an opening reach at TED. I’d never been, and linked to find more, to connection. TED is very clique-driven. Going there, you’ve got to be, well, linked in. My experience, in being there — know the ground before you land. Works for me. But there’s something to the connection there, the opening conversations with Linda, and learning more about her exploration of the conception of attention. You can learn more here. Huff Post, here. Notes from her blog:

The Attention Project

Attention is the most powerful tool of the human spirit. We can enhance or augment our attention with practices like meditation and exercise, diffuse it with technologies like email and Blackberries, or alter it with phamaceuticals. In the end, though, we are fully responsible for how we choose to use this extraordinary tool. Thank you for visiting www.lindastone.net

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

There’s another compelling point to all of this — and that’s the notion of technology, attention and the iPad. I’ve written, for the last number of months, before the iPad, the launch, and afterwards — the new world of computing. Linda notes this, It’s a sea of iPads and I have a MacBook Air in my lap. Steve Jobs is talking about the end of the PC era.

“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars, were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this is going to make some people uneasy.”

One of the people most responsible for giving birth to PC’s and to the personal computer industry, was saying: “It’s over.” I texted my friend, John: “Jobs is saying that iPads will replace PC’s. What about for us? For people who write a lot.”

That question was answered a few hours later. I ran into Chris Sacca at a conference party.

“I’ve switched to the iPad. Everything. I have a 3 book contract. I’m doing everything on the iPad now. Spreadsheets. Writing. Everything.”

Incredulously, I asked, “You can type an entire book on an iPad??!”

“Watch me!” Sacca proceeded to demonstrate astonishing typing speed, using only his (two) thumbs.”

She continues that later (Jeffrey) Katzenberg got up and spoke, enthusiastically proclaiming that “he’d given up his laptop and was only using an iPad. Speaker after speaker has confessed, “I just don’t use my laptop anymore, now that I have an iPad.” The link, to Katzenberg, actually relates to a whole string of iPad lovers. Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman both carry them (along with plenty of other large scale, heavy budget personal technologies.

Reuters offers, “Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG, said the iPad was destined to become Apple boss Steve Jobs’ greatest legacy.

“The intuitive nature of it is so spectacular,” Katzenberg told the audience, noting he ditched his laptop PC entirely and now relies solely on an iPad and a Blackberry.

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

Comcast COO Steve Burke sounded equally head-over-heels, describing the iPad as “elegant” and “extraordinary.”

“I bring it everywhere I go,” he said.

The Concept of Attention | Devices, Utility and Attentiveness

And it’s working — far exceeding the estimates, Apple has sold two million iPads in two months. But this all stands to the reasoning of a shift in the concept of devices and the flagging “attentionality” we all face in the vast import of content, desired or not. And to that end, the context of branding, what relates to the consumer. The audience is everything, for everything.

I walk around, talking to users — everywhere — an interventional interview (researchers call it interception); and they all have the same attitude. To a single person, they’re all evangelists:

“It’s completely changed my way of computing — and how I work and literally relate to the idea of a computer.”

“It’s my live-along buddy.”

“I have everything, to work with — many computers, many places to work — big and small; but iPad’s my new way. Can I borrow your iPhone charger — for my iPad?”

In closing, I might offer that the concept of attention that Linda Stone is exploring aligns a curious positioning between the spirit of attention and intention. There’s an alignment —

Attention: late 14c., “giving heed,” from L. attentionem (nom. attentio) “attention, attentiveness,” noun of action from pp. stem of attendere“mental heeding.” Used with a remarkable diversity of verbs (e.g. paygatherattractdrawcall). As a military cautionary word preparative to giving a command, it is attested from 1792.

Intend: c.1300, “direct one’s attention to,” from O.Fr. intendre “to direct one’s attention,” from L. intendere “turn one’s attention, strain,” lit. “stretch out, extend,” from in- “toward” + tendere “to stretch” (see tenet). Sense of “have as a plan” (1390) was present in Latin. A Gmc. word for this was ettle, from O.N. ætla “to think, conjecture, propose,” from P.Gmc. *ahta “consideration, attention” (cf. O.E.eaht, Ger. acht). Intended (n.) “one’s intended husband or wife” is from 1767.

The link between a sense of self direction and intention — and the alliance to attentiveness — is an intriguing balance; inward and outward. The possibility might be that iPad could be a newer and more simplifying approach — gather, slow down, focus, walk-around, work the life with iPad.

What are you paying attention to?

tsg | new york city
Girvin exploring the iPad

Girvin exploring Steve Jobs+Apple

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