Linda Stone was formerly at both Microsoft and Apple.
Continuous partial attention – she coined the phrase in 1998. Something that is happening and getting refined to a higher art over the last 20 years – it’s an adaptive behavior and we are on the way to adapting right beyond it.
continuous partial attention is defferentiated from multitasking by its impetus – multitasking is getting as many things done at one time as possible. CPA is motivated by a desire to be a live node on the network – we want to connect, to feel important, scan for the best opportunities at any given moment. There used to be a time when people wouldn’t pick up a phone during lunch, but those times are gone.
In the golden time of CPA, it wasn’t uncommon for people to go into a meeting at spend most of the time doing IM and email – as if we expected our personal bandwidth to increase with the stimuli.
CPA fits into a larger context and set of patterns – theory: we operate with a collective sense of attention. Consider the years 1965 – 1985 – they were about individual expression – it’s all about me. We were all about achieving our full potential. We multi-tasked to increase our productivity. From 65-85 the collective ideal was to value self-expression above all else. But being a species that’s good at taking things to extremes, we did that and found ourselves yearning for what’s missing – a connection to others.
1985-2005 is the era of connecting – the network is the center of gravity – we trust the network and collective intelligence. Playdates replaced the dancing and violin lessons for kids. Enhancing our network and sense of connections. In the early days of Friendster the barroom boast was “I have 3,000 friends.” We were everywhere except where we actually were.
Now the 24/7 thing isn’t feeling so good – people want strategies to cope. The always on era has created an artificial sense of constant crisis. Is everything really such an emergency? Our ways of using technology would have us believe it is. We’re feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated, and stressed.
There are new desires as a result of the start of the pendulum swing, which will create new opportunities. Always-on doesn’t respect the fact that there should be cycles. Take email – how effective is it for decision making and crisis management? Not! After all these years of using it we still use it. Wikis are better for brainstorming, IM is better for making a plan. Conflict resolution best done synchronously with high bandwidth, crisis management best done synchronously at any bandwidth. Is it time for some guidelines on how to use these technologies? She thinks email is an attention chipper-shredder (think Fargo).
We’re yearning for protection – we’ve gone from an era of creating opportunity to scanning opportunity, and now are moving into discerning opportunity. Meaning, belonging, protection, and trust will increasingly be what we seek and resonate with.
For the last two decades ease of use has been the mantra of technology – but it’s no longer good enough. The new mantra will be improvement of quality of life – does it help protect and filter?
The new opportunity is to move from being knowledge workers to be wisdom and understanding workers.