I enjoyed Nick Sweeney’s post from last month about motion and rest and how much of the technology we’ve been inventing recently, including the Apple Watch, is focussed on keeping us in perpetual motion. He muses about its technological antithesis, the ‘Internet of Rest.’
While I concur with his point – a life of perpetual motion is no kind of life at all – I also wonder about the idea of designing technology that does the opposite, that is restful. I’m inclined to think it’s more about balancing technology with its absence. These things we’ve built to be our helpers and assistants, to help us get where we’re going, now have become a constant reminder of what we’ve not done and whom we’ve not been in contact with. We put up with that because we’re more or less addicted to the convenience these things bring, but maybe the point is to leave some bits of our days and evenings unassisted.
The human mind needs rest in order to process. We’ve seen in sleep studies for years that an inadequate amount of quality downtime makes us less able to focus, concentrate, even physically function. Even waking, we know that those of us who spend a certain amount of time during the working day daydreaming end up being more productive. Taking breaks makes us function better. We know this, and have for some time. And yet we keep making things that make it more and more difficult for us to take those breaks. This video is a nice example of how the latest conveniences make life less comfortable, us less able to engage with what’s right in front of us because we’re constantly distracted by what’s going on elsewhere.
Sometimes all this stuff makes me claustrophobic – the constant demand for attention, interaction, feels like it’s crowding me out of my actual life.
A few days ago, I wrote about commoditisation of an art form (literature). By succumbing to a state of always-on-ness, are we commoditising our attention? Our selves? And if so, for whose benefit?
I need to think about this some more. If you’ve got thoughts, please do weigh in.