The Unhealthy Realities of Digital Distractions #Infotention

11 Apr

Click on the link and take a look at the image..

This woman has devoted her complete attention to this challenging yoga position. Her brain is tuned into every muscle in her body to make this position possible. There is clearly no room for mind wandering or multitasking otherwise she may fall. For most people, holding a heightened attention like this for a certain amount of time proves almost impossible..

We live in an age with many distractions, as James Temple remarks in his blog, “the modern world bombards us with stimuli, a nonstop stream of e-mails, chats, texts, tweets, status updates and video links to piano playing cats.” Putting your mind to one task and shutting everything else out is a lot easier than it sounds. I started yoga a couple of weeks ago as I thought it would help me relax and wind down after a stressful day a uni. Although I found the physical elements of it relatively simple, getting my mind to focus on just my body movements and breathing was extremely tricky. Every time I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my breathing (while posing as a dog) my mind would wander to thinking about my dog Tigger…and how I had to feed her when I got home…then what I might cook myself for dinner that will be quick and easy and how many ARTS2090 readings I needed to get through after dinner…and that I had a law assignment due in three days which led me to remember that that I was going to get a fine for not returning my law textbook back to the library…which led me to think about how I spent way too much money last weekend and that I really needed to start saving if I had a hope of going away next year…and that the lady in front of me (who looks like a yoga dog-posing expert) looks just like my friend’s Mum who is going through an awful divorce the moment and so on and so on..

SO…didn’t quite pan out to be quite so relaxing as I thought. As a result from not being able to divert my attention to relaxing my muscles and posing like a dog I was a lot more stressed leaving the class than before it began.

Now, why the heck couldn’t I just stop my mind from racing? I blame technology. In particular social media – I’m a little addicted.  So many Gen-Y’s are addicted, James Temple pointed out that a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (released in January 2010) concluded that 8- to 18-year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media per day. But because they dedicate so much of that time using more than one medium at once – say, scanning Facebook as they listen to music and chat with friends – they actually pack in about 10 hours and 45 minutes of content in that period. Not only do I see this as unhealthy, but also it is a great challenge for digital authors, producers and publishers as their potential audiences have such limited attention spans.

Digital publishers have to tackle two main issues:

  1. An constant growing global competition and,
  2. Creating a publishing entity that actually holds the attention of an online audience.

In order for publishers to tackle these two issues they MUST make the assemblage of their website elements attention-worthy and easy to access. David Rock discusses the notion of our minds working as a “default network” when not much is happening around us. “It’s the network involved in planning, daydreaming and ruminating.” Digital publishers, in order to be successful, must pull people away from this state of mind. They have to find a way to use the concept ‘infotention’ to their advantage. Infotention is the concept of being able to filter through the huge amounts of information that we are bombarded with on the Internet. For example, infotention is applied to the network of my email – certain emails are filtered into my junk, and I have the option of using a search engine to find older emails, or organise them alphabetically. Infotention is essential to the digital online publishers as digital audiences have such low attention spans and subject to the distractions of other digital platforms. A publisher must find a way that grabs an audience’s full attention.

YouTube has carried out this concept very successfully. Although it has it downfalls of advertisement distractions, YouTube has cleverly organised its archives so that if you watch a video of ‘dancing dog,’ down the side panel will be very similar videos that grab your attention, which may then bring you to a dancing cat, that may even aspire you to subscribe so you can make a video of your own pet dancing. YouTube is a publishing entity so organised, so diverse, and so hands on that that it has authority over your minds ‘default network.’


Michael H. Goldhaber (1997) ‘Attention Shoppers!’, Wired, accessed 11 April 2013, < wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html>

Temple, James (2011) ‘All those tweets, apps, updates may drain brain’ San Fransciso Chronicle, April 17, accessed 11 April 2013,  < BUTO1J0S2P.DTL>

Rock, David (2010) ‘New study shows humans are on auto pilot nearly half the time’, Psychology Today, accessed 11 April 2013,  < humans-are-auto-pilot-nearly-half-the-time>


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