I got you!

My blog title or the above words should have gotten your attention!

Nothing happens without attention. Philosophers have asked the question of whether the world is there, or is the same while we have closed our eyes. Without seeing it, feeling it, listening to it, or simply, concentrating on it, we will get nothing. Even the world has changed, we might not have noticed.

For example, a student my leave a lecture hall after a 2 hours lecture remembering nothing. If you are a facebook user, do you remember the first advertisement that appears on the right column of your profile picture? If you tweet, what is the last status you have updated? Without attention, one will not take in and absorb things they have seen or in contacted with.

In fact, information is not a scarce resource but attention is. Multiple authors have observed that the information economy can be characterized as an “attention economy”, where the scarce resource is not information, but rather attention to absorb the information.

Because of this, Howard Rheingold made up the word “infotention” in his blog, which describes the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters.

Nowadays, information is overflowing all the time. We all need infotention in order to find useful information among the sea of data. NPR found that the average person today consumes almost three times as much information as what the typical person consumed in 1960, according to research at the University of California, San Diego.

Look at the following picture.

ET and Mac (Photo: Decal 2010)

Answer these questions on your own time

What do you think when looking at this picture? Which get more of your concentration? The Apple logo? Or the ET cartoon character?

Actually I might not have 100% of your attention. First, looking at the ET might bring you back to the memories about the the film ET. Secondly, looking at the Apple logo, you might start thinking about Apple’s new products, perhaps the iPad2. Thirdly, you might think “Oh! Such a lovely sticker! Where can I buy it”. Fourthly, you might want to concentrate on the ET but since its finger is pointing at the logo, you can’t stop yourself from diverting your attention to the sign.

If two out of four of the above suggestions have occurred to you, you has lost your attention to understanding the picture as a whole, or put it this way, you are not mindful.

According to Dr. David Rock, practicing mindfulness is important. The key to practicing mindfulness is just to practice focusing your attention onto a direct sense, and to do so often. It helps to use a rich stream of data. You can hold your attention to the feeling of your foot on the floor easier than the feeling of your little toe on the floor: there’s more data to tap into.

“The more mindful you become, the better decisions you will make, and the more you will achieve your own goals … the less your mind wander and the happier are”, said Dr. Rock.

So, from now on, start to be mindful. And to begin with, please be mindful about being mindful!


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