Linda Stone on Attention in an Always-On World

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Stowe Boyd, Contributor

June 21, 2006

2 Min Read

I have written extensively about Linda Stone's thoughts about continuous partial attention (CPA), and living in the always-on world (see Linda Stone: The New Millenialism, and A Chat with Linda Stone, for example).

I remain unpersuaded by Linda's thesis that CPA is a transitory phenomenon, soon to be replaced by some other, more evolved attention strategy. I believe that CPA is a return to a pre-industrial, hunter/gatherer mindset -- what anthropologists call cyclical time, a return to something earlier. Boomers may be doing a bad job of adjusting to the connected world, but I don't see that in teenagers or young adults who have been bred in this brave new world.

I also disagree with her millennial viewpoint -- she believes we are moving into an era when we seek protection from a grim world, as some animated zeitgeist of the age. But I applaud her spirit, and I am thankful that she coined the term.

My take is that we are in a transitory period, but not one in which CPA is put aside. Many folks are in conflict with the outcomes of CPA, but that is because -- in my opinion -- we have not yet left behind the attitudes of the information age and not fully adopted the beliefs and mindset of Web culture. CPA is here to say, but the guilt that seems to be the side effect of remaining connected (i.e., splitting our attention across a bunch of things at once) will go away. And of course, I believe the stress that seems linked to CPA for many older folks will disappear. We have to return to a tribal mindset about time, involvement, and connection, and I think that is what is happening.

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