What is contemplative computing?

  • Contemplative computing may sound like an oxymoron, but it's really quite simple. It's about how to use information technologies and social media so they're not endlessly distracting and demanding, but instead help us be more mindful, focused and creative.

    My book on contemplative computing, The Distraction Addiction, was published by Little, Brown and Co. in 2013, and is available in bookstores and online. This 2011 talk is a good introduction to the project and its big ideas.

About Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

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If you own your own business this addiction is not a client or boss issue.

I compare it to fishing, which I understand, but am awful at, due to having no patience. I have no trouble sitting next to the Internet ocean, however.

Every mail from a client and especially a potential client is an opportunity nibble... an opportunity to make a new client or please an existing one. The word "demand" is wrong. As the boss/owner you have a right to pull the plug on an unreasonable client, and you should if it gets intolerable.

For me, this is what our 4-person business has morphed into over about 15 years thanks to the Internet and email. I haven't read your other post so am not necessarily trying to debate. I just see the Internet as having added a great degree of freedom and flexibility we've really never had until we shed ourselves of the usual trappings of business and have become virtually virtual.

From our iPhones, iPads, and laptops we can do business from anywhere, any time, and with anyone in the world.

It STILL seems amazing to me.


I'm currently working on email client that displays those "needs-response" emails front and center, but I do wish we could attack this always-on expectation, rather than facilitate it. I read an article recently that talked about how the CEO of the Advisory Board told his employees not to use email outside office hours, and employees actually followed his orders, which makes me think there is a cure, and it must come from on-high. Here's hoping.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Leslie Perlow had a piece about the importance of the involvement of top leadership in changing email habits in workplaces (it's at http://blogs.hbr.org/hbsfaculty/2012/05/overcome-your-work-addiction.html; my take is at http://www.contemplativecomputing.org/2012/05/multitasking-always-on-and-the-pleasures-of-things-that-feel-like-work.html).

And I agree that the solution should rest with changing expectations rather than hoping that another tool will provide a respite. It'll only be temporary, and as is the case with so many innovations in the workplace, may end up making the situation worse. Versions of Jevons' paradox seems to apply for work and efficiency as well as energy!

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