Category Archives: life_hacker

the future of the book (as an interruption)

Some selected quotes along with a few fragmented thoughts on Meet the Life Hackers, an article in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine which profiles the “nascent field of interruption science.”

“Information is no longer a scarce resource – attention is.”
“The reason many interruptions seem impossible to ignore is that they are about relationships – someone, or something, is calling out to us. It is why we have such complex emotions about the chaos of the modern office, feeling alternately drained by its demands and exhilarated when we successfully surf the flood.”

Interesting to consider how electronic books are incorporating this relationship-oriented attention-demanding phenomenon. Blogs and wikis (new book forms in my opinion) are built through social interaction. And the compulsion to write and/or check a blog is based on a very human craving for feedback and interaction.

“In fairness, I think we bring some of this on ourselves,” says Merlin Mann, the founder of the popular life-hacking site “We’d rather die than be bored for a few minutes, so we just surround ourselves with distractions. We’ve got 20,000 digital photos instead of 10 we treasure. We have more TV Tivo’d than we’ll ever see.” In the last year, Mann has embarked on a 12-step-like triage: he canceled his Netflix account, trimmed his instant-messaging “buddy list” so only close friends can contact him and set his e-mail program to bother him only once an hour.

This quote makes me think of Bob’s criticism of Steven Johnson’s book. Maybe the increasing complexity of media is merely forcing us to develop more sophisticated coping mechanisms, which Johnson is mistaking for smarts. Also makes me think that the orientation of digital media is toward a pack-rat mentality–stockpile everything just because you can. I wonder if this erodes critical faculties and if, in the long run, are we going to treat the stockpile as I did my grandmother’s hoarded newspapers–10 years worth piled up in her basement–as garbage. How much of this stuff can we jettison in order to get to what is important?

Linda Stone, the software executive who has worked alongside the C.E.O.’s of both Microsoft and Apple, argues that we have shifted eras in computing. Now that multitasking is driving us crazy, we treasure technologies that protect us…In our new age of overload, the winner is the technology that can hold the world at bay.

Wouldn’t it be funny if, say a hundred years from now, when all the books are Googlized and our grand libraries are re-purposed as high-end condominiums, if one of those interruption scientists figures out that the best technology for holding the world at bay is printed on paper and delivered in a nice quiet codex format?