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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 36 Consider, for example, how MP3 play- ers are changing the ways we listen to music. A century ago, you were part of a live audience, and you would settle down and focus on the music being performed. Today, strolling along with my iPod, my decision to listen to any particular piece of music is never completely settled, because I can instantly change what is playing if I become dissatisfied with it. This applies to many other aspects of our lives: TV chan- nel surfing, the surfeit of books and DVDs (Amazon one-click orders!), video games, surfing the Net. Our old foraging habits were based on info scarcity, but sudden- ly we find ourselves trying to survive an info-glut, and the scarcest resources have become attention and control over our own time. Social anthropologist Thomas Erik- sen has formalized this relationship into a general law of the information revolu- tion: “When an ever-increasing amount of information has to be squeezed into the relatively constant amount of time each of us has at our disposal, the span of atten- tion necessarily decreases.” One problem with such an avalanche of information (and therefore shorter attention spans) is that it challenges our ability to construct narratives and logical sequences. Sherry Turkle has noticed that some of her MIT students now reason and arrange their ideas differently. “There is this sense that the world is out there to be Googled,” she says, “and there is this associative glut. But linking from one thing to another is not the same as having something to say. A structured thought is more than a link.” In place of the usual Buddhist warn- ings about clinging and attachment, many of us now have the opposite problem: an inability to concentrate. Yet, as we know all too well from our meditation practices, an attention that jumps from this to that, unable to focus itself, is no improvement over a clinging attention. THE COMMODIFICATION OF ATTENTION For most of us in the developed world, the greatest attention trap is consumer- Make The First MoveTM Choose a t-shirt that makes a difference. SEE OUR SELECTION AT WWW.CAFEPRESS.COM/ LIFEISATSHIRT Gentle reminders for more joy, peace and happiness in the world, one t-shirt at a time. $2.00 from each shirt purchased is sent back into the universe to groups working to make the world a better place. Life Is A T-ShirtTM NOV 18-39.indd 36 NOV 18-39.indd 36 8/29/07 2:05:53 PM 8/29/07 2:05:53 PM