A Topic Worth Discussing – Contemplative Computing: An Introduction

by Heather Kallevig

 Photo By lee Scott

Social media becomes more widespread every day, attracting increasing numbers of users while individual users increase their personal attachment using more than one platform at a time. I myself use six – Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and WordPress blogging. Maintaining six profiles with different cultures, languages, and expectations can be daunting. There are times when the last thing I want to do is look at my computer screen. I often take breaks from my computer, cell phone, and/or iPad through recreation. My favorite method is getting outdoors; on extended camping trips, I won’t have access to my accounts for several days. I avoid screens while I walk, run, or practice my photography outside. Indoors yoga keeps me balanced, as does reading a book, or simple activity-free relaxation.

By using these methods for recreation and relaxation, I am able to use my devices purposefully. When I use my computer, it is not generally for entertainment or to simply “zone out.” It is to complete a task, write a paper, connect with friends and family, find a recipe, etc. There are times where I am finding a movie, or relaxing on Pinterest, but I am not what I would consider addicted. I can survive happily without my devices, and I have many other options to entertain and enjoy.

Photo By Jonathan Velasquez

I wasn’t always this way. There was a time not so long ago when my day was propelled from one place to the next by the constant motion of devices and technology – whether I was checking my Facebook first thing in the morning, sitting at my computer aimlessly shopping during my free time, or checking my work e-mail throughout the evening. There was always a device in control. Today, I am in control of my technology. I practice contemplative computing.

Contemplative computing refers to “the use of technology to improve concentration and flow in a world where technology often interrupts concentration and inhibits flow.” Alex Pang considers contemplative computing to be a self-fulfilled process. It’s something we learn to do until it becomes habit. In our technology-driven world, it doesn’t always come naturally. People must avoid distraction addiction – the feeling of need to be constantly entertained or ‘distracted’ by our technology.

Distraction addiction and contemplative computing are becoming popular topics in the world of research. My next two blog posts will examine two articles in this area published in 2014. In the first article, Developing Habits with Social Media: Theorizing the Cycle of Overuse and Taking Breaks, Sarita Schoenbeck examines how distraction addiction has reached such a level that people tend to feel overwhelmed and incapable of controlling their impulses for technology – therefore they must take long-standing self-enforced breaks. The author of this article examines the reason behind this. My second article, Technology Distraction and the learning Environment by Andy Griffin examines the impact technology is having on our learning environments and how educators should respond.

I hope you return to view these articles and perhaps begin your own journey with contemplative computing if you haven’t already done so.

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