Here's the preamble:
My Friend Mark Safranski(ZenPundit) alerted me to The HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas for 2007 which contains as Idea #7 a description by Linda Stone of her extremely apt phrase for our chaotic times: "Continuous Partial Attention (CPA)" .
I think Linda's phrase ranks right up there with Information Anxiety and Future Shock in drawing our attention to how technology is creating a condition I call "too much stuff - too little time" which gets worse as the dilemma of information overload and attention scarcity continues unabated.
Although she first coined the phrase CPA in 1997 during her work at Microsoft, I first heard Linda use it in a speech she gave at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference last year.The entire talk (28 min.) is worth listening to and you can download it to your playlist or listen to it here: IT Conversations: Linda Stone
Here's an abstract of Linda's concept of CPA
"This constant checking of handheld electronic devices has become epidemic, and it illustrates what I call 'continuous partial attention.' Although continuous partial attention appears to mimic that much discussed behavior, multitasking, it springs from a different impulse. When we multitask, we are trying to be more productive and more efficient, giving equal priority to all the things we do—simultaneously filing or copying papers, talking on the phone, eating lunch, and so forth. Multitasking rarely requires much cognitive processing, because the tasks involved are fairly automatic. Continuous partial attention, by contrast, involves constantly scanning for opportunities and staying on top of contacts, events, and activities in an effort to miss nothing. It’s an adaptive behavior that has emerged over the past two decades, in stride with Web-based and mobile computing, and it connects us to a galaxy of possibilities all day every day. The assumption behind the behavior is that personal bandwidth can match the endless bandwidth technology offers."
Stone argues that personal bandwidth is not up to the task and, as a result, a backlash to continuous partial attention has already started. She also worries that information overload will burn people out much more quickly as they strain to keep up with an increasing number of information sources all screaming for attention.
It has been my passion since I began posting on this blog 10 months ago to seek ways to provide solutions to this dilemma, solutions which I believe rest on the ideal developed years ago by the architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. His axiom " Less is more" is my guiding principle.
As I find useful tools for compressing and synthesizing the chaos of content on the Internet I will share them with you, so you won't have to feel like this guy who obviously is suffering from CPA!