Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
The Author of The Distraction Addiction
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang studies people, and technology, and the worlds they make. His work explores how our interactions with computers change the way we think about ourselves, and how we value (or devalue) human memory and cognition. Pang is a senior consultant at Strategic Business Insights, a Menlo Park, CA consulting and research firm. He also has two academic appointments: he is a visitor at the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford University, and an Associate Fellow at Oxford University's Saïd Business School. His book The Distraction Addiction explains how users can redesign their relationships with technologies to help them be calmer and sharper, and will be published by Little, Brown and Company in 2013. (It will also appear in Dutch, Russian, Chinese and Korean.)
The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul
Smartphones, PCs, and the Internet all promised to make us smarter, more connected, and more productive, but all too often have the opposite effect. Some argue that there's nothing we can do, or that it's not really a problem. Old users always lament the arrival of new information technologies, and computers have already rewired our brains to read status updates rather than Steinbeck. Alex Pang wants to provide an alternative to this sophisticated pessimism. In this talk, Pang explains how we can learn to use our devices to be more focused and mindful, not fractured and distracted. He explains how technologies can be used to extend our minds, and augment our abilities-- not break up our attention and skew our thought process. Rather than be forced into a state of perpetual distraction, with all the unhappiness and discontent such a state offers, we can approach information technologies in a way that is mindful and nearly effortless, and that contributes to our ability to focus, be creative, and be happy.
It's an approach Pang calls contemplative computing. Based on a blend of new science and philosophy, some very old techniques for managing your attention and mind, and a lot of experience with how people use (or are used by) information technologies, Pang shows us how your mind and body interact with and react to computers, how your attention and creativity are influenced by technology, and how small, everyday aspects of our relationships with devices-- like whether we breathe when we're checking our email-- have surprising large consequences. He analyzes how our minds and high-tech lives work, why we become entangled with technology, and what makes our relationships with devices so seductive. Finally, Pang illustrates how we can use big ideas from philosophy, psychology and neuroscience to consciously redesign our relationships with technologies, rebuild our capacities for attention and creativity, and take back control of our digital lives. With clear language and deep insights, Pang gives you the tools to redesign your online life, and construct a healthier, more balanced relationship with information technology. With the eight steps toward contemplative computing, Pang helps you start using technology to quiet the constantly browsing, tab-opening, googling mind.
Business is all about speed: getting products to market, outrunning the competition, climbing the S-curve. Responding to challenges and exploiting opportunities requires workers who are networked, highly collaborative, and always-available. There's truth to these ideas, but all too often in the modern workplace they go wrong: the modern office is a perfect distraction-generating space, and the tools we use to work become impediments to getting the job done. In this talk, Alex Pang explains why in the last decades we've designed organizations to make us more distracted; how this works to the detriment of both individuals and institutions; and what workers, leaders and companies can do to reclaim their focus, and refocus on what really matters.
Secrets of the Blogging Forest Monks
Everyone knows that we live in an era of unprecedented technological advances that leave us dazzled and permanently distracted. How do you find stability in a world that changes faster than we can make sense of it? In this illuminating talk, Alex Pang introduces a surprising, and surprisingly sophisticated, community that's learned to use information technologies in their work, but aren't distracted by them: a global community of Buddhist monks, stretching from Silicon Valley to the forests of Sri Lanka, who are social media entrepreneurs, bloggers, and videographers. Despite spending hours a day online, they manage to avoid the problems that we've come to accept as an inevitable consequence of our always-on, device-intensive lives. Deeply insightful and accessible, Pang explain how they do it, and how we can use the secrets of the blogging forest monks to retake control of our own digital lives.
Kids, Parenting and Technology
When it comes to helping kids navigate the world of technology, it's easy for parents to feel out of their depth. Kids today are "digital natives," we're told. They live online, immersing themselves in multiple information channels and multitask with ease. Even their brains have been rewired by constant exposure to screen and social networks, neuroscientists say. What can we possibly teach them about technology?
A lot, Alex Pang contends. After all, today's parents (including Pang, a father of two) aren't digital outsiders: we were the generation that was supposed to be destroyed by video games and chat rooms. Once you strip away the hype and hyper-real graphics, the challenges kids are navigating look very familiar, and the judgment and wisdom that parents can provide remains relevant.
Drawing on his recent book on contemplative computing, this talk shows how we can draw on our own experiences to make sense of kids' technology use. Pang explains the critical role of good modeling: if you want kids to get offline, it helps them to see you shutting the lid of your laptop (and it helps you be a better person, too!). Pang presents an overview of the ever-shifting research measuring the short- and long-term impact of information technologies (e.g., computers, cellphones, gaming and social media) on kids' brains and social lives. Finally, he'll offer strategies to help kids make good choices about how to play, and how to behave, online. By modeling good behavior ourselves, and by helping our children be smarter about technology, encouraging them to be more thoughtful and critical of their own technology use, Pang says, we can help them become more assured, independent, and better humans.
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