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Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Silicon Valley, California
I study how people and technologies shape each other.
Interests: history of science and technology, emerging technologies, weblogs, silicon valley, futures, contemplative computing, user experience, human-computer interaction, calming computing
Recent Activity
The Guardian's Oliver Burkeman notes that a recent Symantec report estimates that less than half of email sent is now spam-- hooray!-- but sees a downside: As “classic” spam has declined, it’s become clear that the internet in general – indeed, life in general – has become an awful lot... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Contemplative Computing
One of the most effective things I’ve done to get my phone to defend rather than attack my attention is to turn off as many notifications and alerts as possible. I started this a couple years ago, and now consider it essential. I have a super-quiet ringtone for people who... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
The Distraction Addiction has been translated into Italian. The cover looks familiar: Dipendenza Digitale has a new preface, a conversation with me and journalist Dario Villa. (Very Galilean.) It was fun working with Dario on the preface: these kinds of opportunities to think in new ways about familiar subjects is... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Rebecca Schuman writes in Slate about UC Irvine’s new program to get graduate students out in five years, and sees an important benefit: a climb down from the idea of the dissertation as an "endlessly protracted super-project that is so... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2015 at Relevant History
I’m in London for a few days, doing some research for Rest. We’re staying at the Hotel Russell, which overlooks Russell Square in Bloomsbury. I’ve passed by it many times, and have always been curious about what it was like.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2015 at Relevant History
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Westmont College, a Christian liberal arts college in Southern California, is going to try to measure the impact of international education on students by scanning their brains: Last fall researchers at Westmont started a study that uses headsets to test electrical activity in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
In The Distraction Addiction I made the argument that our cognitive abilities and facility for using technology— in particular, our possibly unique ability for becoming mentally absorbed in technology-focused tasks— is not new. In fact, I argue, it’s very old; it defines what it means to be human; the struggle... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
In The Distraction Addiction I talk about the concept of “nomophobia,” the fear of being without your cellphone (“No” “Mobile phone” “Phobia”) coined by British researchers in 2008. Recently, New York Magazine’s Melissa Dahl reported on a new Iowa State survey for measuring levels of nomophobia, a 20-question questionaire that... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
The Wall Street Journal has an article about how to keep your Apple Watch from distracting you. Some of the recommendations are similar to the ones I made in my mindful iPhone posts: use the VIP feature to make whitelists, turn off most notifications, delete useless or interruption-generating apps. Though... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
…the Brody WorkLounge, a product that brings some of that cozy business class working space to your office. I’m not being sarcastic about the comparison to good airplane seating: I do some of my best writing on airplanes, and while it would be an exaggeration to say that I look... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
…it is. But so is flying and texting, which has become a worry for the NTSB, and is implicated in a helicopter crash, according to Quartz: The survivor of a helicopter crash in Florida says his flight instructor was using his iPhone before the aircraft crashed into the ground, killing... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
A couple days ago I was interviewed on ABC Sunshine Coast's morning show about technology and distraction. You can now listen to the interview on Soundcloud: For a short interview it covers a fair amount of ground. The interviewer asked good questions. Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
At least they do in India, and it’s a particular problem in the city of Varanasi, which has been trying to upgrade its IT services and introduce street-level wifi throughout the city— but the macaques that live in and around the city’s many temples keep chewing through the fiber optic... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Two new books, The Organized Mind by psychologist Daniel Levitin, and Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head, talk about the importance of learning how to intelligently offload memory and tasks onto your physical environment. This is something that we often do without much thought— anyone who’s written a note... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
if I were in Seattle, I’d go to this, and not just because the title name-checks my book: Matthew Crawford is speaking about his new book, The World Beyond Your Head. Many point to our technology addiction (namely, the influx of smart phones and the internet) as the root of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Oakland-based artist Molly McLeod has created a set of hilarious but excellent iPhone wallpapers that act as nudges. They’re great. I’ve been talking about this concept for a while (most recently in the Penn Gazette, my alumni magazine), and have even created a few myself; the WNYC Bored and Brilliant... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
A new survey by Kampgrounds of America reveals that 83% of campers bring their cellphones, half of all campers go online daily (and another 20% go online at some point in their trip), and “free wifi ranks among the top three most important camping amenities,” behind clean bathrooms and kid-friendly... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Very interesting to see this: It’s a series at The Story Houston, a new church in Houston. a sermon by Eric Huffman on “Distraction Addiction, Jesus, and You.” Here’s a sermon from this past weekend: The Story Houston - March 15, 2015 from The Story Houston on Vimeo It starts... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Another new article of mine, this time in the Penn Gazette, which happens to be my alumni magazine. I really like the 1970s cybernetic thing going on in the accompanying illustration: The piece is essentially about smartphones, and how the ideas in The Distraction Addiction (available here) can be used... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
A few weeks ago I was interviewed by London-based writer and entrepreneur Lawrence Ampofo for his Digital Mindfulness podcast. The piece is now live. In addition to listening to someone who has an absolutely awesome English accent— the kind that makes Americans just roll over and wave their paws in... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Steve Kovach, a writer for Business Insider, talks about his recent week away from email. He disabled Twitter and email notifications on his phone for a week, then went back to his inbox. What was there: As he explains: 1,511 unread emails. 44 of those 1,511 emails were worth reading.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Today’s bit of thoughtful humor, from The Oatmeal. As always, some bad words, so NSFW. I especially like the comparison of texts and email. Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
In the Guardian, Viv Groskop confesses that “I’m a bit of a wexter:" We all have bad habits, and now there’s an appropriately nasty word for mine: wexting (using your phone as you walk). I’ve got it down to a fine art: walk, scroll, glance up, stop, tap, walk. A... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Tuesday’s Bored and Brilliant challenge is an interesting one for me, because I agree with it, with some strong reservations. Here it is: Your instructions: See the world through your eyes, not your screen. Take absolutely no pictures today. Not of your lunch, not of your children, not of your... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Yahoo! tech columnist Rob Walker takes a gentle prod at Bored and Brilliant: Finally! After decades of tech innovations aimed squarely at squishing boredom out of existence by offering a nonstop barrage of distractions, we are ready to technologize boredom itself. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at Contemplative Computing