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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
I hadn’t heard of this idea until this Atlantic video from James Hamblin: Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2016 at Contemplative Computing
Tom Chatfield’s short essay, "The attention economy,” raises an interesting question: why do we think of attention as a resource? For all the sophistication of a world in which most of our waking hours are spent consuming or interacting with media, we have scarcely advanced in our understanding of what... Continue reading
Posted May 30, 2016 at Contemplative Computing
One of the things you always, and I mean always, hear about Internet of Things and smart home devices is that they “just work.” They’re all like these magic autonomous robots that’ll connect themselves to your wifi, then go do their thing, yet also be totally unobtrusive and intuitive (whatever... Continue reading
Posted May 30, 2016 at Contemplative Computing
A new study by Comscore of Americans’ social media network use in 2015 reveals that people over 35 spend an average of 22 hours a month on social media, and Millenials spend 36 hours a month, according to Quartz: Monthly time on Facebook alone amounts to 15 hours (for 35+)... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2016 at Contemplative Computing
I’m deep in revisions of the next book and am not taking the time to write at length about anything else, but I wanted to flag this Vincent Horn piece on virtual reality and Buddhism. Buddhist contemplative traditions have, for millennia, carefully led us in the process of deconstructing our... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2016 at Contemplative Computing
We often regard a failure of focus as a failure of will, or a moral failure. But there’s also a physical and physiological foundation to our capacity to focus on a problem, or remember a number. And there’s an interesting study that suggests that our tendency to wander off-topic isn’t... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2016 at Contemplative Computing
Georgia State University researcher Susan Snyder is studying the impact of Internet addiction (or PIU, Problematic Internet Use, described as >25 hours/week of non-school or -work use) on family ties. A new article finds that College students who are addicted to the Internet report positive and negative effects on their... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2016 at Contemplative Computing
I’ve been thinking about different forms of distraction, and the differences between distraction and mind-wandering. We talk a lot about focus and distraction, and often talk about them as if they’re two different mental categories. Like many everyday terms, we don’t use formal definitions; we just take for granted that... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
One of the chapters of the book that I most enjoyed writing looks at digital Sabbaths, and how to make them work. So I perked up at Quartz writer Deena Shanker's piece about her experience disconnecting during the Sabbath. The rules have taken time to define, but here is where... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Writer Joe Fassler has a piece in The Atlantic on “How Fiction Can Survive in a Distracted World.” It’s mainly a conversation with author Kevin Barry, and it makes the case that “novelists shouldn’t even try to compete for people’s eyes,” which means competing with screens and everything that’s on... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
Michael Schulson in Aeon writes about designing devices for addiction: [S]hould individuals be blamed for having poor self-control? To a point, yes. Personal responsibility matters. But it’s important to realise that many websites and other digital tools have been engineered specifically to elicit compulsive behaviour. A handful of corporations determine... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2015 at Contemplative Computing
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 Jul 21, 2015 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