An Ode to Contemplation

The signs of info-exhaustion are abundantly clear.  I’ve been flashing them red in my status updates after all.

Hanson Hosein I’m tired of being in a perpetual state of communication (says the digital media journalist guy via Twitter and Facebook). [7 comments, 6 people liked this]

Hanson Hosein How to restore “contemplative balance” in an info-saturated world. Love that notion, wish I were in town to attend: [my wife liked this]

by Kim Rosen

Graphic by Kim Rosen

I also joked on Twitter: I’m thinking of starting a Master of Communication in Analog Media.

Far too many people expressed interest, leading me to believe that all us tech-lovers secretly despair of our passion for all things digital.  I had mentioned as much during a Fireside Chat on Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW, which led to this article in the upcoming issue of Seattle Magazine, “Sound Off: Examining the Value of Tuning Out” (in fine analog style, the columnist Karen Johnson, interviewed me in September, a fact-checker contacted me about my quotes in October, and the dead-tree December issue has yet to hit news stands).

And now I’m up late on a Sunday night — having finished grading assignments, and attempted the Sisyphean e-mail push uphill — writing this blog post.  Overwhelmed, overloaded perhaps, but forever propelled by anxiety.

Yup, I’m afraid of missing out — on the latest Tweet, the latest Google Wave plug-in, the latest — on any development that will rock my world as a digital media professional and professor.  It’s brutal out here in this unsettled, shaky world of technology.  From the Seattle Magazine piece:

We’re in the midst of a perfect communication storm. Twitter and Facebook have given us the power to forge vast social networks, and mobile devices allow us to do almost everything online all the time…Many of us have learned first-hand that hypercommunication and multitasking come at a cost: stress, shortened attention spans and a constant sense of urgency.

I know this to be painfully true.  Even in my current course (Strategic Research and Business Practice), we’re clearly no longer in my father’s classroom.  With each session, we have to manage a Twitter feed (#mcdmresearch), an ongoing conversation via a collaborative online workspace, a live video stream of our lectures, and the upload of our various slide presentations prior to class.  They’re all effective tools for the 21st century classroom, but there’s a lot going on even as we teach.  My dad actually is a professor, and I think he just uses the overhead projector and a marker…

I’ve started to take countermeasures to defend my personal time.  I’ve turned off the e-mail on my Nokia smartphone (too smart for my own good) after 9 p.m., and on weekends (for the most part).  When I really want to think, I either (a) step away from the computer and pick up a fountain pen, and paper, plug into a tube headphone amplifier and listen to something like The Band’s The Last Waltz (b) get on a flight for at least 3 hours, where I can read, contemplate and be in a state of blissful disconnect from the phone and the web; (c) take my daughter to the bookstore to help her choose another adventure about Thomas the Tank Engine.

I’ve forgotten what it was like not to be perpetually connected, but I suspect it was a little more peaceful, and a lot less stressful.  I may have even made it to bed by 10.

My students were surprised, and a little concerned, when I actually admitted to getting 9 hours sleep a few days ago.  But that only happened after a heavy storm knocked out the power around 8 p.m.  My laptop did have enough battery life, and I could have tethered my cellphone’s data connection to keep working in the dark.  But even I knew then, that enough was enough.

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