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Calm Technology: How do I know when I need to know?

Designing Calm Technology

This nine-year-old article on “calm technology” seems more relevant than ever today.

A calm technology will move easily from the periphery of our attention, to the center, and back. This is fundamentally encalming, for two reasons.

First, by placing things in the periphery we are able to attune to many more things than we could if everything had to be at the center. Things in the periphery are attuned to by the large portion of our brains devoted to peripheral (sensory) processing. Thus the periphery is informing without overburdening.

Second, by recentering something formerly in the periphery we take control of it. Peripherally we may become aware that something is not quite right, as when awkward sentences leave a reader tired and discomforted without knowing why. By moving sentence construction from periphery to center we are empowered to act, either by finding better literature or accepting the source of the unease and continuing. Without centering the periphery might be a source of frantic following of fashion; with centering the periphery is a fundamental enabler of calm through increased awareness and power.

I’m convinced—as I believe Danny is—that doing this sort of thing well will become increasingly important to overstimulated, easily-distracted people (like me). There’s no way we can process all the stuff that begs our attention, so we’ll need to rely heavily on smarter, less disruptive ways to know when our attention is really needed. To do this with a minimal amount of focal change is a challenge in need of some very clever solutions.

[Via: heyblog: Thoughts on Dashboard and ambient information]

Steve's picture

Well look at that, a...

Well look at that, a DIY Ambient Orb: http://students.washington.edu/natetrue/wlcolor/wlcolor.html




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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