Reboot9 — Stowe Boyd: Flow, a New Consciousness for a Web of Traffic [en]

*Here are my notes, unedited and possibly misleading, blah blah blah, of the Reboot9 conference.*

Stowe’s happy to be back (“reboot was the best single thing I did last year”).

We’re hearing the word “flow” a lot during this conference, used in many different ways. It’s a term that is being stretched in many different ways. Complementary, or not?

Today: flow as a new kind of consciousness. Complementary to yesterday’s “flow” in the first conference.

Stowe Boyd at reboot9

Apology: because of blogging, Stowe doesn’t write/talk anymore in a very constructed way (“this is my thesis and here are the arguments”) — so lots of fragmentary and incomplete thinking. Incompleteness: the new rhetoric?

Human? “We make our tools and they shape us.” *steph-note: cf. Stowe’s talk at last year’s Shift conference. Other note: Thomas is having to drag the Blimp off stage…* Cycles.

We’re going towards a new kind of consciousness, which will not clear up the problems we have, but we’re going to change. How are we changing? How are brains changing based on the tools we use to understand the world? What are we losing, what do we gain? How will sociality change based on using new tools that shape cultures?

There is a new consciousness evolving, different enough that it’s going to cause trouble, that a lot of people are going to say it’s bad, and that the people participating in it are doing something illegitimate. (Finger-wagging.) Developing a new moral sense: valuing certain things more highly, and certain things less highly. Hive-mind? Sniffing each other’s pheromones all day?

Will take what the naysayers are saying, and debunk their arguments.

**The juggler’s paradox**

A small number of “true” jugglers in the room. To learn to juggle, simply do it. The ball falls, and you try again. You train your neurons to do something you didn’t know how to do before. The way jugglers describe what they’re doing doesn’t help other people learn it. They don’t focus on the balls, they don’t focus on their movements. They unfocus. A learned state of consciousness.

Other example: karate. During his first karate classes, Stowe couldn’t even “see” what his sensei was doing. Like magic, because so different. Learning to see. Also, shortening the delay, the dollar bill trick. People can’t catch it. But if you do martial arts, you can — you’ve trained your brain to do something you couldn’t do before. A different state of consciousness. *steph-note: I’m not sure I’d call these things “different states of consciousness”.* Now, when Stowe sees karate, he knows the moves they’re making, he *can see*.

A lot of people have caracterised the things that happen to us in a negative way. Over-stimulation is driving us nuts. Stowe thinks we’re learning to accommodate a new world and cope with it. Also doesn’t agree with the “scarcity of attention” economy. (Davenport and Beck.) Another failed metaphor. Treating aspects of human cognition in economic or industrial terms fails miserably.

Psychology of Attention: we actually don’t know much about attention. It doesn’t reside in one place in your brain. It’s all over the place. An emergent property of a bunch of stuff that goes on in your brain. Conventional wisdom about attention is probably wrong. Steer clear of advice of best-selling business authors about what we should do with our attention.

We have witnessed a shift in the way we perceive media: not rival anymore. We used to turn on the radio and just listen. Later, became a background. TV too. People who have the TV on all day, or while they play a video game or listen to music (Stowe is anti-TV). Talking during the movies.

Flow media. We’re getting used to having a bunch of things going on at the same time (IM windows, skype calls, etc.)

ADD: inability to focus, hyperactive. Invented disease. Treated (paradoxically) with stimulants. Maybe kids shouldn’t sit still (over-diagnosing and medicating). Stowe doesn’t think we’re creating a toxic environment for our children, but the school system has not snapped into the 21st century.

Stowe strongly disagrees with Linda Stone’s Continuous Partial Attention theses. In general, CPA is a disorder, for her. Stowe thinks this kind of thinking is based on an old model of how one should deal with the world. FIFO. Stowe doesn’t believe flow is bad, it’s just a different model. It’s not about speed, it’s about remaining connected. We can’t stay head down for hours or days at a stretch when important events might be occurring that require immediate response.

The world is more like an ER than a supermarket checkout. Reverting to pre-agricultural consciousness. Hunter awareness. Scanning the savannah.

The war on flow (*steph-note: not sure I’d call this flow, again… agree with the concepts exposed here but the “label” flow bugs me*). Remaining connected is not a disease, but a new ethos, a new set of beliefs. Time as a shared space, and psychology is adapting to that. Conflicts with industrial norms: maybe the tribe is more important.

The Buddylist is the centre of the universe. Made greater by the sum of our connections. Flow is generational. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be doing 16 things at once. *steph-note: I must be rancid old-school, because I still think there is value on being able to concentrate/focus on one single thing during a stretch of time.*

If you expose kids to more language, they tend to be smarter. We’re training our neurones.

Why call it Flow? *steph-note: that’s the bit I’m curious about*

CM’s notion of flow: “being in the zone”. He’s opposed to the stuff Stowe is talking about *steph-note: not surprised, incompatible to me.* cf. definition from wikipedia. Usually not a solitary activity *steph-note: surprised… what about meditation? that’s an obvious example of flow.*

Flow changes the way time works. Four flavours of time: physics, linear (industrial), cyclic (mystical), flow (lived time).

*steph-note: Stowe says time slows down when you’re in the zone, you can see the tennis ball. But I’m not sure that’s the main characteristic, I think: that’s because you learnt to see. In flow, time passes fast.*

Social applications (Stowe’s business): social networks are how we discover meaning, belonging and insight on the world. Traffic flow is the primary dynamic of all future social apps. Tools which will allow us to unfocus and concentrate on sociality.

Pushing Dunbar’s constant. *steph-note: cf. Stefana Broadbent at LIFT… our tools allow us to manage more relationships* Can you ‘know’ and ‘care’ about more than 150 people? What is the limit with these tools?

How do we use time? a way of sharing something. **Productivity is second to connectivity.** *steph-note: perfectly agreed.* Important stuff will find its way to you many times. You can miss things (not that important to be a slave to every e-mail, every RSS feed), but your network won’t, and things will get back to you.

Flow is a state of mind. Flow is a verb.

Discussion: Stowe says we still need to focus (*steph-note: phew!*), but it’s a question of degree. It’s about how we do a lot of things which don’t necessarily *require* full focus. Change from “head down with occasional coffee breaks” to “long coffee break with a few focused interruptions”.

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9 thoughts on “Reboot9 — Stowe Boyd: Flow, a New Consciousness for a Web of Traffic [en]

  1. Stowe,
    I read your paragraph above regarding my continuous partial attention thesis. Once again, you appear to misunderstand my work. Check

    Continuous partial attention is not something that I judge to be “good” or “bad.” EVERY attention strategy has a place and matches to an activity, a desire. CONTINUOUS continuous partial attention, that is — operating in a constant state of vigilance, high alert, always on, is stressful to the body. It creates an adrenalized fight or flight state, cortisol floods the body. The bottom line: continuous partial attention some of the time can be a great thing. Continuous, continuous partial attention — or continuous partial attention ALL the time, is a contributing factor to insomnia, obesity, and stress-related diseases.

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