[-empyre-] Welcome to May: Boredom: Labor, Use and Time

B. Bogart ben at ekran.org
Thu May 7 03:32:15 AEST 2015

Hello Renata,

On 15-05-05 09:17 PM, Renate Terese Ferro wrote:
> Grabner¹s technical work allows for zones of meditation through
> repetitive labor.  I¹m wondering Ben if any of your research provides
> some insights into what happens within the creative process?  Any
> hints as to how the creative space of Grabner¹s situational boredom
> fits into the spaces of mind-wandering or wakeful dreaming states of
>  meditation?

It would be interesting to flesh out this sense of labour and boredom in
relation to intellectual / technical practises.  On first blush it seems
that coding and electronics involve so much debugging and problem
solving that it seems they would be quite psychologically different than
the kind of fine detailed each step the same motor labour of textiles
etc. This may be supporting a false dichotomy between mental labour
(thought) and motor labour (physical movement). Unlike in coding, at
least electronics could involve a phase of production that could involve
the same kind of repetitive motor actions. I think of a colleague
threading thousands of fibre-optic cables into fabric:

It does seem that learning and practise allow a person to complete tasks
with no or little conscious effort. Indeed some tasks require such
narrow time frames that conscious involvement is not practical
(gymnastic tumbling comes to mind). Offloading action to our repertoire
of learned behaviours does seem to leave the conscious mind to do as it
pleases (i.e. by default mind wanders).

As for creativity, I tend to agree with Dietrich [1], who describes two
modes of creativity: a deliberate mode and a spontaneous mode. The
deliberate mode requires conscious effort and is rational and
task-oriented, but is quite serial in nature and conforms to social
norms. The spontaneous mode occurs constantly without any conscious
effort and is the result of many parallel processes; it could be
irrational and does not confirm to social norms. All real-world
creativity involves both of these modes giving and taking emphasis in a
process. Some anecdotes describe "Eureka" moments of creativity as
occurring during mind wandering or otherwise not engaging in
deliberately working on the task at hand.

Because of this interplay between Dietrich's two modes, I think the key
is balance and maintaining the freedom to mind wander and being
task-oriented. I think this probably relates to continuous distraction.
In these moments of mind wandering many of us reach for the mobile
device to check messages, play a game, or text and find a
inconsequential task to accomplish. Perhaps the more distracted we are
the less we learn to balance mind wandering and task orientation.

There is also the degree of attachment we have to the thoughts that seem
to appear in our minds without conscious control. This could relate to
depression, OCD and even Schizophrenia, where what comes out of the
default network could be highly negative or even disturbing. Is there
some link between us being constantly distracted and our attachment to
our thoughts? If we are constantly attending away from them do they hold
more power?

As I understand it, meditation is about detaching from the content of
thoughts and using attention to shift away from them. I have not
studies the neurological mechanisms of meditation, but one does wonder
what happens to both task-oriented and default network areas. (I just
asked a colleague studying the neurological mechanisms of mediation, and
will report back if relevant on ongoing discussion.)

One small note about location: I wonder if living in a place with less
opportunity for continuous task-oriented behaviour changes what one pays
attention to? Does the same issue of distraction occur, but occurs at a
different degree of abstraction that would be have been ignored
previously? i.e. does one spend more time watching birds, or listening
to leaves rustle, that would have been spent looking at FB, or checking

1. Dietrich, Arne. "The cognitive neuroscience of creativity."
Psychonomic bulletin & review 11.6 (2004): 1011-1026.


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