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

B. Bogart ben at ekran.org
Sat May 9 05:26:50 AEST 2015

Sorry John, I managed to miss this message!

Your following question is very on point and interesting: "From your
perspective, is all boredom mind-wandering, or could you distinguishes
the two more?"

I'll try and answer it, but on first blush I'm not sure it's answerable.
The message I sent earlier today gets a little into this question in
terms of the relation of boredom / rest / non-work and mind wandering in
relation to task / labour / work.

Can one mind wander without being bored? It does seem that one would
have to be disengaged in the current context of stimuli to mind wander.
Mind wandering itself can so engaging that we don't pay attention to
aspects of the world that we could otherwise not think are boring (like
getting hit by a car). I'm thinking about absentmindedly walking out
into traffic.

To take a task-oriented perspective, we could say that the task is to
get from A to B. Before getting to the cross-walk we may get disengaged
with the task, and start mind wandering. We stay mind wandering because
we're on autopilot and not aware of the change of context, from walking
along a side-walk to walking across a road. Without attending to the
sensory information, part of us is stuck in the task of walking and
assuming no change of context.

I'm thinking about mind wandering as two things (and this may be
controversial, and I'm only trying to think through it now):

(a) Mind-wandering involves disengaging the current behaviour (sensory
motor pattern?) from conscious awareness such that it continues on
assuming the task context has not changed (walk from A to B). If a
sub-task is required, i.e. look both ways, then it requires conscious
intervention. If the motor pattern required does not require change
(i.e. no curb to step off, or turn to make) it continuous on.

(b) Mind-wandering involves engaging in an internal simulation that is
not anchored in sensory information. Only stimulus that is not easily
predictable (e.g. walking into something, a loud horn, an fast moving
object in periphery) interrupts the internal simulation.

If we think of bordom as mind wandering in this sense of
task-orientation, what are the implications for pornography? What is the
task a viewer of pornography engaged in? I think the task-orientation
way of thinking gets tricky in the area of entertainment. Is the task
simply pleasure seeking, or is it novelty seeking? Is there a
difference? I'll have to think about this more.

It is noted in the mind wandering literature that the default network is
most active when the subject is not aware that they are mind wandering.
The disengagement with the current task is to complete, that the person
thinks they are still engaged in the task. This is getting into some
philosophy of Self that is probably a back-whole. The self must take
responsibility of both the unconscious behaviours and the conscious
ones, even if they conflict.

As for where to locate boredom: I expect that what is boring to one
person (or under one mind-set) may be not boring to (under) another.
Mind-sets may sensitize us to stimuli in different ways that makes the
same thing engaging or boring. I expect much that would be considering
boring 'normally' would stop being boring after some time in a sensory
deprivation tank. There is also the question of granularity abstraction,
boring at what level of abstraction?

I would argue (generally) that all meaning is context-dependent, and
that the context includes the subject/observer. At the same time we have
similar cognitive mechanisms and inhabit a shared world, and thus
habituate to similar things. So there is some sense we could predict
that a majority of people could consider X boring, under some assumed
context of reception. By thinking about boredom in this broader cultural
sense of our shared world we get into the degree to which we think or
experience the world similarly. This points to another question: whether
the emphasis is on an individual's experience of boredom, or the
social/group shared experience. In the context of the theme in relation
to labour, it seems the cultural/social level is appropriate.

You ask: "Is there any sense for what this balance might be between mind
wandering and task orientation <snip>, or what the phenomenon for one
who is overly task-oriented would be called? Would that just be a

It seems to me (this is all totally off the top of my head with no
empirical basis at all) that the label for a person who is overly
task-oriented (overly engaged in stimulus rather than simulation) could
be attention deficit / hyperactive. Attention seems to require stepping
away from the current unique complexity of a moment and emphasize the
broader context, i.e. the task we're supposed to be doing (e.g. learn,
pay attention, etc.). This could also be related to granularity,
attending to tiny details and not the big picture by ignoring those
inconsequential details. I expect such a person would be reactionary,
maybe even extroverted. Perhaps they don't startle easily, because they
attend to all the details and less often the context.

The opposite, someone who is overly simulation oriented, would consider
all data in light of the big picture. I expect They may be introverted
and would very deliberate and meticulous. Irrelevant details to the
current task are constantly discarded. Perhaps they startle easily
because so much of their time is spent simulating (considering
everything in one broad unified context) and not attending to the subtle
cues that betray surprises. I expect such a person is probably
considered "detail oriented" because everything is considered in the
broader context.

Ok, I'm going to split this message into two because the most
interesting stuff is to follow.


More information about the empyre mailing list