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

B. Bogart ben at ekran.org
Mon May 11 02:41:25 AEST 2015

Hello all,

It's great to have Murat and Emilie join in the discussion!

Lets see how I can parse out all that has been said. I'll start by
responding to John's comments:

John writes: "...with the rise of capitalism, leisure time comes to be
divided out and a concept of boredom can emerge as a kind of uncertainty
for how to fill this time, or as a general alienation from time itself."

I like the idea of boredom as a proxy for uncertainty regarding the
function / use of time and the separation of work and non-work in a more
formalized context of capitalism. I wonder about guilt here also, the
notion that one *should* be making the most of time and thus if not
working, then at least doing some other pleasurable *task*. Does boredom
necessarily involve some degree of guilt?

John later writes: "It's non-productive of capital, and so boredom very
much is a problem (I think). But is it just a problem for capitalism?"

We should certainly add this to our list of difficult questions to
ponder! I think the root of the question of whether boredom is a problem
for other areas than capitalism / production is rooted in the question
of function.

Large sections of the study of dreams are about finding a function for
dreaming because dreaming (rather REM sleep) has a high metabolic cost.
If REM was not valuable to the survival of an organism, it's hard to
imagine why this high metabolic cost would not be selected out. In my
own work, I skirt around this by arguing that internal simulation is
central function mind/brain and that the brain is always generating
internal simulations (even if we are unaware or unable to remember it).
The cost of REM is just the cost of doing the business of minds, it
can't be turned off. It seems we have a parallel question of the
function of boredom. Perhaps boredom is the default state and the ground
from which all arousal arises (see my comments on pornography at the end
of this message). Perhaps there is a concrete function of boredom.
Perhaps boredom is required to maintain crucial aspects of mind, e.g.
attention control. I recall there being some studies showing a decrease
in the ability to concentrate in relation to the increased availability
of information technologies.

To get back to pornography; my point about desensitization was really
about habituation, how we learn to predict the familiar to the point
that it ceases to be arousing (sexually, emotionally, intellectually).
After thinking about it (away from the computers) this weekend I was
wondering about the role of arousal as necessarily emerging from
boredom. We get habituated and thus that which was once arousing becomes
norm, and we keep chasing for a greater 'high'. I can imagine
undergraduates being keenly aware of this in the context of pornography
from other eras. As dominant pop cultural becomes more sexually
suggestive, the more habituated / desensitized we all are, even those
not experiencing pornography.

It seems possible that this chasing arousal process could be solved with
boredom. i.e. just resetting and disengaging from the distractions and
sexually suggestive stimuli could move the base-line of norm
significantly. Habituation recovers, eventually a stimulus that once was
ignored for a lack of arousal can cause arousal again. It then seems
that the context of boredom is very important; not so much what boredom
is, but what the social norms and contexts that lead to boredom tell us
we are habituating to (perhaps without being aware of it). I think this
goes for chasing innovation and the notion of technological progress also.


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