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

B. Bogart ben at ekran.org
Mon May 11 03:23:31 AEST 2015

Hello Murat,

I just wanted to clarify that I certainly do not value task-orientation
over mind wandering, but rather think they are quite intertwined.

You ask: "do you see (or make) a distinction between mind wandering and
day dreaming? As a corollary to this question: can a day dreamer ever be
bored _during_ daydreaming?"

At this time I consider mind wandering and day dreaming to be the same
process. As for the second question, if day dreaming / mind wandering is
the spontaneous generation of internal simulations informed by
predictive models of reality, then the simulation can never be a
surprise because it's the result of a prediction (at some level of
abstraction). Thus, mind wandering is always 'boring' in the sense that
it's always expected. Now, this is arousal (as defined in my other
message) and even the boring could still be terrifying (e.g. just
because you know you are about to be murdered does not necessarily
remove the terror of being murdered.)

Regarding what 'focus' means, you are totally right there is some
trickiness here. I think of it more as attention: someone who is mind
wandering is attending more to their internal simulations than they are
attending to external sensory information. Someone who is highly engaged
in a task they are not familiar with (i.e. learning something new) is
attending to the external sensory reality above their internal
simulation. Someone focused on a task that they have practised a lot
would be somewhere in between, focusing on both the sensory reality and
their internal simulations.

Actually, I would say that we are always attending to both external
sensory reality and our simulations to a degree, otherwise no one would
be able to wake us from dreaming or snap us out of mind wandering.

Of course there is also the problem of attending to predictions /
simulation at what level of abstraction...


> Let me try to clarify what I mean by my perceived bias:
> "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."
> You are saying that "attention seems to require stepping away from
> the current unique complexity of a moment and emphasize the broader
> context." In a more subtle and significant way, isn't the opposite
> true? The real focus implies the ability to notice the unexpected,
> what does not fit the picture. Are these not moments of greater
> creativity, openness, ability to think "non-task" fashion, out of the
> box, what Keats calls "negative capability"? In that way the 
> passivity of negative capability/day dreaming  implies a different
> kind of focus.
> In my view, the watcher of pornography escapes boredom through 
> daydreaming, which escapes (though elicited and stirred by them) the 
> repetitive, ritualized set sequences of pornographic acts. It seems
> to me it is in the interchange between the mind and charged (in what
> way?), mechanical acts that pornographic pleasure/excitement is
> created. Marquis de Sade's ritualized fantasies which at moments have
> the permutations of mathematics (both "algorithmic" and orgasmic)
> are examples of that.
> John, you write: "In contemporary pornography, the non-event (what I 
> would characterize as the non-sexual scenario) within pornography
> presents a unique function, which in amateur and cam shows I believe
> authenticates these pornographies as genuine..."
> When you say, "the non-event... authenticates... pornographies as 
> genuine," are you implying something akin to what I am referring as
> escape?
> Ciao, Murat
> On Fri, May 8, 2015 at 5:30 PM, John Stadler 
> <john.paul.stadler at gmail.com <mailto:john.paul.stadler at gmail.com>>
> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space---------------------- Hey Ben,
> You asked:
>> Does this imply that before modernity all moments of time were
>> filled with task-oriented behaviours? Or that there was no
>> conceptualization of the difference between task and non-task? Does
>> modernity mark the construction of the notion of tasks (as units of
>> activity)?
>> What is the relation between boredom and rest? Does boredom always 
>> involve a task that is momentarily paused, or a lack of task?
> I’m speculating here, because the pre-modern period is not an area I 
> study in great depth, but my sense is that the division is not one 
> that gets made. I am open to other interpretations, though. This
> would be for the period of time in which one was not alienated from
> one’s labor. Something like boredom would perhaps have existed under 
> slightly different form as idleness and been regulated more by an 
> institution like the church. But 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 think time is really
> interesting now, especially given the blurring of the lines between
> work and leisure (I say as I write this from my patio, having just
> played frisbee with my dogs).
> This gets perhaps to your point of wanting to know the relation 
> between boredom and rest. I think that as work comes to colonize the 
> space of leisure (and vice versa), the imperative toward
> productivity comes to police the space of rest, such that, inactivity
> and behavior without a clear orientation toward a task becomes viewed
> pejoratively. It's non-productive of capital, and so boredom very
> much is a problem (I think). But is it just a problem for
> capitalism?
> You also asked:
>> What is the role of desensitization here? Does not all pornography 
>> eventually become boring once experienced sufficient times?
> I think pornography viewed enough times absolutely becomes boring,
> but I also think that the mass customizability of pornography seems
> to want to promise the viewer a more perfect, more unique, more
> tailored form of pornography that is always just around the corner,
> compelling the viewer to go on this quest for the ever more engaging
> clip or film. In this picture, pornography does seem to desensitize
> us from the sense of a norm for sex, because it is largely in the
> business of producing fantasy. It's sex is supposed to be, on some
> level, unrealistic. I think too the general minimization of narrative
> in contemporary pornography and the mechanization of sex acts
> (always orchestrated in some recognizable permutation) are some
> explanations, too, in very mainstream pornography.
> I taught a course on pornography last summer to undergraduates, 
> though, and what became surprising was just how quickly students 
> lodged the complaint of boredom for pornographic films (the first 
> screening!) from an era they were unfamiliar with. Of course,
> viewing pornography in an academic setting is very different from
> viewing pornography privately. Boredom in the instance of the
> classroom might also be another way of trying to find a vocabulary
> for how to speak about a form of media that we are largely aware of
> but taught from an early age not to speak of. Clearly there is a
> different aim in mind, where the student were called upon to view the
> films dispassionately and with a critical eye, and the consumer has
> the aim of pleasure in mind. But I think boredom can exist for both
> kinds of viewers.
> I think boredom within pornography is perhaps more interesting to
> me, at this point, where performers seem bored, actions mechanical, 
> pleasures faked. In cam shows, for instance, performers can sit in a 
> chair for an hour awaiting tokens from viewers in order to perform 
> particular sex acts, and this act of waiting (and doing nothing,
> other than responding to a thread of comments) is very much part of
> the pornographic performance and helps to authenticate it as real
> (even while it is coerced by monetary reimbursement in the case of
> some cam shows).
> These are just some passing thoughts. I will need to sit with these 
> questions longer to give a more thorough answer. Thanks for them, 
> though. I've really enjoyed reading your responses!
> J _______________________________________________ empyre forum 
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