[-empyre-] Technology and Boredom and what about literature?

Emilie St Hilaire esthilai at ualberta.ca
Thu May 14 06:15:09 AEST 2015

Thanks for your questions Renate, I'll address technology and time a bit

In terms of boredom and technology I suspect that the immediacy and
pervasiveness of digital devices has contributed to shorter attention
spans, and boredom or anxiety being induced more quickly. As Jonathan Crary
states in _24/7: Late Capitalism and the ends of Sleep_, the "infinite
cafeteria" of attention-seeking stimuli that surround us today has the
effect of "disabl[ing] vision through processes of homogenization,
redundancy, and acceleration," so that instead of developing, our "mental
and perceptual capabilities" tend to atrophy over time (33). The result
could be described as a compression of time because of the sheer quantity
of content constantly being produced, consumed, and disregarded very

Again I would position the boring as antithetical to the interesting and if
something online is not interesting it may as well not exist (based on the
value system of sites like Buzzfeed where content is either funny, amazing,
weird, cute, or gross). Expectations of entertainment are high and interest
level according to these categories (OMG, WTF, CUTE, EW) is highly valued
by both content producers (in monetary terms) and web surfers (in budgeting
time). This popular and pervasive short-form media can lead to "click
wandering" for a long time, yet it feels quite different than reading a
long-form article for the same amount of time.

One comparison I've been thinking about is the difference between watching
television and watching fire (such as a campfire, fireplace, or candle).
Fire is more conducive to mind wandering since there are no images or
narrative to occupy the viewers thoughts. Television can be meditative in
the sense that viewers can 'tune out' and relax. It is interesting to think
about the mutability of time during these activities, comparing for example
an entertaining program versus a boring one which becomes insufferably

Lyn mentioned Buddhists believe desire is the root of all suffering, I
think the awareness cultivated through meditation can not only create a
resistance to the effects of 24/7 culture but can enlighten the perceived
lack or desire that media streams perpetually attempt - and fail - to
fulfill. Overcoming the boredom of the boredom in the lack cycle (if I
correctly understand your lack cycle, Lyn) would require identifying the
source of the boredom or lack, which I think often comes from expectation.
In short I agree with Lyn's assessment of the relationship between
anticipation, lack, and boredom.

>From here I wonder if anyone has thoughts on how the body plays a role in
boredom, attention and awareness? Do the senses offer an embodied awareness
that can shift one out of boredom or mind wandering?


On Mon, May 11, 2015 at 12:31 PM, Renate Terese Ferro <rferro at cornell.edu>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear Lyn, Emilie, Ben and John,
> Thanks so much for sharing your work with us. It¹s been
> interesting thus far to see somewhat of a divide in terms of the way that
> boredom is
> theorized. Emilie and Ben, you have  theoretically distinguished boredom
> as having a
> temporal status both internally as mind-wandering and as a
> phenomenological experience
> through technology.
> Lyn your clearly Marxist tendencies seem to be more in tune
> with some of John¹s interests in labor, productivity and pleasure.
> Earlier last week Ben mentioned the tedium of coding and
> Emilie in your work you use technology to create meditative, immersive
> spaces but I¹m
> wondering if anyone  could comment on the qualities of technology¹s
> immaterial  in regards to boredom?
> I¹ve also been thinking about literature and boredom.  Anyone have any
> good references in literature to the act of boredom?
> Really enjoying all the posts.  Renate
> On 5/11/15, 2:12 PM, "B. Bogart" <ben at ekran.org> wrote:
> >----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >Hello Murat, (and Emilie)
> >
> >You ask:
> >> Ben, on what basis are you assuming daydreaming is (always?)
> >> "informed by predictive models of reality." What makes you say that?
> >> The assumption seems arbitrary (or an apriori assumption) to me.
> >
> >This is the basis of my PhD. The most complete description of the
> >argument is available in this unpublished paper:
> >
> http://www.researchgate.net/publication/271386560_Unpublished_Draft_of_An_
> >Integrative_Theory_and_Computational_Model_of_Visual_Mentation
> >
> >Note, the theory has not been empirically validated.
> >
> >In my thinking, prediction is central to perception. We constrain
> >recognition by learning contexts in which certain stimuli are likely to
> >occur. Would you argue that perception is a task? I would certainly
> >argue that perception is augmented by the particular goals in play at a
> >time, but that does not necessarily mean that all perception is
> >task-oriented.
> >
> >You go on to write that it could be argued that "daydreaming is a mental
> >act that tries to escape predictive behavior or task driven behavior."
> >
> >I would say that all learned behaviour is predictable behaviour, and
> >thus most behaviour is actually predictable (again at some level of
> >abstraction). Mind wandering is an escape from the predictability of
> >external reality, rather than an escape from one's own predictable
> >behaviour. I may go so far to say that by our ability to internalize
> >learned behaviours our minds are most often already disengaged
> >from our predictable behaviours. The predictability of these behaviours
> >means we do not need to (constantly) consciously invest in them. e.g.
> >walking is a predictable behaviour that rarely requires conscious
> >intervention.
> >
> >You further write:
> >> In that way, in daydreaming the mind is never bored. Boredom sets in
> >> when daydreaming ceases. May not daydreaming be an alternate mode of
> >> focus, the mind's rebellion so to speak, contra "organized"
> >> stimuli?"
> >
> >One of the interesting things about mind wandering, is that it's
> >difficult to realize we are doing it. In fact, some studies have shown
> >the Default Network is most engaged when we are not aware of mind
> >wandering, but in fact are absolutely not attending to external
> >stimulus. In short, we are often mind wandering without realizing we are
> >mind wandering. This is because the areas of the brain that allow us to
> >reflect on our own states of mind (parts of the prefrontal cortex) are
> >diminished in mind wandering (and dreaming). All this to say that I
> >think it's unlikely that boredom would not involve mind wandering, it's
> >more likely we don't realize how pervasive mind wandering is.
> >
> >I'm trying to get my head around what a non-task oriented, not mind
> >wandering, boring mind-state could be. Perhaps deep meditation could be
> >a state of mind that is neither task positive nor negative? Any thoughts
> >on this Emilie? Is meditation a task oriented activity? I would expect
> >that the suppression of mind wandering would require a lot of mental
> >control, the same kind of control used in task-oriented behaviour.
> >
> >Mind wandering could certainly be considered a rebellion where the
> >internal asserts itself over the external. Could you elaborate on what
> >you mean by "contra 'organized' stimuli?"
> >
> >Regards,
> >B.
> >_______________________________________________
> >empyre forum
> >empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> >http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Emilie St.Hilaire
Research and Accreditation Coordinator
Alberta School of Business, 3-30Q Business Building
University of Alberta, T6G 2R6
(780) 492-3054
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