[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 2 on -empyre-: Boredom: Labor, Use and Time

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


Hello Lyn,

I managed to miss this message which certainly gets into some
interesting territory we have not dealt with. There are a few points I
would like to respond to:

You write:
> These small moments where we begin to diverge from the task at hand 
> so that we can maintain some sense of awareness, or even presence, so
> that we don't mire in the nothingness that boredom threatens to make
> for us.

In the mind wandering literature there is evidence that our task
negative networks are most active when we are not aware that we are mind
wandering. It seems that in mind wandering we can loose ourselves to
some extent. Of course, when one does mind wander they inevitably return
to presence in the world. I can imagine that this moment of returning to
awareness would reset and re-tune our sense of self and be more present
than we would have been able to otherwise. One of the arguments for why
mind wandering improves performance on some tasks is that mind wandering
allows us to dishabituate from the current stimulus; when we return
we do so with a fresher perspective that is not saturated by previous
work/tasks/thoughts. In terms of labour, it's possible that moments of
mind wandering could improve productivity.

You write:
> ...boredom was once assigned to youth as something to avoid at all
> costs: we must avoid boredom, lest we become delinquents. Idleness
> brings us to the devil, as it were.

This is interesting in the context of the Dietrich paper I previously
referenced. If we accept mind wandering is linked with the default
network, and Dietrich's conception of creativity, it's clear that the
"spontaneous mode"'s lack of social conformity is both dangerous and
powerful. Dietrich may argue that true creativity (Transformational in
Boden's terms) would not even be possible without the ability to go
outside of norms to develop revolutionary ideas. For a time where
'innovation' is important, it could be strange to constrain the system
of labour to discourage innovation. I suppose it's a signal of the usual
stratification of labour. We have the well paid high level leaders that
innovate and direct and the lower level implementers that engage with
the nitty gritty of making things work. I wonder about this notion of
idle and the devil in relation to conformity in power structures.

You write of meditation:
> Boredom becomes a state that the practitioner is expected to see 
> through to its every possible end: what happens if, in a state of 
> boredom, we do nothing, and we just accept it?

Acceptance seems quite interesting here. Acceptance could be accepting
the mind-wandering and let our minds unwind freely, loosing our
awareness of doing so. Acceptance could also be accepting the
nothingness and using attentional control to suppress mind wandering.
What does it mean to accept that which is constantly reconstructing
itself (our thoughts, our selves, etc.)?

Ben

On 15-05-10 12:46 PM, Lyn Goeringer wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> 
> 
> 
> Hi All,
> 
> Thank you for making our introduction, Renate. It is really nice to 
> be a part of this discussion.
> 
> My interest in boredom comes from a deep interest in essentially the 
> function of boredom in the workplace, and how we work to challenge 
> and diverge from our daily routine and attempt to reclaim our own 
> sense of self when we find work dissatisfying, unchallenging, and, by
> extension, what happens when boredom sets in. It's those little 
> moments within our workdays that we find ourselves mindlessly doing 
> other tasks: scribbling or doodling on the margins of a piece of 
> paper in a meeting, folding a paper clip, or doing really any other 
> thing we can. These small moments where we begin to diverge from the
>  task at hand so that we can maintain some sense of awareness, or 
> even presence, so that we don't mire in the nothingness that boredom
>  threatens to make for us.
> 
> As John mentioned in last weeks discussion about boredom and it's 
> outcomes that "It's non-productive of capital, and so boredom very 
> much is a problem (I think). But is it just a problem for 
> capitalism?”" I would say that it most certainly is, or at least a 
> problem for contemporary labor practices. Each moment we are not 
> doing the assigned or intended task, we are, in essence, 'stealing 
> time' from our employers. These moments where we doodle, play with 
> other items, surreptitiously check Facebook, these are moments when 
> we steal time, when we create within boredom, a byproduct of labor, 
> to work for ourselves, to work to escape from things we cannot. In 
> our boredom, we begin to find a place for ourselves, we make an 
> effort to shift towards something other, some other state of being, 
> as soon as we acknowledge our moments of boredom and try to alleviate
> this.
> 
> I can't help while thinking on this topic from the perspective that 
> I've come to it from (from labor and learning, where people focus on
>  things that are distinct from the often assigned task at hand) to 
> thinking about childhood and boredom. Most immediately, I find myself
> thinking of the zine Murder Can Be Fun, Issue #17, "naughty 
> children".  This comes to mind because so often childhood delinquency
> is blamed on 'boredom'. Of course, the subject of the zine is
> children who murder, but there is always the threat of children being
> mischievous or bad when bored, because they lack the discipline to
> not misbehave when bored. I am no expert in children, or child
> psychology, but I do find it interesting that before we reach a state
> where labor and work is a primary factor in our boredom, boredom was
> once assigned to youth as something to avoid at all costs: we must
> avoid boredom, lest we become delinquents. Idleness brings us to the
> devil, as it were.
> 
> I do wonder if this has much to do with contemporary fears and 
> attempts at assuaging boredom. Without constant occupation, without 
> keeping busy, we would fall into the devils hands. Or, more 
> contemporary, to be idle would lead us into a state of 
> non-productivity, and without productivity, we cannot have equity, we
> cannot have goods to sell. Production at all costs, regardless of the
> needs of the person involved.
> 
> I would like to suggest, however, that the function of boredom is 
> actually a moment of downtime, a moment of void, from which anything 
> could grow. In meditation practices, it is what is done with boredom 
> that gets interesting. Boredom becomes a state that the practitioner
> is expected to see through to its every possible end: what happens
> if, in a state of boredom, we do nothing, and we just accept it? This
> is an interesting question. I don't have an answer for it, but it is
> one of the many states that must be dealt with. As an active
> meditation practitioner, I can tell you that for me, when boredom
> sets in I get antsy. I want to get up and move around. It's one of
> the biggest factors in why people stop meditating. It is not 
> entertaining.
> 
> But what happens on the other side of boredom? That's the question I 
> want to ask. How can boredom work for us?
> 
> Thanks again for having me here, and I look forward to continuing
> the discussion.
> 
> best, Lyn Goeringer www.lyngoeringer.com/portfolio 
> <http://www.lyngoeringer.com/portfolio>
> 
> 
> 
> _______________________________________________ empyre forum 
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> 


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