This week Sara and I talk to writer Amy Donahue about the way that social media shapes our relationships.
Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: High Fidelity Connections and Social Media with Amy Donahue
This week, Sara and I interview Chris about his experience at a week long silent meditation retreat.
Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Path of the Mindful Cyborg, Mett? of Data
Chris has also written a reflection on his time at the retreat:
There were no gadgets, no devices, no sensors, no talking, no books, pens, paper and no looking at each other.
All vegan meals.
Hours of meditation.
It was life altering.
Coming back “online”, I notice that so much of our world is suffering, as I often say in my talks.
This week we talk about the weirdness of being on TV, the early history of the internet, and coping mechanisms for depression. This one gets really personal. Probably our most intense episode yet.
Download and Show Notest: Mindful Cyborgs: Dark Nights and the Ghosts of Tech’s Past
Here’s the second part of our conversation with Gary Weber about quieting mental chatter. This time around we talk more about specific strategies, including meditation and writing.
Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Empirical Emporium Beyond Selfie Blah-Blah PT2
This week Chris Dancy and I talk with Gary Weber, author of Happiness Beyond Thought, about what we can do to quiet our internal chatter — or as Gary calls it, “the blah-blahs.”
Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Episode 38 – Empirical Emporium Beyond Selfie Blah-Blah PT1
Neima Jahromi on floatation tanks:
Powers calls the Walden experiment a withdrawal “within the world,” but he overlooks the utopian aspirations of Thoreau’s experiment. There’s nothing transcendent about making yourself comfortable within the world’s limits.
Many floaters more readily align with Powers’s mistaken description of Thoreau. Rather than use the tanks to escape from society, they isolate themselves to escape toward society. Floaters are happy to have the anxious aspects of themselves reprogrammed into a sociable tranquility, especially those afflicted by serious mental wounds, like military veterans who hope sensory deprivation will help treat their PTSD. (One Float On employee told me she believes that if prisoners were given the opportunity to float, they would become much more “manageable” and prison violence would likely decrease.) When the solution serves too well, some floaters pragmatically impose limits on the relief they seek. Andrew, the “human firewall” consultant, told me he used to book sessions in the morning before work but had to stop. “I found myself being much more understanding and sympathetic and I let a lot more things slide,” he explained. “It was then that I realized I needed to stop floating in the morning or I’d start allowing people’s excuses—and projects would get delayed and pretty soon none of us would have a job.”
One wonders if, in a hundred years, the tacit philosophy of the floaters who accept the world as it is and change themselves instead could improve society. Robert and Edward Skidelsky, the father-and-son economic historians who wrote the book How Much Is Enough? (2012), believe that there is something worth reprogramming in us: not the parts of our brains shaped by digital technology, but the drive to work too much. If only more schools, against our avaricious natures, taught us to be leisurely, those who labor pointlessly for more and more capital would relax instead of working overtime, and more wealth would become available to those who need it. The income gap would shrink.
Full Story: The Nation: In the Tank
See also the conclusion of my article on “contemplative computing”:
Pang’s notion of mindful, or contemplative, computing is useful, but ultimately it’s just a way of coping with a world of applications designed without our best interests at heart. Just as meditation, prayer and weekend retreats can help us cope with the harsh realities of the modern world, so too can it help us cope with flame wars, feral inboxes and the non-stop rush of social media. But just as citizens can demand safer cities, more humane governments and even economic reform, we can demand a new class of technologies.
The second part of the Mindful Cyborgs interview with Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul is up.
Here’s a taste:
CD: One more question on this concept: you speak of a digital Sabbath which I don’t know if you listen to the show of Nathan Jurgenson. Today, August 9th Nathan Jurgenson’s basically on Twitter having a minor meltdown listening to people struggle with what he calls digital dualism, so this pathologizing of an online versus offline reality. I don’t know because I’ve never asked Nathan how he feels about a digital Sabbath but I would think he would say is probably the most dualistic thing you could do.
To that point I personally tweeted out recently celebrating your ability to unplug is the fastest way to declare a pathological relationship between yourself and your data. Are you pro-digital Sabbath because your mind just needs a break or I mean, do you literally think that we need it because this is so unhealthy we need to detach from it and make it something separate?
ASP: First of, I think Nathan’s meltdown is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t go to academic conferences because there’s this sociological association like now. It’s a toxic environment so stay away.
There has in the last few months been this kind of fetishization of digital detoxes. That’s an idea that the cool kids are putting their things down and they are going off to the woods and playing Shuffleboard.
CD: It helps when you’re making $300,000 or $400,000 a year that you can put your phone away a lot easier by the way.
ASP: Exactly. Yes. And the fact that there are a couple of Caribbean islands and some resorts in Tahiti and Thailand who are starting to advertise themselves as digital detox centers only adds to this, but this is to say that any beneficial activity can be turned into a status symbol. We’ve seen this with yoga, with organic food or sending your kid to a progressive school anything like this can be turned into a status symbol and I think that shouldn’t detract from recognizing a couple of things and one of them is that it’s totally reasonable to want to take a break from things that you love.
I love my kids but they’re at camp right now and when I get up in the morning I was thank God, they’re at camp. I’ll have them be on 50 weeks of the year. It’s cool to have a little break.
You can find the episode on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher, or download it directly.
Oh, and see also my article on Pang’s book.
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