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The octopus: the modern day multi-tasker

April 16, 2013

The notion of distraction assisting us to pay attention in a different manner, or even make it better, is enlightening to mankind and our modern society. If we are distracted, we need to know what has caught our new attention and scrutinise why – from there we are able to analyse and redirect our attention to the desired task. Your mind is preoccupied by what pertains to your interest and what you perceive to be more important.

You are more likely going to be distracted on your personal life’s dramas (as that affects you directly) in comparison to giving your full attention to a monotone lecturer who may be talking about a bland subject – conclusively leading to a distraction and focus on the incorrect task. For example, when the students of the ARTS2090 lecture had to watch the soundless video of leaves and I was asked to pay attention, I could not, for the life of me, keep my full attention on such task. Maybe I just have an underlying issue with being told what to do but that is a separate issue!

It seems that when an individual knows they have to focus their attention on a desired task, they cannot maintain that focus because, subconsciously and possibly even consciously, they do not want to.

In our modern world, attention is a reason for investment – research and creative production is not the sole priority, getting a hold of the public’s attention for long enough is. The manner in which society is now organised, attention is forced to be spread out, adaptable and, quite frankly, rapid. We are swamped by information daily that our minds create their own filters; sometimes personal interests rank higher than political or world news and to an extent I believe it is wrong. We seem to be more interested on trivial events or people who do not really do much (A-list celebrities) and there doesn’t seem to be hard news stories that pertain to our new, evolved attention spans. It is absolutely paramount to assess one’s distractions in order to resume original attention that will eventually become unwavering.

Simply writing this blog, I have had many distractions and I have lost attention completely on several occasions. I am typing this blog on my recently received Samsung tablet for my birthday (which was a few days ago) – first of all the battery died just as I got started, then I received notifications from my emails, followed by giving in to my curiosity and exploring the unseen terrains of my newly beloved tablet. I had a shower and escaped to the comfort of my bed where I haven’t lost focus since (except for replying to my text messages).

From this simple example, the complexity of our fluctuating attention created by the new world is clearly evident – we are now creatures of change, rather than habit; where we expect to engage in all forms of media to ultimately benefit our own wants, while neglecting what we probably should be attentive to. This, as explained in the lecture, results in partial attention and consequently multi-tasking.

As a young woman of modern society, sometimes to keep up with my thoughts (about amount of things I want to do, the amount of things I have to do and what I should be doing) I feel as though I need another six hands. I would be the most productively efficient person on the planet – where all my attention can be focused (or partially focused) on several different tasks. Imagine how quickly everything could be done if our limbs resembled an octopus – there would be no distractions because they are being tended to by another pair of hands: the epitome of the modern day multi-tasker.

Word of the week is ‘commons’ – which I didn’t even mentioned because I was too attentive to attention.



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