Mindfulness is a meditation practice that is easy to learn and can be used anywhere. It is about maintaining "a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment."1 We’re hearing more and more about the ways the science behind mindfulness is being applied to healthcare, education, the criminal justice system, and more. One area where the science behind mindfulness hasn’t received as much attention is media and computing. Mindfulness is a word associated with peace and tranquility—it’s downright paradoxical to mention it beside words like media and computing—words strongly associated with mental activity and stress.
To get behind this paradox we intuit that we might be asked to set our smartphone aside for a period of time, or worse yet, turn it off altogether. Right away that thought makes some of us sweat. These technologies tell us the time, the weather, and the news. We use them to keep up with our schedules, our friends, and our investments—to track our activity, map our destinations, and answer our questions. They serve as portable concert halls, movie theaters, and gaming arcades. It’s no wonder we’re reluctant to allow terms like mindful media, mindful computing, and mindful technology to take up residence in our lives—much less the collective consciousness.
Which brings us to the heart of the matter: What exactly do we mean by these terms? Can anything that’s so distracting be used to quiet the mind, or enhance a mindfulness practice? Does applying mindfulness to our digital lives mean turning off your television and smartphone? To answer questions we must bring our conscious attention to the way we’re using these technologies: are they facilitating our wellbeing or detracting from it? Here's a quick summary of the way I see this powerful intersection:
The science of mindfulness has touched so many areas of our lives: it's time to consider applying it to our interactions with media and computing.
2. Ryan M. Niemiec and Danny Wedding (2008). Positive Psychology At The Movies: Using Films to Build Virtues and Character Strengths, Hogrefe Publishing.
Ryan M. Niemiec and Danny Wedding (2013). Positive Psychology at the Movies: Using Films to Build Virtues and Character Strengths 2nd Edition, Hogrefe Publishing.
4. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang(2013). The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul