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Contemplative Computing

Computers and health: ‘When you’re sitting, you’re one step above being dead’

CES 2016 is packed with health companies offering solutions to desk-based laptop slouch. Our reporter stopped slouching for long enough to try some of them

how to focus in the age of distraction

how to focus in the age of distraction

contemplative computing, contemplative pedagogy and getting “unplugged”

Mark Zuckerberg’s Sister Published A Book About A Child Whose Mom Takes Her iPad Away

social media etiquette


Contemplative Pedagogy and Dealing with Technology
Dan Barbezat, Amherst College; David Levy, University of Washington

The accelerating pace of life is reducing the time for thoughtful reflection and in particular for contemplative scholarship, within the academy. The loss of time to think is occurring at exactly the moment when scholars, educators, and students have gained access to digital tools of great value to scholarship. This interactive session reviews research on technology’s impacts and demonstrates some contemplative practices that can respond to them. Contemplative pedagogy can offset the distractions of our multi-tasking, multi-media culture, and show how the needs of this generation of students can be met through innovative teaching methods that integrate secular practices of contemplation.

Topics: Faculty Professional Development, Teaching & Learning

Walking the Labyrinth: Contemplative Instructional Techniques to Enhance Learner Engagement
Carol Henderson and Janice Monroe, Ithaca College

Bringing ancient traditional meditative skills into the contemporary classroom, con-templative learning techniques serve as an effective counterbalance to the speedi-ness and distractions of today’s fast-paced technology-based cultural environment.  Applicable to both faculty development programs and to faculty working directlywith students, contemplative methods create a richer, more engaging learningenvironment by allowing participants to quiet their minds and focus deeply on the material at hand. This interactive session provides instruction and practice in con-templative techniques, offers examples of their use, and supports the integration of these techniques into any discipline or subject area.

Topics: Faculty Professional Development, Teaching & Learning

Contemplative Computing and Our Future of Education

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Stanford University

A generation of educators have spent their professional lives hearing that technol-
ogy is changing the world, transforming the way we think, and that higher educa-
tion must evolve or become obsolete. In case you didn’t get the message in the

1960s and 1970s, with cassette tapes, television and mainframe computers, it was

repeated in the 1980s when personal computers appeared; repeated again in the

1990s, with CD-ROMs (remember those) and the World Wide Web; repeated again

in the early 2000s with blogs and wikis; and recently, repeated once again in the

wake of social media, YouTube and the real-time Web.

This language of technological revolution and institutional reaction is backward. It

gives too much credit and agency to technology, and makes today’s changes seem

unprecedented and inevitable. Neither is actually true. Contemplative computing—

the effort to design technologies and interactions that aren’t perpetually demanding

and distracting, but help users be more mindful and focused—provides a language

for talking differently about the place of technology in teaching, learning, and edu-
cation. We think of today’s technologies as uniquely appealing to our reptilian, dopa-
mine- and stimulation-craving brains. In reality, distraction is an ancient problem,

and the rise of contemplative practices and institutions (most notably monasteries

and universities) is a response to that problem. Abandoning our traditional role as

stewards of contemplative life is as dangerous for the societies we serve as it is

short-sighted and counterproductive. Contemplative computing argues that even

today, people have choices about how to interact with technologies, how to use

them, and how to make the parts of our extended minds; and that part of our job

as educators is to show students how to exercise that agency.

Tech Neck

A Healing Yoga Sequence to Ease Neck + Shoulder Pain

We spend hours in front of our computers and phones, and the repetitive movement patterns can cause neck and shoulder strain. This sequence will help.
FEB 8, 2016

more on contemplative computing in this IMS blog

disconnect smart phone

How to Break Up With Your Phone

more on “disconnect” and contemplative computing in this IMS blog

smartphone detox

Smartphone Detox: How To Power Down In A Wired World

February 12, 20185:03 AM ET

says David Greenfield, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut:When we hear a ding or little ditty alerting us to a new text, email or Facebook post, cells in our brains likely release dopamine — one of the chemical transmitters in the brain’s reward circuitry. That dopamine makes us feel pleasure

“It’s a spectrum disorder,” says Dr. Anna Lembke, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, who studies addiction. “There are mild, moderate and extreme forms.” And for many people, there’s no problem at all.

Signs you might be experiencing problematic use, Lembke says, include these:

  • Interacting with the device keeps you up late or otherwise interferes with your sleep.
  • It reduces the time you have to be with friends or family.
  • It interferes with your ability to finish work or homework.
  • It causes you to be rude, even subconsciously. “For instance,” Lembke asks, “are you in the middle of having a conversation with someone and just dropping down and scrolling through your phone?” That’s a bad sign.
  • It’s squelching your creativity. “I think that’s really what people don’t realize with their smartphone usage,” Lembke says. “It can really deprive you of a kind of seamless flow of creative thought that generates from your own brain.”

Consider a digital detox one day a week

Tiffany Shlain, a San Francisco Bay Area filmmaker, and her family power down all their devices every Friday evening, for a 24-hour period.

“It’s something we look forward to each week,” Shlain says. She and her husband, Ken Goldberg, a professor in the field of robotics at the University of California, Berkeley, are very tech savvy.

A recent study of high school students, published in the journal Emotion, found that too much time spent on digital devices is linked to lower self-esteem and a decrease in well-being.


more on contemplative computing in this IMS blog

Qi Gong

Dr. Jerry Wellik will lead
When: every Monday
Where: in Atwood’s Maple Room
FREE Qi Gong sessions. Here is more info:

Who: Faculty, staff, students and all community members are welcome.

Please consider also introducing in your classes to contemplative computing. Here is more information:

You may have heard the names of
David Levy ( )

Dan Barberzat ( )
and, naturally,
Sherry Turkle

Please let us know, if you need more information, regarding the well-being of you and your students in relation to technology.

media technology and well being

Kushlev, K. (2018). Media technology and well-being: A complementarity-interference model. In E.Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of well-being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers.  Retrieved from
Media technology—from mass media to social media and from video gaming to computer-mediated communication—plays an increasingly central role in people’s lives. Due to exponential increases in computing power, people now carry incredibly powerful computers—their smartphones—everywhere they go. This ever-greater access to media technology is generating an ever-greater conflict between media activities and the unmediated activities critical for psychological well-being—from our face-to-face conversations and family time to our down time and work lives. What are the costs and benefits of people’s modern media technology use for psychological well-being? Using a complementarity-interference (CI) framework, I review research to illuminate key psychological processes (i.e., mediators) and conditions (i.e., moderators) of the relationship between media technology and psychological well-being. Based on the existing evidence, I propose an initial theoretical CI model of the effects of media technology on psychological well-being. I use this CI model to outline important directions for future research, providing guidelines for an integrated, theoretically informed research on media technology.
Keywords: Media, Communication technology, Computer-mediated communication (CMC), Subjective well-being, Human-computer interaction (HCI)
Definition Media Technology
Media technology. In this chapter, we will explore psychological well-being in the context of modern media technology. In common parlance, we often think of the word ‘media’ as referring to mass media, such as news media (e.g., TV, radio), and more recently, to social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). But media—the plural of medium—broadly refers to any technological tool that serves as a bridge or conduit to stimuli not otherwise available in the immediate physical environment. Thus, media technology refers to books and newspapers, radio and television, video and computer games—or to any device or method people use to transcend the constraints of their immediate physical environment: from yesterday’s dial-up telephone to the today’s smartphone, and from writing a hand-written letter to texting a friend (c.f., Okdie et al., 2014). Related terms also exist in the literature including information and communication technology, or ICT, as well as computer-mediated communication, or CMC. Most of the findings discussed here apply to—and in fact come from—the literature on ICT and CMC
While using the broad term, media technology, this chapter will focus primarily on the effects of media technology developed in the past century or so, including television, video games, and, most recently, mobile computers such as smartphones. In other words, we will be focusing on screen media technology. I will use the term mediated to refer to the stimuli afforded by the media technology, and the term unmediated to refer to behavior that does not involve the use of media (e.g., face-to-face interactions). Even though media technology itself is physical, I will use the term immediate physical environment to refer to the environment in which the media technology use occurs.

more on contemplative computing in this IMS blog

social media socially stunting

How social media is socially stunting our society: An anthropologist and acclaimed journalist shares his warnings

One of the founders of Facebook, Sean Parker, explains that these social media devices exploit the vulnerability of the human essence. The dopamine that is social media only creates a narcissistic, self-validating loops that consume valuable time and conscious attention. “Liking”, “commenting”, and “sharing” (which are virtually useless in reality) causes us to run around an endless cycle of insignificant information documentation in hopes of acknowledgment, which later on propels us to create more of the same.

Social media platform owners and creators are aware of this weakness in human psychology, and are taking advantage of it. Parker is just one of the many individuals who regret having a hand in creating these life-stagnating technologies. The mental health of the global population is deteriorating and is mostly due to anxieties produced by social media.

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Quit social media

Yes, Quitting Facebook May Make You Happier


Published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking and highlighted by the canny and pseudonymous Neuroskeptic, Danish researcher Morten Tromholt recruited 1,095 participants (by way of Facebook, naturally) and put them into two groups. One pledged to not sign onto the social network for a full week (87 percent made it) and a control group used the platform the same way as they always did.

more on mindfulness, contemplative practices, contemplative computing, disconnect in this IMS blog

mindful tech

Mindful Tech: Establishing a Healthier and More Effective Relationship with Our Digital Devices and Apps
Tuesdays, June 7 and 14, 2016, 1:00 – 2:30 pm Central Time
David Levy, Information School, University of Washington

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to attend these personally helpful sessions.

Register Now for this 2 part webinar

“There is a long history of people worrying and complaining about new technologies and also putting them up on a pedestal as the answer…

As a society, I think we’re beginning to recognize this imbalance, and we’re in a position to ask questions like “How do we live a more balanced life in the fast world? How do we achieve adequate forms of slow practice?”

David Levy – See more at:


xiv. fast world and slow world practices. always-on lifestyle.

p. 3. our devices have vastly extended our attentional choices, but the human attentional capacity remains unchanged. how to make wise choices and figure out what constitutes a wise choice, so we can use our digital tools to their best advantage and to ours.
by paying attention how you use your cellphone, how you handle email, how you feel when you are on FB or Pinterest, or when you multitask, you will be able to see which aspects of your current online practices are working well and which aren’t. seeing these will clearly will allow you to make constructive changes.
premise: we function more effectively and more healthfully online when we are more attentive, relaxed, and emotionally balanced. Also stated as negative: we function less effectively and less healthfully online when we are distracted, physically uncomfortable, and emotionally upset. that happens often when we are online. Good news – we can do something about it.
P. 4 engage and strengthen two forms of attention : 1. the ability to stay focused on what you are doing at the moment. 2. self-observation / self-awareness

p. 24. each excercise follows the same six-part structure

step 1: perform primary practice (email, FB etc)
step 2: observe what are you doing and feelig, paying special atention to what is happening in your mind and body as you engage in your primary practicestep 3: log your observation, in written form
step 4: consolidate observations by summarizing
step 5: formulate personal guidelines based on consolidated observatins
step 6: share and discuss with others

p. 25-26. mindfulness: the ability to direct your attention where you want it to go – to have a choice. in a world, where we are surrounded by advertisements, sales pitches, the biggest, best, and brightest promised of happiness and fulfillment that money can buy, not to mention the clear constant information overload of emails, status updates, tweets, photo albums, Netflix queues, RSS feeds, playin whack-a-mole with phone notifications. I wish I could say that we,  could get away, but i don’t think that as a society we can, or even that we should (this is where Turkle cannot help).

p. 27 two modes of attention
p. 27 one is like a flash light in a dark room: you see a chair; move to the left, you see something else.
p. 28 the other mode is to go beyond focusing on a single object, but opening up to the surrounding environment. like the same flash beam, but instead intense narrowed one, this is a diffused allowing to cover more, but with less visual acuity.
p. 29 both modes can exclude each other

p. 30 attentional shift, attentional choice
how to deploy our task focus (focused attention) to our self-awareness (open attention)
the brain has two different attentional systems: one is top-down and is under conscious control. the bottom-up system, an earlier evolutionary development, is completely automated. scanning the enthronement for potential threats, alerting us to them whether we want or not, since it is hard wired.

p. 31-32 interruption have two varieties: external ones: sounds, smells, movements, physical contact. internal interruptions are: hunger, mental activity (remembering late appointment).
we cannot turn alerting mechanisms, but we can minimize distractions.
we cannot turn everything off and eliminate all interruptions. what we can do is to notice them as they arise and make a decision how to proceed and face them – whether to respond in the moment or ignore them.

32. multitasking
it is now clearly established that we can mainly focus on only one thing at the a time. thus we have the ability to prioritize and focus on only one task.

34. emotions and the stress response

p. 40 strengthening task focus

mindful breathing – optional
simplest and most widespread form of attention training uses the breath as the object of focus. when mind wanders, bring back focus on your in- and out-breath: focusing, opening (noticing) and choosing. focus on your breath, notice when you have strayed and choose to come back to the breath

p. 41 strengthening self-observation / awareness
p. 42 Exercise 1. Observing email


more on mindfulness in this IMS blog

more on the contemplative practices, contemplative computing specifically in this IMS blog

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