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Slow down

When does being connected make you disconnected? There's a lot of talk about people being too connected or having too many choices.. I'd say it's not that we're too connected, but that we're not making careful choices about what we're connected to. Case in point, the driver who almost runs over a small child because they're paying more attention to their cell phone than to their driving. Or the dinner companion who constantly interrupts you to answer their cell phone instead. Or the person next to you on the subway, with their ipod cranked up so loud that everyone can hear it? These are anti-social behaviors. These people are choosing to disconnect from the people around them.

Do we have too many choices? While some may say so, I'd disagree. The problem isn't that we have too many choices, it's that we have too few meaningful choices and that we don't have enough trustworthy filters for all these choices. For example, some people are vegetarians and some are not. Life is made much easier for the vegetarian if there is a store with only vegetarian food in it. She can make the choice at the filter lever (a particular health food store) rather than at the individual food item level (checking all labels for ingredients).

While it may seem that I am just rambling here...well, maybe I am...this all relates to interface development as well as it does to quality of life and social issues. Are we building tools that disconnect people from their immediate surroundings and community, or that facilitate their participation in their community? Are we creating interfaces that distract the user from a goal, or that make the process easy? What about your work flow? Are you so busy attending to distractions, regardless of how important they are, to stop and really think about a project? Are you disconnected from inspiration, because you're connected to a cell phone or ipod?

In the words of Harry Nilsson (The Point), "a point in every direction is the same as no point at all."


Very intriguing & thought-provoking read! But it sounds like the talk itself was way better than the article.

I disagree with some of the examples given in the article/talk tho. I think limiting choice is good if you're okay with what's left to choose from. As a practicing vegan I can assure Barry Schwartz that I'd much rather prefer having a choice of 175 salads at my local supermarket than a choice of 3, the chances of me finding a vegan salad (with vegan dressing) are much higher with the 175 salads than with the 3 salads. Sorry, choice does have its advantages :)

I also don't really see the inverse relationship between 'amount of choice' and 'quality of life' that the people in the article seem to suggest. I think this is way more dependent on what exactly it is that one can choose from rather than the amount one can choose from. With food, I like having plenty of options, and it's common knowledge that a varied diet (which relies heavily on having choice) is good for one's health (which can attribute to 'quality of life'). But having a few dozen TV-channels to choose from hasn't added to my 'quality of life' at all, I feel like I watched TV much more intensely when I was a kid and we had only a couple to choose from, nowadays I just end up 'zapping' and getting annoyed that 'there's nothing on'. It all depends I guess...

BTW, I find reading ingredient-labels very interesting, you'd be amazed at the ingredients some foods have, and also what foods turn out to be veg(etari)an!

Anyways... I do agree that society as a whole does need to 'slow down'...

My and my arrow!