PDA Series: Restoring Our Attention

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 10:00am to 11:00am

Presenter: Beck Tench

At a time of pandemic and civil unrest, many of us are glued to our devices, doomscrolling with anticipation for the worst to come. We rely on technology more than ever before to connect to each other, our students, our families. How do we use it wisely? And how do we manage and protect our attention when our lifeline to the outside world is designed to exploit it?

In this webinar, we will take a look at the market forces that incentivize technology to distract and manipulate us. We’ll consider the consequences of chronic distraction in the short and long term, across individuals and society as a whole. And then we’ll look to attention restoration theory (ART) for ideas about what to do differently. 

ART is a theory that helps us understand how our attention is depleted and restored. At UW, I used ART in an undergraduate design methods course to frame the design of restorative spaces and experiences on the University of Washington’s campus. In the process, students showed promising signs of changing their behaviors and attitudes with technology. We’ll learn about several of the practices we used in the class, many of which were contemplative in nature. We’ll also consider how these practices, and a design-framing, might help us and our students use technology differently.

Beck Tench is a wife, daughter, friend, teacher, gardener, cyclist, kind stranger, and PhD student at the University of Washington Information School.  She researches how the design of physical and digital spaces cultivates contemplative experience and practice. She is particularly interested in understanding how space facilitates a greater capacity for accessing personal wisdom, connecting with others through compassion and friendship, improving the quality of our lives through greater awareness of life as we’re living it, and coping with the distractions of digital culture.

She was formally trained as a designer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and spent her career before returning to academia helping museums, libraries, and non-profits embrace risk-taking, creativity, and change through technology and personal space-making. Her work from that time was mentioned in the New York Times, National Public Radio, Scientific American, and several books and blogs. 

Registration is available to CARLI libraries and members of the Professional Development Alliance.

Sponsored by CARLI