The Distraction Addiction vs. Contemplative Computing


Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is a science writer who has penned a very enjoyable read about the challenges of modern technology in terms of attention, and how to manage the potential for addiction to distraction.  In addition to being a talented writer, he also has a smooth voice for presentation, and in the following YouTube video does a nice job of presenting the background of what would become his just-released book, in which he coins the zen-like phrase contemplative computing.


On his blog Pang notes that both his wife and son are dyslexic, and this explains Pang’s short but informative view about the visual nature of reading in his book.  This complements the information we recently blogged about from pediatrician Debbie Walhof, M.D., and also serves as an antidote to the biased information promulgated by AAPOS and the IDA that paints vision – and therefore visual interventions, as essentially irrelevant to dyslexia.  It is evident that the latest AAPOS attack on vision therapy, fronted by the IDA, will conflate vision as necessary but not sufficient, with vision as a byproduct of reading.  

From Pang’s book:

“Let’s take a look at something you’re doing right now:  reading.  Reading has the virtue of being both very familiar and very complex and multilayered.  By deconstructing it, we can see more clearly how cognitive functions that we develop with years of practice, formal techniques that we consciously learn and apply, and the physical nature of the printed page all work together … First, observe something really basic:  You’re reading letters … You’re aware of reading words and lines of text, but what you don’t realize is that your eyes aren’t moving evenly across letters and spaces; rather, they’re focusing on groups of letters for a couple of tenths of a second, performing these saccadic jumps, without your awareness.  Your visual system learned to move your eyes like this, and when you were quite young, your brain learned to take these individual frames and convert them into a smooth picture of your visual reality.”

Reading, in essence, is a form of contemplative computing that goes well beyond phonology.  To suggest otherwise turns out to be a distraction to which (for whatever reasons) some persons and organizations are addicted.

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