to identify: Not all attention is
visual or selective like a spotlight.
Not all debates on attention concern multitasking. Overload has
always existed, but overload isn’t
so much the problem as overconsumption. Superabundance
is welcome, but it makes better
attention practices more vital.
Surroundings play a part in those
practices. Not all attention is fragmented or paid; sometimes it just
flows. Embodiment and orientation can be important components
of attention. Not all attention
involves thought. Not all interaction needs procedures and names.
You don’t have to be a yoga teacher
to say all of this. For, as interaction designers know, affordances
shape knowing. You can sense that
a surface might work as a step
or a table without it having been
designed or declared as such.
Artifice as Environment
Next, beyond recalling those presumably familiar themes, what is
it like to consider the workings of
attention from the perspective of a
larger environment? What is it like
to go beyond the comfortable scope
of the situated task into the messy
inhabited world? What happens
when form, resolution, location,
touch, or environmental sensor
data become components of making
sense? As the world fills with new
technologies in ever more contexts
and formats, the terms of engagement vary more widely. It is worth
reciting that wherever interactions become something to inhabit
and not just to sit at, you can no
longer be so sure who is a user.
Today’s landscape of design
possibilities is not just in your
handheld; there are situated
technologies, too. Computation
increasingly becomes part of
things not thought of as comput-
ers—for instance, parking meters,
or even pavement [ 11]. Not every
interaction is a portal to some-
place else; many act in the here
and now. Design sometimes cre-
ates persistent circumstances that
people must live with, especially
those that arrange people in space,
and enable and so represent the
institutions that occupy them.
One word for that is architecture.
November + December 2012