Linda Stone

Former VP, Microsoft

Attention: The *Real* Aphrodisiac
24 minutes, 11mb, recorded 2006-03-07
Linda Stone

Where has the "always on" mentality from the last two decades taken us? How well do we manage technology, or does it manage us? At the Emerging Technology Conference 2006, Linda Stone, former VP at Microsoft, discusses the concept of Continuous Partial Attention. Stone explores a broader context or how we pay attention to each other, how our attention patterns have shifted, and considers new technologies and new interfaces and how they've effected our attention. When we constantly scan the periphery to see if something more important should displace our current activity we feel like a live node on the network, we feel alive, but does are we really?

Continuous Partial Attention, a phrase coined by Stone when working at Microsoft's Virtual Worlds Group, is seen as a post-multitasking behavioral approach to managing information and data in our daily lives. In this increasingly noisy world, we have taken on the task of staying on top of everything. As a result, we satisfy our yearnings by getting to the bottom of things which come across our path. With a Continuous Partial Attention mindset we continually scan for opportunity, motivated by a desire to be part of something beyond ourselves, making us feel more alive and important.

Stone explores the last two decades of information technology and our ability to deal with and manage our daily lives together with new breakthroughs. While the period 1965 to 1985 was highlighted by the collective ideal to value self expression, the eighties and nineties were about a shift to a networked, constantly connected lifestyle. The former instilled a narcissistic quality in us, and influenced the drive for the trust in networking and collective intelligence seen in the latter period. Today we are confronted by an inability to manage crisis. We long for a sense of protection, meaning and belonging. In a world of interconnected communities and constant background noise, the overriding question is: what do we really need, and what do we need to pay attention to?

Linda Stone joined Apple Computer in 1986. She is passionate about the role technology can play in enhancing our lives. At Apple, Stone had the opportunity to do pioneering work in multimedia hardware, software and publishing. In 1993, she joined Microsoft Research, working under Nathan Myrhrvold. There, she co-founced and directed the Virtual Worlds Group/Social Computing Group, researching online social life and virtual communities. Stone retired from Microsoft in 2002, to persue a variety of writing and creative projects, eventually taking up a career as an educator and children's librarian.


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