Information & Contemplation

In 2005, I was awarded an academic fellowship by the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society to create a course exploring how contemplative practices might serve as a lens to observe and critique current information practices, and to investigate problems such as information overload, the fragmentation of attention, and the busyness and acceleration of everyday life. I first taught this course in Spring 2006; the most recent offering took place in Winter 2016. Open to undergraduates, masters and doctoral students, the course has three pedagogical thrusts:

  • A reading seminar-style exploration of contemporary information practices and the challenges associated with them, such as information overload and distraction.
  • First-person explorations of a variety of contemplative practices, including seated mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, and a body scan;
  • A set of exercises meant to help students mindfully observe, reflect on, and improve their information technology practices, such as email, Facebook, and multitasking.

These articles have appeared in the press about the course:

  • Chronicle of Higher Education, “You’re Distracted. This Professor Can Help,” by Marc Parry. March 24, 2013.
  • USA Today, “Prof Tackles Tech Distractions One Student at a Time,” by Marco della Cava. April 20, 2014.

The course served as inspiration for my recently published book, Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives (Yale, 2016). Meant to be used both in university courses and by the general public, the book presents the exercises I first developed for the course.

For reviews of Mindful Tech, see Press and Media. (Additional information about the book can be found on my personal website.)

For a sense of the exercises taught in the course and presented in Mindful Tech, see two short pieces I’ve written: