A phenomenon called pseudo-A.D.D.

A paper in the NYT about the ever-present and enticing potential distractions while seated at a computer.

"It's so hard, because of the incredible possibilities we have that we've never had before, such as the Internet," said John Ratey, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who specializes in attention problems. Dr. Ratey said that in deference to those who live with clinically diagnosed attention deficit disorder, he calls this phenomenon pseudo-A.D.D.

A growing number of computer scientists and psychologists are studying the problem of diminished attention. And some are beginning to work on solutions. (...) When scrolling up and down a document on a computer screen, for instance, he said, some software causes the page to jump. It's an invitation to distraction, in that it requires the eye to reacquaint itself with the document in order to continue reading. To help people understand the importance of avoiding these kinds of jumpy interactions, Dr. Bederson showed that smooth scrolling was not only easier on the eye, but reduced the number of mistakes people make when, say, reading a document aloud. (...) "It's in human nature to wonder whether you've got new mail," said Alon Halevy, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington who specializes in data management systems and artificial intelligence. "I don't think anything else is as compelling to divert attention." Dr. Halevy and others talk about making e-mail intelligent so that it knows when to interrupt the user.

Why do I blog this? It's clearly because I am a victim of this pseudo-ADD thing! It reminds me a previous post I posted here about cognitive attractors and the Cognitive Overflow Syndrome (“COS”: too many things to do, not enough time, etc). This is related to the work of Saadi LAHLOU at EDF Research and Development.

On a slightly different note, I just came across this: Marc Eisenstadt's take about the reality behind talk of 'email overload', by taking a look at some real numbers based on his own archive of all emails received over the past 12 years. Quite relevant! It's more about asynchronous attention (do you remenber the email you received 10 years ago? well at that time I only has so few that I could remember some but...)