My need for a “focus assistant.”

Can technology offer us “continuous augmented awareness?”

An earlier post here, commenting upon an article a year ago in The Atlantic, asked, “Is Google making us stoopid?”  Now an article in the July / August 2009 issue of the same magazine asks, “Is Google actually making us smarter?”

The article, “Get Smart,” by Jamais Cascio, discusses how Twitter can help us move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one of “continuous augmented awareness.”  I’m a fan of Twitter but I find it hard to quickly sift through tweets about pancakes to the ones that provide truly valuable and timely information (not that pancakes aren’t important, but I use Twitter mainly for work).  Here’s what Mr. Cascio writes:

But imagine if social tools like Twitter had a way to learn what kinds of messages you pay attention to, and which ones you discard. Over time, the messages that you don’t really care about might start to fade in the display, while the ones that you do want to see could get brighter. Such attention filters–or focus assistants–are likely to become important parts of how we handle our daily lives. We’ll move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one we might call “continuous augmented awareness.”

The article suggests that:

The trouble isn’t that we have too much information at our fingertips, but that our tools for managing it are still in their infancy.

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