New notification: You’re distracted. Enjoy.

We set goals for ourselves on a regular basis. A to-do list for the day, what we want to accomplish by the end of the month, or our beloved new years resolutions. Though even with our lists how often does it seem that there just isn’t enough time to get things done, or a day goes by and it seems again like we did nothing. Are you sure you didn’t really do anything today? Chances are you actually did a lot.

How many times did you check your phone?

Each new product or site is designed craving our use, with their notifications, update, promotions etc. Adding more notifications to our daily routines, inadvertently adding distractions and making completing those goals something to be done further down the road.

It is no surprise we have so many distractions with how fast things are changing with the increase of connected services. The rise and fall of companies is now common place as we switch from one app to another and technology quickly becoming outdated.

email. sms mss. whatsapp. snapchat. instagram. Facebook. Googlechat. Viber. Evernote. Slack. linkedin. Jira. Confluence. Skype. weChat. The list goes on.

The clutter of these inputs have partly led to an explosion of productivity/communications tools and products looking to better connect us and let us express ourselves. However are we really becoming more productive or just getting further distracted by each new program?

I like most of us, use a number of these tools in both my work and personal life. From logging hours, group work, to keeping in sync with friends & family in other time zones. For the most part these tools are incredibly helpful, but when the notifications come knocking, and the requests come in, who is serving who? We need to design products and services which work for us, and use our simple actions to improve as they go along. IFTTT is a nice stepping stone in what I feel is the right direction, connecting your favourite apps to work best for you.This helping to reduce our interactions with each of our applications. Each new product we sign up to use adds further alerts, beeps, blinks, and updates that vibrate their way into our already backlit and disco filled lives.

How many times have you checked you phone today and it was a promotional email, unneeded update notification or message that truthfully could have waited until later? I think we can agree a lot of our mailbox though sometimes full of useful treats doesn’t need to be dealt immediately.

Our new android app is now free! Early bird tickets now available. Give your home a Spring colour refresh.

Duplicate

We now have to keep track where we are having our conversations, which can carry between any number of platforms, each with a different style of notification. Adding to our digital chores for the day. Notifications we almost need to keep track of what is happening where.

“Hey so did you send me the link on Skype, Facebook or did you tag me in that ticket comment? ahh really it’s in the Whatsapp group.. thanks.”

Following a natural progression in screen based thinking, managing all of these tools almost calls for another app in itself no? Perhaps but would it not add more updates, and notifications for us to deal with? We will see.

Do we need to be so available ?

This is one of the many questions i have been asking myself during my research.

Similar to working in an office space where people noisily come and go — the constant alerts and notification we receive pull our concentration away from what we are really focusing on doing.

The mailbox and answering machine are now something we carry around with us daily, no longer in a fixed location we go to check from time to time or check when we arrive home at the end of our day.

Having communications tools at every turn the urgency for an immediate reply is something we now expect.

“I don’t want to be bothered, but I want for people to reply immediately when i write them…after I send a message or ask something of course i’m checking my phone way more often… to see their reply or if they read it yet.”

Common points have come up during my interviews and still ongoing research I can be summed up into ‘The love hate obsession with our devices’. We want to reach others while still not being bothered, yet crave some sort of feedback as to when we can expect a reply. Did they write yet. Delivered... Read…. and … and…come on !

I’m at really busy I will write you later!
An early concept to manage the notification we receive during the day.

The thought we could miss something adds to our obsession of what if. Despite this I still ask the question “would you be willing to leave most of your daily ‘notifications and messages’ home to receive later?”

This idea lead to one of my early concept “Secretary”. Which does just as it sounds, holding your messages until you are available to receive them. In turn letting the sender know when the message will be passed on to you. Collecting notifications to deliver in batches of message and alerts when you wish to receive them. Nonetheless still not an ideal solution.

In my research this far the love hate relationship has me positive and hopeful. We seem to be looking for and interest for more quality local products, and services and feel the distance social technology has created. We definitely are moving in an interesting direction. How we will embrace technology in our social environment we have yet to see!

Moving Forward

I am continuing my research into physical interfaces and our social interactions as use embraced technology. This is my first post in hopes of using your collective thoughts to help further my research.

I will continue writing my findings and hope to connect with you and welcome you to join me in my research. Please send me your feedback, recommendation, and comments. I look forward to discovering where this research will lead and what we can make together.

If you enjoyed reading this or are interested my research direction, please let me know support my work by hitting the little green heart! This will help let me know I am working in the right direction.
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Dominik Gmeiner is an on going product design student currently at the universität der künste Berlin. Having worked in the design and prototyping of household products, office furniture, consumer electronics, UX, and currently supporting German startups coming to market.