Calm Down Your Technology

According to most articles I’ve read, one of the biggest trends in 2017 will be chatbots — conversational interfaces on your phone, or talking devices in your living room. We already have beeps, flashes, and buzzes fighting for our attention, not to mention a multitude of displays throwing tweets, emails, and news feeds at us from all directions.

Technology is screaming at us, we need to calm it down.

Way back in 1995, Mark Weiser and John Seeley Brown from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, published an article titled ‘Designing Calm Technology’ in which they envisioned a future world of information overload, and the reaction to such a world was what they referred to as ‘calm technology.’

The basic premise is that successful technology shouldn’t be intrusive, in the foreground grabbing your attention, but rather it should sit in the periphery. Not visible, but invisible. Like electricity, good technology hums unnoticed in the background while it powers appliances and products that serve human needs.

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” 
— Mark Weiser

As consumers, it is our choice on how we engage with technology, and our decisions influence the future of products. There is too much stuff that is fighting for our attention, and we need to quiet things down, allowing us to better focus on our tasks and daily life. Here are some things that I am doing, and if you feel the same way, these may be helpful for you as well:

  • Turn off notifications and only allow for text messages from immediate family members.
  • Less social media engagement. If you enjoy checking up on what friends are doing on Facebook, just schedule a specific time of the day to be on Facebook rather than periodically.
  • Schedule a timeframe to check personal email.
  • Have large blocks of unplugged time.
  • In the evening turn your smart phone into nothing but a telephone.

Calm Technology is not a revolt against more technology, it is a simplification of it.

It is a rethinking of how technology lives and breathes in our environments. In the end, technology shouldn’t serve to make us more frantic or stressful. Technology should serve to help us do our jobs better, to serve our needs ubiquitously, be it education, health, travel, etc...