Thursday, November 23, 2006

IT, Speed, and Quality of Life

Here is an interesting essay about the impact of information technology on society, perhaps with some implications about quality of life issues we sometimes discuss. For example, Levy writes, "I will argue that our more–faster–better attitude, which is intimately connected with the striving for technological advance, is driving out slower practices that are essential to our ability to govern ourselves with maturity. Without adequate time to think and reflect, time to listen, and time to cultivate our humanity, and without spaces that are protected from the constant intrusion of information and noise, I do not see how we can respond to the innumerable social and political challenges of the new millennium with the quality of attention they deserve. In order to rectify this state of affairs, I will suggest that we take steps to design spaces and times for reflection and contemplation. Much as the modern–day environmental movement has worked to cultivate and preserve certain natural habitats, such as wetlands and old growth forests, for the health of the planet, so too should we now begin to cultivate and preserve certain human habitats for the sake of our own well–being."

More, Faster, Better: Governance in an Age of Overload, Busyness, and Speed by David M. Levy
First Monday, special issue number 7 (September 2006),

Here is the abstract: While today’s information technologies provide powerful means to connect us to one another and to vast sources of information, there is increasing evidence that they are also having the opposite effect: disconnecting and distancing us from ourselves and the world around us. Indeed, information overload and the accelerating pace of life — conditions the technologies encourage if not determine — appear to be contributing to health problems, decreased work satisfaction and productivity, as well as to the diminishment of our ethical, social, and political faculties. This paper will focus on the ways current conditions may be limiting our ability to control or govern ourselves, both personally and politically, by driving out slower, “endangered” practices, such as time to think and reflect, time to listen, and time to cultivate our humanity. Drawing a parallel with the environmental movement, it will argue for cultivating and replenishing these endangered habitats, designing spaces and times for reflection and contemplation in the service of mature governance.

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