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Contemplative Computing: 7 Websites That Help You Work in Harmony


Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has devoted himself to studying how we can employ information technologies to help us be more creative, focused and not fractured and distracted.

A large part of the web-surfers are realising that technologies developed at a pace so quick that they never truly had time to cope and use them in a healthy manner. Beyond this, our technologies are designed to maximise the shareholder’s profits, and if that implies distracting, confusing or gathering users –it’s completely acceptable. This is the reason why we need new technologies within our technology that will enable us to take a break from the system even when we’re within it. This is the purpose of “contemplative computing,” one of the greatest ideas to emerge from this period.

“’Contemplative computing’ is something you do, not something you buy or download”, writes Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, who recently explored this interesting concept in his book. In a world where technology shapes the way we think, it is hard —if not impossible— to free ourselves from it. Pang refers to this as “intertwining.” To describe how intrinsic it is to human nature, he uses the example of soldiers who thought their swords were an extension of their arm.

“But being intertwined with a hammer or even a machine, like a car, is different to being intertwined with a social network”, says Pang. And one of the things he recommends is taking “digital Sabbaths” and, perhaps more interestingly, turning to digital meditation techniques.

While outlining the history of meditation, Pang mentions that ascending to a meditative state and other contemplative techniques, these all happened at the same time as the ascent of urbanisations, imperialism and international commerce. And although these techniques have existed for a very long time in the form of “mystical schools”, it wasn’t until the period between 800 and 200 b. C that they became available to all.

If we consider cities, governments and economies to be technologies that entwine us with others, and with the logic modelled by politics others created, then a clear analogy exists between civilisation and the Internet. And the weapons we have to deal with urbanisations are our visits to restorative places such as Zen gardens, cathedrals, or walking paths, that according to Pang tend to:

Be purposefully simple. Though “Simple doesn’t necessarily mean ‘stark’ or ‘blank’”

Contain contrasts, such as elements that shift from small to large or light to dark.

Give a sense of “being away” Temples don’t tend to have outside facing windows, and urban parks tend to conceal the cities that surround them.

Not be completely wild or untamed Natural settings are good, but too much nature can be stressful.

Following these principles, Pang is suggesting we design more computer apps that are restorative spaces —parks within the digital city. Most of the apps we use reinforce the appearance and the general feeling of our host operational system, but there are a few, especially among musical and writing apps, which disregard the systemised interphase in order to create the feeling of being “outside” the rest of our computer.

And while not every app can or should follow this course, it’s essential to have some which promote a different experience, even if it’s antagonistic to the traditional electronic system. This is an entire new developing world, for the architects that are designing the technologies of our future, as well as for the users that demand them.

Here are some apps that are based on restorative spaces:







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