The Ongoing Moment" - this fabulous book by geoff dyer has taught me a big big needed lesson on slowing down. in his essays, photographs that i probably wouldn't have looked at twice become microworlds of association and storytelling through his imagineering - all you need for your own imagineering is to just have the patience to 'stop by' and look and dive into what's there. achieving that mental state though is the hard bit.
slow food etc, we've been there, but the whole discussion can be taken to a whole new next level when we take it from a (physical) consumption to a (mental) perception context. how could we be in control speeding up and down our own visual perception / contemplation mechanisms? i'd like to train myself a bit better, i'd like to become more fluent in my visual thinking.
constant partial attention: driven by the desire to not miss anything, we feel compelled to always have 'half an eye' out there for something else. this isn't necessarily a bad thing, however some times the scanning and skimming mechanisms do take over, and it takes a conscious effort to change gears, to change direction, to find the way out of this semi-automatic surface scanning in order to dive into the 'depth' of a textual or a visual world.
what are interface mechanisms that can help explore (digital) content in both breadth and depth? current design explorations seem to hint at a better combination and integration of zooming and scrolling such as seen for example in microsoft's seadragon or other maps like browsing paradigms (ok, that was soo 2 years ago, but what's next?) ... however, these mechanisms are somewhat limited as they do not help making decisions at a very top level - people who access maps do usually know where they want to start, and the actual experience is about the seduction of 'falling down' into the richness of content that lies in the depth ahead somewhere.
so how to design for top-level blink of an eye decisions? presented with a 'streaming ton' of information, what are the signals and signposts in (digital) content itself that can help people make decisions which routes to take alongside an x, y and z-axis of an 'information engagement' space? (x,y,z-axis, ie 3d space, is probably not the right metaphor and working model here in the first place; i think that understanding information happens in one at the same time deep and shapeless space... but that's just me and how it feels to me).
what are the rules behind non-digital artefacts that successfully manage to 'turn my attention round' to them? rule nr1 (there is only 1 so far... but i am searching for more): they do give me enough info and resolution on both detail and distance level at a first glance. i start to move them 'around in my head' immediately, and i turn my attention towards them a tiny tick later (most people probably know that feeling when they have turned over a page too quickly and then having to flip it back because there's something that needs to be 'looked' at). this seamless/simultaneous resolution across detail and distance... it doesn't exist in digital at all.
detail design and preserving detail traces in a digital context: i came across this same photo (top of post - a whale being butchered) in the guardian's online- and offline editions. in the online edition, i barely noticed the photo (to be fair i think i had forgotten it before i'd even seen it if that is somehow possible). in the offline edition i couldn't take my eyes off it - the image was too well resolved, i could see the fine fur (do you call it fur??) of the whale, and i could see the men butchering it, standing ON THE WHALE'S BODY in puddles of whale blood, splashing around in their yellow wellies... i can think of no way of reusing the same content (here: the photo) to convey the same meaning in both offline and online - a simple 'enlarge photo' function preempts itself as we are looking to design for instant encounters.
we have accepted different editorial- and production needs for offline/online textual content long ago, but how to appropriate that insight for visual offline/online content?
ps i love the fact that the wikipedia entry on continuous partial attention starts off with a quote about finding the fish (ok, a whale is a mammal.... but still):
"[CPA] usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You're paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish."