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The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul Paperback – September 26, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company (September 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316247529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316247528
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,542,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Setting aside the question of whether people enslaved by their mobile devices and the Internet would devote any time to reading this rangy self-help book by futurist Pang, those who do might discover that his approach to contemplative computing has merit. Taking a page from Buddhist thought, Pang presents eight principles (or steps) to help those hopelessly distracted by ­technology’s siren call convert their switch-tasking to ­productive multitasking, adopt tools to protect their concentration, be more mindful in their involvement with social media, and recharge their minds and souls through restorative practices, including observing a DIY Digital Sabbath. Pang bolsters his advice with anecdotes of intellectual breakthroughs by great thinkers of the past, coupled with interviews with present-day scientists and tech-savvy professionals. These accounts, including the surprising use of social media by Buddhist monks and a lengthy analysis of Darwin’s method of reflection through walking, are the best part of Pang’s book, placing today’s current tech addiction into a broader context of human history, development, and philosophical insight. —Carolyn Saper --Carolyn Saper --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Amusing and edifying.... THE DISTRACTION ADDICTION is not framed as a self-help book...It's a thoughtful examination of the perils of our computing overdose and a historical overview of how technological advances change consciousness." -- Washington Post

"A perceptive new study of how best to cope with the relentless interruptions presented by digital life...Pang persuasively and carefully constructs a remedy he calls 'contemplative computing'... to think clearly and calmly, Pang offers original and often inspired ideas." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Skeptical without pandering to technophobia or neuroscience.... The Distraction Addiction brims with suggestions for how to embrace 'contemplative computing,' a mindful approach to digital technology... Instead of shunning the technological in pursuit of the mythical authentic experience, Pang wants to clean up the mess it created." -- The New Yorker

"Pang's strength is his ability to weave together previously written-about ideas from such varied sources as histories of science (e.g., Darwin's daily walk) and Silicon Valley propaganda (the 'digital Sabbath')." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer

"An elegant tour through current neuroscience and an examination of the nature of attention. Pang's tome is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to take control of his or her digital life, and it's a great primer on the interplay between mind and tech." -- Publishers Weekly

"Pang reminds us that our brains are still capable of feats far beyond the reach of computers." -- Mother Jones

"Pang implores us to use technology more mindfully in this thoughtful book that is rich in research and anecdote. Perfect for readers who enjoy books on the nature of attention such as Maggie Jackson and Bill McKibben's Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age and on the behavior of human-computer interaction." -- Library Journal

"Pang bolsters his advice with anecdotes of intellectual breakthroughs by great thinkers of the past, coupled with interviews with present-day scientists and techsavvy professionals. These accounts, including the surprising use of social media by Buddhist monks and a lengthy analysis of Darwin's method of reflection through walking, are the best part of Pang's book, placing today's current tech "addiction" into a broader context of human history, development, and philosophical insight." -- Booklist

"Pang's notion of mindful, or contemplative, computing is useful." -- TechCrunch

"A wise, urbane, funny, and delightfully deep book. This book is about much more than distraction and addiction in the smartphone age. It's about living life wholly and fully by paying deep, thoughtful attention to our tools and our bodies, and to the people we love. This book speaks to modern times, but its message is timeless." -- Michael Chorost, author of World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet

"The era of the smartphone and the iPad seems to present us with a deeply unappealing choice: either we can resign ourselves to a life of tech-induced anxiety and distraction, or we can renounce the many benefits of the web-connected world. In this important and hopeful book, Alex Pang explains that there's a third possibility. Using the approach he calls "contemplative computing," we can harness technology to foster, not disrupt, attention and calm -- and thereby use our gadgets in the service of a meaningful life, rather than letting them use us." -- Oliver Burkeman, Guardian columnist and author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

"Does technology rule you? Or do you rule your technology? The Distraction Addiction is a how-to guide for staying sane, balanced, and intentional in an age of constant digital distraction. If you want your phone, facebook, email, and all the rest to make your life richer without making it more scattered, this is the book for you." -- Ramez Naam, author of The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet

"Time starved? Distracted by the immediate? Tossing in an ocean of swirling information? No landfall in sight? Need a lodestar; a pilot, perhaps a Zen master? Turn to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang: he has charted these waters. With Pang's help you can surprise yourself. The Distraction Addiction is an intelligent, entertaining and essential guide to navigation in our techno-times." -- Peter C. Whybrow, Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and author of American Mania: When More is Not Enough

"The Distraction Addiction is guaranteed to distract and provoke us from the normal clichés of the day. It stretches our understanding of technological affordances and the extended mind, bringing into reality what we usually think of philosophically. Read this book and be surprised and delighted by its deeply humanist sensibilities." -- John Seely Brown, co-author of The Social Life of Information --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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The endnotes are very interesting and lead to other books that I want to read.
Elizabeth Barry
That said, had I just picked it up at random, started to leaf through it, I still would have bought it and taken it home to read.
Honor Spitz
He also does a good job of weaving Eastern thought into our relationship with technology.
Adam J. Loewy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good book on what is happening with our addiction to technology distractions and what to do about it. It is not an anti-technology book at all, but a practical book on what you can do to best take advantage of technology without allowing it to control you. This is a very thoughtful and at times fairly deep book given its subject matter and I thoroughly enjoyed it and find it very practical as well. That is a very rare combination - deep and practical. It is not a light and breezy read and yet I found it quite compelling.

This book has Amazon's "Look Inside" feature and I highly recommend you take advantage and preview the table of contents as well as some of the preview pages in order to get an idea of the book's style and content. There are quite a number of preview pages available.

I highly recommend this book to thoughtful people who are concerned about how to take advantage of their wonderful technology without letting all of it deprive you of what it means to be human - a real person who interacts with real people. I loved the book and think you will appreciate it as well.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on October 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Modern communicative technology such as Facebook, Twitter, and all forms of text-messaging systems and the ubiquitous email is turning many of us into multitaskers. However, the author tells us that we are not built to `multitask' in the way many of us believe we do. We become less, not more, efficient. That is because those who think that they multitask are, in fact, merely `switch-tasking'. True multitasking can be efficient because the tasks complement each other. For example, when we walk and think, we are multitasking in the right way. Walking helps in our thinking. The switch-tasker will be reading an article online and then sees a footnote which he immediately chases and thus takes himself away from the original task - which remains uncompleted.

The author outlines several procedures and habits that we should adopt in order that we can discipline ourselves from getting distracted. He draws our attention to various computer programmes such as Write Room, Dark Room, and OmmWriter. These are programmes that compel the computer user to perform only one task. Hence, if one is typing a report, the screen is totally dark with only the words in silver or green appearing as we type. There are no function bars to distract us, no tinkering with fonts and font sizes, no getting distracted by manipulating headings and foot-notes.

Other methods that help include meditation. The author has a very long and fascinating chapter on the uses and application of meditation in strengthening the mind. Meditation and proper breathing prevent email apnea. Researchers found that when people click on their email they tend to hold their breath. When this is repeated often enough we suffer from the same condition as people with sleep apnea - our breathing becomes erratic and our health suffers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ready Mommy on June 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In this dense, somewhat plodding, and potentially off-puttingly Buddhist - but incredibly important and often fascinating - work of nonfiction, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang describes the way in which modern technological devices (like smartphones) have predisposed many of us to a "distraction addiction" and suggests ways in which we can practice more "contemplative computing" in order to put our devices in service of our happiness and productivity rather than shaping our lives to their capacity.

After describing technological devices as an extension of our own minds, he offers up a choice. You can allow your extended mind to be a racing and inefficient jumble (characterized by "[toddleresque mobile devices]: they're super-responsive, simultaneously eager to please and oppressively demanding, always on, and insistent that we pay attention to them"), or "[y]ou can create an extended mind that's strengthened by the joining of diverse skills, not weakened by unending distractions, unhelpful complexity, and unexamined habits." No Luddite, Pang writes, "The aim isn't to escape, but to engage - in our case, to set the stage on which we can bring our entanglement with devices and media under our control so we can more effectively engage with the world and extend ourselves."

Since getting an iPhone a few years ago I've told myself that stopping any given activity just long enough to glance at my email is restorative and efficient; after all, John Medina's neuroscience research shows that our brains can really only focus in ten-minute chunks: "At 9 minutes and 59 seconds, you must do something to regain attention and restart the clock - something emotional and relevant. Also, the brain needs a break.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. V on October 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been looking forward to this book since Alex first told me he was working on it (he was kind enough to agree to serve on the advisory board for a project I planned).

The book doesn't disappoint. OK, that's an understatement. It's one of those books I wish I had written.

Even though this is a book about the dangers of technology use, it is not one of those panicked, hopeless, technology-hating arguments. It is a guide for making the best out of technology - for using it rather than being used by it.

The book's premise rests in the idea of the extended mind, a concept Alex reframes as entanglement with technology. At its best, entanglement is a state of feeling the body and mind being pleasantly and seamlessly extended by technology - perceiving technology as part of oneself, just like a skilled skier perceives the skis as part of herself when zooming down a slope. This kind of entanglement has been happening since the beginning of history and tool use. Whether you use skis, an axe, a bicycle, a pen, a car, or a computer, you can have that sense of it extending your human abilities, being a part of yourself. However, there are times when entanglement goes wrong, and technology feels like a pair of broken, uncomfortable, awkward high-heel shoes. Then, it becomes an extension of yourself that hinders movement, an arm that doesn't obey the brain's commands; a cause of frustration and stress.

The book is grounded in solid Western empirical research as well as Eastern thought and practice. It combines the two to propose a guide for the positive kind of entanglement.
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More About the Author

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make.

My latest book, THE DISTRACTION ADDICTION (Little, Brown & Co. 2013) is about contemplative computing, the effort to use information technologies in ways that help you stay focused and be more creative, rather than distracted and fractured.

My current writing project is REST: HOW WORKING LESS GETS MORE DONE explores the role that deliberate rest plays in the lives of creative and productive people.

I'm a senior consultant at Strategic Business Insights, where I analyze trends in pervasive computing, wearables, and the Internet of Things. I'm also a visiting scholar at Stanford University.

I studied history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania, and have held fellowships at Williams College, University of California-Berkeley, and Microsoft Research Cambridge. My first book, EMPRIE AND THE SUN: VICTORIAN SOLAR ECLIPSE EXPEDITIONS (Stanford University Press, 2002), is about, well, Victorian solar eclipse expeditions.

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