Check out: ‘Bored and Brilliant’ – The Case for Boredom

illustration credit: John Hersey

I’ve recently started listening to the WNYC public radio show New Tech City. It’s an interesting and well-done show! (The episodes are also not that long, so it’s a quick listen.)

Recently they’ve been doing a series called ‘Bored and Brilliant’. From the episode called ‘The Case for Boredom’:

Paying attention to our smartphones through so many of our waking moments means our minds don’t spend as much time idling. […]

Mann’s research finds that idle minds lead to reflective, often creative thoughts (we discuss her projects in depth in this week’s show). Minds need to wander to reach their full potential.

During bouts of boredom our brains can’t help but jump around in time, analyzing and re-analyzing the pieces of our lives, says Jonny Smallwood, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of York in the UK. He says inspiration strikes in the shower because it’s a moment when we’re not really looking at or focusing on anything else. […]

“That’s where daydreaming and boredom intersect,” Smallwood says. “What smartphones allow us to do is get rid of boredom in a very direct way because we can play games, phone people, we can check the Internet. It takes away the boredom, but it also denies us the chance to see and learn about where we truly are in terms of our goals.”

In addition to being some good, interesting radio to listen to, the Bored and Brilliant series is also presenting a challenge. They’re asking people to sign up for an experiment in which they make certain experimental changes to the way they relate to their phones.

To start with, they’re asking for people to record baseline behavior…And then, starting in February, they’ll actually start giving daily instructions to experiment participants.

I’m down for it — I’m fascinated by what we can learn about ourselves, what kinds of unconscious things come out, when we pay close attention to our habits, and try to examine or tinker with them.

Whether you want to sign up for the experiment, or just want to check out the show, visit Bored and Brilliant at New Tech City!