Sunday, February 08, 2015

Welcome to New Tech City's "Bored and Brilliant": Part 2, Challenges 3-6


"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."
-- Jonny Smallwood, professor of cognitive
neuroscience at the University of York

by Ken

Okay, nothing much to splain here, provided you go back to Part 1, which contained both the introduction to WNYC's New Tech City's "Bored and Brilliant" project, which seeks to help wean smartphone addicts from their addiction and into "the lost art of spacing out."

Challenge 3: Donate That App

Flurry Analytics defines a “mobile addict” as someone who launches apps more than 60 times a day. The average consumer launches apps 10 times a day, so to qualify as having an app dependency, you have to be pretty app crazy.

And the people most likely to be addicted? According to Flurry, teens, college students (skewing female) and middle-aged parents.

Even if you aren’t at 60 times a day, just about everyone has that one app — that one damn app — that steals away too much time.

Your instructions for today: delete it. Delete that app. Think about which app you use too much, one that is the bad kind of phone time. You pick what that means. Delete said time-wasting, bad habit app. Uninstall it.

This will be difficult, because app designers are pretty smart. And they are pretty good at building things we want to just keep on using, over and over and over. In this episode, Manoush breaks her cycle. She deletes the seriously addictive game Two Dots. It wasn't easy and it followed a pretty, er, dramatic confrontation with the game designer. It might be cathartic for you.

If you need a little push to take the plunge, Dr. Zach Hambrick, professor of cognitive psychology at Michigan State University, says cell phone games do just about... nothing for your brain. You don't get better at anything but playing the game, he says. And only that game.

"If you play Ms. PacMan a lot, you’ll get better at Mr. PacMan, and video games where you have to move through a maze. But you won’t get better at Space Invaders or some real task like filling out your tax forms," Hambrick said.

Listen for more. And seriously... delete that app.

Challenge 4: Take a Fauxcation

Today, you’re getting a break from email, texting, social media, or whatever means of digital communication interrupts you all day long. It's a fauxcation (or "fake-cation" if you prefer).

Your instructions: Set an email auto-reply just as you would if you were out for a real vacation, send an "I'll be back later" text out on group chat, or put up an away message status on social media.

Come up with your own. Or if you are feeling like a Bored and Brilliant Booster, use one of these badges we made for you. Whatever it'll take to give you peace of mind while you focus.

Worried about being away from work? On our podcast today, that's exactly what we take on: the role of boredom, downtime, and unplugging at the office.

Matthew Krentz is a senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group. Krentz and his company let the Harvard Business School take a small team of consultants to use as time management guinea pigs. They discovered that perpetual connectivity was good in the short term — not so much in the long term. Studies say we actually perform better when we have a chance to think.

Look, we're in media. We get it. Maybe there’s no way your boss will let you be off the grid for an hour today, and maybe not until the bigger, broader system changes. But perhaps you can make an hour for yourself tonight? That's when more of you told us you want to reclaim time from your phone anyway.

When you check back in, we'd love to hear how it went. Scroll through our gallery of away messages below, and let us know what you decided to go with! Our hashtag for the day is #NTCFauxcation.

Challenge 5: One Small Observation

Social networks help us stay connected. We love social media. But how often do we swipe past strangers' selfies, baby pictures, and career updates in lieu of the actual humans around us?

For our second-to-last challenge (yes, there's a weekend project coming!), we want you to flex the creative muscles we've been freeing up all week. The first step is noticing.

Your instructions: Today, go somewhere public. It could be a park, a mall, the gas station, the hallway at work or school. You pick.

Once you get there, hang out. Watch people, or objects, or anything that strikes you. Try not to be (too) creepy. Imagine what a single person is thinking, or zoom in on an uninventable detail. Just make one small observation you might have missed if your nose were glued to a screen.

If you feel inclined, and we hope you do, record that detail using a voice memo app on your phone (yes, yes, we know, but we think this is worth a pick-up). Two good ones are the built in voice memo app for iPhone or an Android one called Easy Voice Recorder. Then, email it to us at We always love to hear from you. And we might use it in an upcoming show.

Or you can tell us about your observation in the comments below. What'd ya see? How'd it feel?

Challenge 6: Dream House

You've spent the week picking up your phone purposefully. You've kept it in your pocket, you've abstained from photo-taking, you've considered life beyond the screen. To take our project to its logical — and admittedly weird — conclusion, boredom artist Nina Katchadourian has assigned us a group project.
We want you to get really bored, and then make something creative, introspective, and personal.

Your instructions today are multi-part:

• Put away your phone.

• Put a generous pot of water on the stove and watch it come to a boil. If you don't have a stove or a pot, find a small piece of paper and write "1,0,1,0" as small as you can until it’s full. Either way, you should get bored. Keep it up as long as it takes to daydream.

• Next, take out your wallet and empty it of all its contents. Use them to construct your dream house. It could be the place you wish you lived in all the time or a getaway. Take as long as you need to build.

• Give your house a descriptive name.

• When you're finished — and only when you're finished — go get your phone. Take a picture of the house. (Careful with your credit card numbers.)

• Email your picture to, and tell us about your creation (put its name and location in the subject line, and tell us why it's your dream house in the body).

Then, high five a friend. Check out the submissions here. Share your favorites. They'll be uploaded over the weekend.


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At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except for DTMF, I could be a Stone Age cave dweller when it comes to cell technology. I have no need to call anyone that is beyond the reach of my land line, and I have no need to access the internet when I'm not at home.

But then, some of us grow up and don't need to play with toys all the time.


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