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Calm Technologies


The inspiration for this project came to me whilst reading the book on principles and patterns for non intrusive designs by Amber Chase. The book considers how our values and culture are being shaped by living lives increasingly mediated by high technology. 

Type: Individual (Passion) Project

Calm Technology and Calm Computing are terms that were first used by Mark Weiser of XEROX PARC and John Brown in 1995. They introduced it as a phrase in addition to the term Ubiquitous Computing, stating that goal of computing systems was to simplify complexities, not to introduce new ones.

Simply put, Calm Technology refers to the idea of technology being ‘calm,’ and fitting into everyday life in a way that feels natural, or even enjoyable.

 💭 In an age of constant information and infinite distractions, how can we pay more attention to our ... attention?


Our attention is being Hijacked

Across our many connected devices, we’re constantly interrupted by unimportant alerts and tasks masquerading as urgent messages. On top of that, we are constantly having to install yet another app to manage one more little task. Technology and its dependency has 

Although there is an increasing amount of technology that requires our attention, the amount of attention we are able to give remains the same.

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Technology attracts our attention at different levels of awareness. It is either at the center or the periphery of our attention. I mapped out various stages of our awareness while experiencing any product or service to understand it further.

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Knowing, Being

The majority of our physical and mental attention is spent while executing the action, and it is also the most crucial interaction in order to meet the goal which cannot be changed without major alterations in the experience. What we can address is the interactions that can run in the periphery.  

We attune to the                    without attending to it explicitly. When driving a car, for instance, our attention is centered on the road, the radio or our passenger, but not on the noise of the engine. But an unusual noise is noticed immediately, showing that we are attuned to the noise in the periphery, and can quickly to attend to it. What is in the periphery at one moment may in the next moment be at the center of our attention. The same experience may have elements in both the center and periphery.



Experiment and Observation on Self

Last week I made progress. I was down 20 minutes. Instead of spending an average of three hours a day looking at my phone, I’d only spent two hours and forty minutes. It was a victory celebrated in slim margins: I’d shaved off time by logging out of Instagram. I checked Twitter only from my laptop. All told, I picked up my phone 52 fewer times than the week before.

This information, somewhat ironically, was delivered to me on my phone via the screen time feature that was launched by Android in 2018 to help people understand  just how much time they spend looking at the glassy rectangle they've purchased. A few months earlier, Google had launched its own version of Screen Time called Digital Wellbeing, which documents phone usage as circular slivers of time, charting everything from how many minutes a person spends on YouTube to the number of notifications they receive in a day. 

After years of building devices, operating systems, and services that were created to make people’s lives easier, big tech seemed to finally be admitting, in its own small way, that maybe things had gotten out of hand. Providing people with information to learn just how much of their lives they spend on their devices appeared to be the first step in wresting control from phones and tablets and giving it back to the people who used them. 

 💭 Cutting down on  social media and entertainment binging is fine to an extent, but one's need to be constantly updated  and stay on top of things is valid. Can these significant tasks demand our attention only when required? How can information be communicated without hijacking a person’s central attention.


Features like screen time and Digital wellbeing incorporated by companies like apple and google are more of calm washing on the surface than solving the underlying problem. The problem is hard to cure. “The presumption is you need this constant flow of interruption, and that’s not a good design,” Rolston said. “I think it’s a mistake that will get undesigned over time. A lot of calm interactions are going to come by us simply deciding we need to know less about what’s going on.”

Weiser and Brown suggest three basis characteristics of Calm Tech


It should require the smallest possible amount of attention

To understand it further, I picked up few instances from my daily life which effortlessly  and non intrusively communicates with the user

The way a fruit tells you it's ready by the way it ripens

Glass office cabin doors that let you know whats going on outside in a glance before shifting your sight back to work 

To understand it further, I picked up few instances from my daily life which effortlessly  and non intrusively communicates with the user

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Coming back to Mark Weiser’s opinion on the goal of calm computing; Humans are not made to spend their entire life wrapped up in devices and systems, they are meant to be human. Calm Tech is technology that doesn’t scream for a users attention, it’s created with care and a lot of thought. Calm Technology’s allows people to achieve their goals with a low mental cost. So their primary focus can be on being human, not computing.

“A good tool is an invisible tool. By invisible, we mean that the tool does not intrude on your consciousness; you focus on the task, not the tool.”— Mark Weiser, 1993



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