A recent comment on my blog kindled my curiosity to explore the cognitive implications of social tools . I get the feeling that there is a potential relationship between the popular “Rule Of 150″(Dunbar’s Number) and Continuous Partial Attention (CPA). Dunbar’s number is the “cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships” according to the Wikipedia.
As more people get on to the internet and as opportunities to expand our personal networks emerge like never before, we observe that we easily shoot past Dunbar’s number. CPA in my view is an evolutionary response to rapidly expanding personal connections that challenge our cognitive capabilities to break the barrier of 150. As we shoot past the limits of 150 we no longer look for stable relationships, we move into a state of “peripheral awareness” even as we continue to focus on the meaningful connections and the task at hand. Quoting from Wikipedia again: “Dunbar has theorized that 150 would be the mean group size only for communities with a very high incentive to remain together”. I am not looking for stable, meaningful and persistent relationships beyond a core group but I cannot ignore significant happenings outside my group of 150. I am slightly at odds with what Nat says on CPA:” Continuous partial attention isn’t motivated by productivity, it’s motivated by being connected. ” There is also a motivation/necessity to be aware(and even reading 100 blogs kicks in CPA) which in turn might have an impact on the decisions I make.
Stowe Boyd nailed it when he said : “The reality is that we need to be constantly scanning the horizon for events that are worthy of our attention. We can’t a afford to stay heads down for hours or days at a stretch when critically important events may be occuring that could require us to immediately respond to them. “[Via Smatmobs]. I agree when Nat says ” The next aphrodisiac is committed full-attention focus. In this new area, experiencing this engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back.” And yes, the tools and technologies should somehow limit trusted sources to some managable number less than 150 if we need to get rid of CPA.