IS NOW SHORTER
THAN THAT OF A GOLDFISH
Goldfish: 9 seconds
American: 8 seconds
People don't pay attention anymore because their lives are full of buzz. This is a problem.
We have a solution.
When my Graphic Design class was instructed to solve a problem of our choice, 12 of us became passionate about finding a way to make our fast-paced culture slow down and pay attention. I wrote a problem proposal to describe my personal passion for this problem.
Then, we set out to get to the bottom of it.
This is my team: Casey, Erynn, Alyssa, Ashley, Lauren, Viki, Andrea, Billye, Jon, Sarah, Erika, Kate
I started by writing a list of questions about attention, distraction, living fast and slow, technology, relaxing, and happiness in an attempt to define our problem. I decided people pay attention to the wrong things in the wrong amounts, and we needed to make that right to improve individual lives and whole communities.
We debated for weeks, asked lots of questions, shared lots of opinions, and discussed every possible consideration. We tried to figure out why our problem was even a problem. We knew we wanted to focus on technology and on families, and we wanted to do something that could impact the community we lived in. Finally, we settled on two things that captured the heart of our problem:
My team quickly realized we had chosen a complex problem, so we sorted all our problems into some categories:
THE PROBLEM DEFINED: How do we combat misplaced attention to affect positive social development in Christian middle class Americans?
We split our team into 3 groups:
Children aged 3-17 who are influenced by the direction of their parents' attention
Social conditions and the causes & consequences of those conditions in adults aged 18-40
How to communicate to adults aged 18-40 and influence their behavior
I joined The Conditions with Alyssa, Kate, and Jon. We wrote a secondary problem, objectives, and a list of research methods and compiled it in a research plan.
THE SECONDARY RESEARCH
We all started our research by reading articles. Personally, I read and outlined 7 scholarly articles. Some of what we found was expected, and some of it shocked us. My group compiled all of our secondary research into a list of social conditions and the causes and consequences of those conditions.
Here are the highlights of the shocking stuff we learned:
Couples carrying smartphones while conversing feel less empathy
People don't actively listen to friends' stories if they see them on social media first
"smartphone time warp"
smartphone tasks are so quick, the brain doesn't register them as time spent
technology is dialogic
so it's more consuming
than other forms of media
technology makes us individualized which makes us lose skills of compromise & social interaction with people we don't know well
when you use your phone socially (social media or texting) in public, you are less likely to talk to strangers
when you use your phone for logistics & info (news or weather) in public, you are more likely to talk to strangers
The Influence learned that millennials want hands-on experiences, value peer-to-peer communication, and are influenced by the best interests of their kids. The Affected learned that parents feel inadequate to keep up with the technology use of their kids, and that technology abuse has negative effects on kids’ health, behavior, manners, and habits.
THE PRIMARY RESEARCH
We used our secondary research to design primary research. The Conditions and The Influence paired up to host a Focus Group. It was designed to be activity-driven and observation-focused, and also included some discussion.
Individually, I wrote a list of potential questions and activities. Then, everyone solidified our plan of attack for the evening, which became the Lack of Focus Group Schedule. Lauren and I made a giant to do list for the group, and before we knew it, we had a roomful of 10 participants.
People stop to respond to unimportant texts and phone calls in the middle of important things.
Multitasking might make you finish tasks faster because you feel rushed, but completing tasks sequentially results in more thoughtful and higher quality work.
People generally agree that communicating with strangers is valuable. People don't just pull out their phones to make awkward social situations feel less awkward, but they know they do it, and they admit to it.
People are influenced by ads they can relate to and ads that explicitly show the problem.
When high mobile users are confronted with a problem, they are more likely to pull out their phone to find the answer than to stop and think.
People view technology abuse as somebody else's problem, and they don't think anyone can do anything to fix it.
A group of people using smartphones to find the answers to a crossword puzzle took longer than a group of people who talked to figure out the answers.
Adults believe technology is overused in America.
The issue isn't about lack of awareness, but lack of help and motivation.
People think there is no hope when it comes to technology addiction and they have no power to change it.
of parents agree that their kids are the greatest influence on most of their parental decisions.
The Affected conducted interviews with families. They learned technology can suck parents' time and attention from their kids, parents' technology use sets an example for their kids, and some families attempt to moderate technology use and maintain time.
The Influence conducted interviews with adults. They found out people need goals and accountability to change their behavior or break their addictions, agree technology has good qualities but moderation is needed, and see technology hurt relationships.
Next, my whole team wrote a survey. I came up with 16 potential survey questions. When we all compared questions, we developed one complete survey of multiple choice questions, short answer questions, and a video question. Alyssa finalized and sent the survey out all across America through Field Agent, and 50 people responded. We learned things like:
I joined the Affected to conduct a study in three Sunday School classes at Community Christian Fellowship with kids from Pre-K to 4th grade. After my group and I wrote a list of questions to answer, I designed a picture-and-question presentation. In Sunday School that morning, we observed some interesting things.
Last, Alyssa, Kate, and Casey compiled all of our research in a 60-page Research Report. Basically, we wrote a book.
The church holds a "Technology Sunday" where all are encouraged to bring their devices to church and use the Bible app.
"Do you own or use an iPhone?"
lots of chatter at once among all children groups
Ironically, the Sunday School teacher was on her phone during the entire study.
"My mom makes me text for her when she is driving." -7 yr old girl
My team knew our problem had to be solved with an experience. After studying design thinking and design research, we decided we wanted to create a toolkit. If we gave a box of activities to families, we could guide them through a process. We knew we couldn’t tell them what to do, or tell them what was “right,” or change their habits. We had to change their thinking, and lead them to come to conclusions on their own.
I came up with a game plan that would change perceptions, change beliefs, change thoughts, change actions, and that would lead to changed habits. I constructed a box and filled it with a sequence of activities that accomplished each of these changes.
To expose people to the problem, I wrote a storybook that made them stop and think and challenged them to analyze their attention. To make them become aware of the problem in their day-to-day life, I gave them stickers to stick on their things. Because people felt powerless to make change, I set up a networking activity to show them how much influence they have. To change thoughts, I designed a co-creative poster activity that would lead people to set their own priorities and commit to them. To change actions, I designed an app that reflected my sticker activity that gave people control over how much time they spend looking at their phone. Throughout my solution, I repeatedly encouraged people to be intentional with their attention, and the phrase “intentional attention” was born.
My team met up, rolled butcher paper out on the table and armed ourselves with markers, and got to brainstorming.
We decided to create an experience in a box that takes 4 weeks to complete. We would also create an app with a game that would challenge people to spend time away from their phone and earn points they could redeem for discounts. The discounts would be for places like ice cream shops and bowling alleys and other activities that encourage family fun.
I joined the Bee Aware Week group with Andrea, Billye, and Viki, and we created a tentative list of activities. We planned an activity for every day because we wanted the week to be a “boot camp” week to make the problem quickly apparent in people’s lives. Individually, I planned the specifics for the storybook and the poster.
Next, everyone on the team designed a style guide, including a potential logo, name, and brand, and a mockup of one piece of content. My style guide included a brand called “for you” that played on the circle theme I had created when designing my sticker activity.
When the style guides were compared, we chose the name “Attentional” for our brand, a combination of the phrase “intentional attention” I had written. We also chose the tagline “bee with no buzz” because it described the way we wanted people to slow down their attention. The brand and colors are kid-friendly, but the name "Attentional" is still serious for the adults. Casey designed a final style guide for our brand and a bee for our logo, and adapted it to an app design.
All of the groups combined the content we had written for our toolkit. I was tasked with organizing and editing all of the content to create a flow and a single voice. 15 pages later, the content was done.
One group took off to design the box itself, another group to design the content of the box, and a third group to design a presentation.
The finished box is called "The Hive" and contains a toolkit called the “Attentional Challenge”. When you open it, it has three sections with activities.
The first week (Bee Aware) includes a storybook about refocusing attention, a card game with statistics about focus, a game about distraction, a devotional about love, a Buzz Break activity to define "unplug," a poster about priorities, and a Sabbath rest.
The second and third weeks (Bee Active) include a tip book for using technology appropriately, family activity cards to encourage quality family time, stickers to remind people to love, share cards to spread love to people, and a family discussion.
The fourth week (Bee Inspired) includes a family reflection discussion, a Buzz Break activity to write family goals, a journal activity to reflect, the Attentional app to challenge friends to time away from their phones, and a USB full of all the files needed to reassemble the box and pass it on.
WEEK 1: BEE AWARE
The first week of the challenge exposes family to the problem of misplaced attention.
Families complete activities to practice solving the problem in their lives by being intentional with their attention.
In the fourth week, families reflect on their experience and prepare to share the box with another family.
I joined the presentation group with Lauren and Andrea. We decided to make an infographic to display our problem, our sub-groups, our secondary and primary research, and our solution.
First, we all made sketches. Here are mine:
Then, we all made digital mockups. Here is my digital mockup. After that, we joined together and drew a plan for our infographic on the board.
Finally, we split the plan into thirds and designed the infographic. I designed the top third of it, Andrea designed the middle, and Lauren designed the bottom. It tells the whole story of our semester. Enjoy.
My whole team participated in telling the story of Attentional and presenting our project. We showed the infographic, the completed box, and the research report. Each person talked about a part they had worked with most.
I think my team’s Attentional Challenge toolkit has the ability to combat misplaced attention to affect positive social development because it changes people’s thoughts and gives them a way to change their actions. It gives families a personal, memorable, hands-on experience that leads them to recognize the problem on their own and make their own goals, and equips them with ideas and materials to keep those goals. It empowers people to make change and gives them a plan of attack for a problem they have always felt defenseless against.
The Attentional Challenge even uses technology to redirect attention. Our app is a fun game that only works when you involve your friends, which encourages the change to spread. The rewards are discounts on social activities, which encourages meaningful time with loved ones. Although the app is part of the box, it is able to stand alone.
The box is effective because it is “bottomless”—it can be passed on and reused by families an infinite number of times, provided each family puts it back together before passing it on to another family.
It would have been valuable if my team had more time to conduct primary research by testing our box on several families and getting their feedback. We could then make improvements to our solution based on the families' experiences.
I wish my team had more time to manufacture multiple boxes. Our plan was to make about 20 boxes and give them to a church, and any family in the congregation who wanted a box would be given one. That way, the Attentional Challenge would start in one community, and from that community it would spread to other communities, eventually creating widespread change.
I also wish we had the time and capability to develop our app. It would be fun to use it with each other as a team, and it would be fun to invite our friends to download it too. I think our app has the potential to spread even faster than the box, and I wish I could see it do that.
People will pay attention when they live with no buzz. When they live with no buzz, social conditions in America will improve.
Attentional is the solution.