“Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Web” on VCMike’s blog got me thinking about what I intended with this blog … not just tech and methods and process, the technology and mechanics, but the ground, the terrain, the foundations of individual experience that makes us social in general and communicative in particular
Apparently “polyphasic” has come to mean something about a sleep disorder. Too bad. Once upon a time it captured something quite subtle about the way we work.
Anyone who’s worked in a truly real-time environment has the visceral understanding. Some things need to be done “now”, meaning they can wait a few seconds or even a couple of minutes. (I’m imagining being at the controls of a radio station doing a live broadcast.) while others need to be done “now” as in “this very instant”. (With some functions we time a switch flick to within .5 seconds … “punching in” during music recording requires even finer timing.)
This reminds me of cog-psych on interactivity with computers: anything less than .8 seconds seems instantaneous; less than 2 seconds seems real time; a 5 second delay results in measurable stress responses; more than 8 seconds and most people bail.
The cliche “You have mail” doesn’t require an instantaneous response, while a ringing phone usually calls for either instantaneous or something like not at all.
In complex working environments (I did radio for Search and Rescue … there can be a lot of things in flow at once. I can only imagine an operating room.) there are multiple streams each with their own rhythm and pace. (The Yahoo!Pipes feed I created last week deals with exactly that aspect; Digg and reddit flood compared to some personal blogs that I also want to monitor.) When activity streams with very different paces intersect you have more than asynchrony: like with an impedance mis-match, you have friction and loss of signal … not just chaos, but noise.
My intuition (combination cog/social-psych and abdhidharma) is that individuals experience a very pleasant feeling when they’re engaged with something nearing the “7 variables at once” that marks temporary memory … like with a well designed video game.
If/when that experience just happens to be productive … the Inbox shrinks and the ToDo list becomes more realistic … IMNSHO that’s pretty close to “peak experience”.
What amazes me constantly is how much punishment individuals can soak up and still persist, despite the frustrations. We really are an amazing species!