I'm giving a talk in Bristol this Friday at Watershed, one of those super-hip harborside renewal projects / performance / research spaces. It actually sounds quite cool:

Watershed is a cross-artform producer, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent. Curating ideas, spaces and talent, Watershed enables artistic visions and creative collaborations to flourish. Watershed is rooted in Bristol but places no boundaries on its imagination or desire to connect with artists and audiences in the wider world.

Clearly I'll need to shapen my goatee and choose the blackest clothing I can find!

Here's my abstract:

Can computers be contemplative? They interrupt and distract us, throw up swarms of real-time data that obscure our perspective and encourage us to spread our attention across a range of activities. In short, whatever their many benefits, computers don't encourage contemplation and users who seek to regain a sense of balance tend to turn off the wifi, fire up distraction-free Zenware or take digital Sabbaths.

Alex Pang argues that while these solutions offer temporary respites, they aren't solutions: better design is. He believes that we can create IT that does not distract us from the world, but allows us to engage with it more thoroughly, thoughtfully, and profoundly. In this Lunchtime Talk, he will describe what contemplative computing could be, why it is an appealing and achievable design goal and how we can get there.

Dr Alex Pang is a research fellow at Microsoft Research Cambridge, working in the Socio-Digital Systems group on contemplative computing. He is figuring out how to design information technologies and user experiences that promote concentration and deep focused thinking, rather than distract you, fracture your attention, and make you feel dumb.

Of course, the answer to the first question is, of course not. Computers can't be any more contemplative than fountain pens or bicycle tires. People can be contemplative. But, and this is the important part, people can be contempative with computers.

I'll be using the much-improved Prezi, which it turns out is now pushing the boundaries of what the technology can do. But in order to get the look I want for this talk, I needed to push.