Tech and the Art of Mindfulness
The term Mindfulness originates in Buddhism and in its purest form can be described as: a way of approaching our thoughts and feelings so that we become more aware and react differently to them. It involves making a special effort to give your full attention to what is happening in the present moment – to what’s happening in your body, your mind or your surroundings. (The charity ‘Mind’ – 2018). In recent months we have seen the notion of mindfulness rise in relation to its relevance in society, partly due to the burgeoning and significant role of technology in consumers everyday lives.
Technology has become so ingrained in our culture and our day to day existence, it dominates every conversation, interaction and experience we are exposed to. Justin Rosenstein, a former Google employee who now owns his own productivity company highlights how research shows that people touch, swipe or tap their phones up to 2617 times a day and that “there is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus”.
More than ever live events are demanding an extensive use of technology, seeking to create the most innovative shareable moments and providing consumers with instant access to content. Consumers are no longer purely experiencing the moment for themselves, they are also sharing it with thousands of other people at the touch of a button.
However, slowly but surely a shift in opinion is starting to appear amongst big names in the marketing world. Brands can no longer ignore consumer desires for a purer, less technology-driven experience.
The inclusion of elements such as rest periods and WIFI dead zones in live experiences are becoming more prevalent, allowing consumers to focus purely on the live and not capturing it through the lens of their phone screen.
Indeed, singer song-writer Alicia Keys took this idea on board in 2017 (literally) by banning concert goers from using their phones during her show. Fans were instead handed a special pouch that locked with their smartphone inside, meaning they couldn’t take any photo/videos or make calls during the performance.
Delta Airlines also recently took mindfulness on board at a TED conference in Canada by creating the ‘Stillness in Motion installation’. The glass and mirrored installation was covered in an architectural skin that evoked calm and serenity from the outside and allowed passers-by to see what was happening within. Before entering, visitors received a small white heartbeat orb, a central element of the experience. After taking a seat and placing their hands-on heart-rate sensors, for two minutes the space illuminated and pulsed with light, sound and abstract images that created a relaxing environment during which their heart rate decreased. Their lowest heart rate was recorded on the orb, which they could take with them in a Delta-branded pouch.
Does this mean brands will genuinely begin to move away from instantaneous content sharing? Maybe not completely but what they must do is to take on board consumers’ desire for less frenetic interactions with brands. Whilst we want to share our experiences we also want to maintain our focus in the here and now.
Arguably, with the right implementation, tech may start to become part of the solution. Apps like Headspace facilitate daily check-ins and meditation; wearables like WellBe are even going so far as to measure your stress levels for you.
M ss ng P e ces, a Brooklyn-based production company, have taken it one step further. “I’m always thinking about ways in which these new technologies like VR are going to enable us to become more immersed in stories and become better human beings,” says m ss ng p eces founder and executive producer Ari Kuschnir. “I didn’t see enough experiments in VR with anything related to mindfulness.”
Kuschnir went on to work with the founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Centre in Northern California to produce a virtual wellbeing centre and meditation programme to be used by brands and companies around the world. In addition to trying to reach those VR users interested in meditation, Kornfield and m ss ng p eces are also looking to partner with organizations who can bring the experience to people in jails and schools, “And honestly,” Kornfield says, “hopefully it inspires more creators to explore the interesting tension, which is that we have such amazing technology, but it’s making us miserable. We want to keep figuring out how to make the right kinds of content and resources to support people being happy and fulfilled, and holistically in a better place.”
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