Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I am so booooored...

For some reason, I am never bored for a very long time. Even in situations where there is otherwise no stimulation, in waiting rooms, on public transport, I don't get bored. There's too much going on in my head for that - OK, some of it may freak me out, and I may become stressed, unhappy or depressed if I end up on a negative track, but I am rarely bored.

When I do get bored it's in situations where I am in a kind of borderline state between escaping into my own head, and paying attention to something I know I ought to focus on. Only guilt and politeness keeps me trying to focus, and I fight my inner desire to do something completely different. Plan next weeks lectures, for instance. That can be fascinating if the alternative is listening to 30 minutes of positioning over administrative territories and professional status. As a random example.

Facebook is one of those places where I tend to get a bit bored. There's so much going on that doesn't really concern me, and so I phase out most of the information that flows past me, and I go to check who beat who in the most recent vampire game. Or if my dragon pet is underattack. It mostly is, it is a pathetic fighter. However, today somebody had posted a really interesting link. Netzwurker Mez, who is a cyber-poet, put up this fascinating little article on... boredom.

It turns out that boredom is a major cause of drug-abuse and crime. Idle minds and idle hands, etc, seems to be true. But also, boredom is the source of great thinking and great ideas. Well, I have to admit, some of my best lectures and articles have been born in some of those loooong meetings where there's nowhere to go but into my own brain.

And also, there's a little game-related metion in there, with a connection to flow:
Encouraging children to entertain themselves in mentally active and imaginative ways and to avoid passive, quick-fix entertainment could also reduce boredom. “We provide children lots of entertainment in the form of television and iPods to prevent them from developing their inner skills to contend with boredom,” Sundberg says. Engaging in active entertainment, such as playing sports or games, is also much more likely to produce flow, Csikszentmihalyi says.

Now, connecting boredom and games, we get grinding - the repetitive tasks which does lead to progress, but appear to be mindless. Today many of the big online games are being criticized for the grinding they demand from the players. Perhaps it's wrong to be so critical? The players I interviewed in 1999 saw grinding in the form of levelling as a neccessary act which filled its own important niche in the inner life of a game. The eagerness with which so many youngsters who would be bored to tears if they had to read a "stimulating book" grind, is astounding. What's going on with all that grinding? Is boredom another force of human pleasure and creativity?

I think I need to look at that, a little.

1 comment:

Dennis G. Jerz said...

You might want to consult Patricia Spacks' book on boredom (and how bored women changed the English literary landscape). I haven't actually read it, but I was taking a class from her at the time she was working on this book, so she often referred to it during lectures.

Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind

Patricia Meyer Spacks