- Thoughts posted here: flow :sarah
- As future media makers, creating the most dazzling motion graphics, or the most impossible-to-ignore interactive advertising campaigns, are we contributing to the plight of the disaffected millions Cskiszen. describes? What a depressing post to come out of a book about optimizing the experience of happiness, huh? But if flow is a "battle for the self" and a "struggle for establishing control over attention", is the digital media maker a saboteur? Or are video games, for instance, as good an opportunity as any to experience flow?
- i got to a 'resource secured' page. to get this article, go here, log in with your nyu id and password, and search for "happiness everyday life experience sampling"
- some thoughts here. --Liss
- I found myself most interested in how the researchers chose to categorize, interpret, and draw conclusions from a massive amount of data, what questions they didn't ask (for various reasons), and what assumptions they made. (were happy teenagers happy children? do happy teenagers grow into happy adults? did they evaluate differences in happiness in urban vs. suburban vs. rural environments? explicit differences in family structures? why did they try and fit different happiness levels at different socioeconomic levels into a linear progression?). This overlapped with the focus in chapter 4 in Cognition, Brain, and Consciousness on the different strengths and limitations of different tools and the need to choose tests and subjects with those factors in mind. I'm curious about this combination of information glut, multiple tools that are limited in different ways, and (potentially far-fetched) inference. On the mailing list last spring, someone described this class as "chasing ghosts." What ghosts do we want to chase? How might we see them? What questions are we forgetting to ask? What are the connections and differences between good (or bad) art/expression and good (or bad) science? --daniel soltis
- Caleb: Comments on paper, HAPPINESS IN EVERYDAY LIFE: THE USES OF EXPERIENCE SAMPLING by MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI and JEREMY HUNTER
Whenever I read happiness studies I rush to project the results to my own life. Can this paper make me more happy? Did they find the perfect pill? The secret stretch? The carbless cracker?
Results of this particular study should be seen in the context of who was being studied. This is not to negate it, just to contextualize it. 828, 6th-12th graders got buzzed 8 times a day to fill out a form for a week. But to make it into the study, they only had to have filled out a total of 15 forms for the week. That's a lot of missed buzzes. What were they doing then? My memory of those ages would suggest I'd fill out the form if I was sort of bored and hanging around, but if I was barreling down a hill on my bike, making out, or getting stoned, I might not so much, and I might not write down what I was really doing.
The findings make some sense. Prepubescent working class kids talking with friends or playing were very happy. Poor 16 year olds, alone, on Sunday night facing homework they didn't do, in the throws of puberty, not so much. Studying sucked, but provided happiness in the end. The findings about money and happiness are the most interesting to me in light of the news reports in the last few years that find the same thing in adults. Past a reasonably comfortable existence with the basics in life, money doesn't buy you happiness.
The literature review in the beginning of the paper was very interesting to me. I left it siding with the Teddy Roosevelt quote, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you can," in other words, go with the flow.
I next thought of the Buddhist's first noble truth being the full understanding suffering, especially that impermanence of happiness and the return to suffering when it ends. The Buddhist idea seems to suggest that the way to be happy is to accept that you can't end suffering and you'll never just be constantly happy. We have to do work we don't want, we kill to eat, we ache, people piss us off, it rains and things break.
The amount of factors that on the side of being more "impervious" to a person being happy was surprising. Habits, coping behaviors and learning to be in the flow can "moderate" one's level of happiness. But genetic, environmental and social factors are hard to change.
If would seem that a person's happiness is not as within their control as self-help books might make us feel it is. The latest self-help best seller should be carefully judged so as not to lead to unrealistic expectations of quick, painless, change. This will lead to failure and unhappiness. The best self-help books perhaps make one feel good, and that they've found the secret answer. But they also caution about how much work it is, so as to escape blame when the masses don't all start writhing in the streets in pure bliss when it hits the best seller list.
- Lesley- http://itp.nyu.edu/~laf333/itp_blog/computers_for_the_rest_of_you/ If we believe that happiness goes hand in hand with a loss of "self consciousness" but our contemporary capitalist society is built firmly upon the notions of self identity and self expression through material desire and possession, it makes sense that "...excessive concern with consumer goods and material possessions is inversely related with positive developmental outcomes" and therefore why "...teenagers from working-class, and even impoverished backgrounds [are] happier than upper-middle-class teenagers living in exclusive suburban communities." With the material possessions within their financial grasp, upper-middle-class teenagers struggle with the issues of ownership or lack of ownership of prescribed materialistic self identities. This struggle is inherently shallow, narcissistic, and devoid of meaning. Also inherent in this struggle is the endless race of materiality, in that one object is never enough because there is always something newer and better guaranteed around the corner. Goals are transient, needs are superficial, and value is monetary. (only slightly tangential, this all makes me think of "Century of the Self" -- where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. He cites a Wall Street banker as saying "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs.")
- MikeD - I've always been fascinated by the way people rate happiness, and how one person's scale relates to another's. As it's an entirely subjective experience, and something that seems incredibly difficult to quantify in any way, it remains an awkward discussion -- "suggesting that self-reported happiness is less stable than other dimensions of experience" as the text notes. Having said that, a lot of the results did make sense to me, especially the days of the week (Blue Monday syndrome and all that) and the activity part (food and friends make you happy), though I was surprised there was no category for physical activity on the latter. The class differences (and gender differences between them) were great to see as well, and not at all what I think I might have expected.
- Lucas Longo - for me the most interesting aspect of this paper is to show how smart nature is. Basically our bodies trigger happiness in us when we are socializing and doing activities that are not stressful but require us to think and use our abilities - from that we see that nature is basically tricking us into finding a partner and evolving into something better by giving us a "cookie" when we are doing such activities. Another interesting finding of the study was that those who actually spent time studying or reading, which bring on lower levels of happiness, report a higher than average level of happiness when doing sports or socializing proving the concept that you cannot know true happiness if you've never experienced true sadness.
- Young - I read the flow before, and quite impressed the method and idea of measuring the happiness. As others points out, it is a subjective data rather than an objective, however it still has an insight of the Rest of Us. I'm thinking about sleep and alertness these days, and seeking the convergent method to measure it with.
- Lesley - hi there, me again. I was just cleaning my apartment and found a copy of an article I read the summer before starting ITP (I was still at my job and beyond stressed about deciding whether or not to go to ITP). "Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness" http://nymag.com/news/features/17573/
- After reading this, I start to wonder if what we consider 'consciousness' is really just a purely utilitarian state of awareness whose main function is help us find food, avoid predators or others that would harms us, find mates, and not walk into trees, and that's it. It may be that it is not as well suited for aiding more abstract thought and problem solving. Definitely, I have had the best ideas come to me, not while I was thinking and thinking and thinking about my problem, but while either driving or just sitting in my car (something about cars really sparks my mind). Also, I agree that you don't have to be 'conscious' in order to learn. The point that Lucas made about how babies learn is a great one. When I was in undergrad, I found that the classes I did best in, were the ones I thought the least about, and hardly ever studied for. It's interesting to consider why we feel like our consciousness is in our head as well. Somewhat related to that, I once read that of those that committed suicide by fatal gunshot, males were more likely to shoot themselves in the head, and women through the heart. I never really felt as though I thought (or suffered more) with my heart, but in any case, it would be interesting to see 'where' different people perhaps did process more of their thoughts and feelings. -- Sarah
- Great text, though I didn't get how my conscious can be in the corner of the other room, while I am here --Sinan
*Sounds to me like he's saying that consciousness is a schema, or like an awareness of one's self in relative terms.
So, during consciousness, one can see herself from any vantage point. The vantage point changes based on the situation. Like the
example of compounding double faults with the tennis player. The vantage point is, "I've ALREADY double-faulted once." I guess history
stands in for location in that schema. .:Sonia:.
- Analytical and structured approaches to consciousness are quite detail and make me think about consciousness more in different angles. I'd like to research about conversation between consciousness and subconsciousness in related to a sleep. I believe when we know more about it, then we can use it for many usages. I put more comments on blog. --Young
- LUCAS - What struck me the most is that learning does not seem to be a conscious process - we seem to just absorb things as they come, to be processed later - makes sense if you think of babies - they have no idea what school is or that they are learning by simply being around language. The collective consciousness also was very interesting (tell girls in red that they look great and in one week every girl is unknowingly wearing red) - which for me indicated the notion of God being a social/collective unconscious phenomena - you tell people every time something "miraculous" or disastrous happens that it was an act of God - sure enough, after a while, everyone is able to see and feel God as if it was real.
- This reading brings to mind one Britney Spears. So she bombed her "comeback" at the VMAs this weekend, right? Lots of people say she was "nervous" or "ill-prepared". I'm
going to go ahead and say it was a prime example of "consciousness as hindrance". She was probably seeing herself from the perspective of the tabloids--"the has been". Or seeing audience members mapping failure onto her (that's why I think there's some validity to consciousness living in the head--'cause the gaze can be so unforgiving). The steps were all mediated. So the consciousness botched the routine. It's like the horror or public speaking. OF COURSE, we can all talk and sound somewhat intelligent (except for Britney Spears, but at least she can dance). But somehow the consciousness paralyzes. .:Sonia:.
- It feels like the title should have been "what consciousness does not." In trying to define what consciousness is not, he ends up analyzing the presumed functions of consciousness (learning, reasoning, etc), and finding how consciousness is not necessary for these functions to occur. The fact that these can occur without us being conscious of it, does not mean that when they do occur and we are conscious of it, these are not part of what constitutes our conscious experience (by definition).
It bothers me that he uses "consciousness" to mean "being conscious of (a particular event/mental process)." (For example in this sentence: "Even the more standard types of reasoning can occur without consciousness.") This might just be a matter of definition of terms, but to me these two are not the same thing. I think of consciousness as a state (I may be wrong, and I would like to hear other people's ideas on this). If you weren't in this state you probably would not be able to do all the "unconscious" things he talks about (reason, learn, etc). You may not be conscious of them happening but if you have to have some kind of consciousness of the world around you for them to happen. -Kyveli
- Caleb. Comments on Introduction:
*Great, poetic beginning with punch!
*I found most interesting the point the author made about the dominant discoveries and technological paradigms of the age has influenced our metaphors and theories about consciousness. This was written around 1976. Now with computers and the Internet being so dominant in our consciousness, it is no wonder I find myself viewing consciousness as simply the product of a never sleeping complex computer processing endless information it gathers during any given day in the form of visuals, emotional traces, memories, ideas, smells, physical feelings, etc.
*I found the theory of "Consciousness As Learning" initially attractive as did the author, and was rather disappointed when he convincingly separated the two.
*Page #8 "Something must be added from outside of this closed system to account for something so different as consciousness." I don't agree with. I think we add plenty of our own data from outside the closed system in the from of information gathering to explain consciousness.
*Page #10: "The Helpless Spectator Theory" appeals to me. "If consciousness is the mere impotent shadow of action, why is it more intense when action is most hesitant?" This would seem simple if you think of consciousness as a the result of a very powerful computer always processing. Then we are not using processing power to do something, we use it to think about what we have done, or what to do in the future.
*Combining the Helpless Spectator Theory with "Emergent Evolution" theory might work??? Maybe as our ability to communicate has increased over the last 20,000 years, so has our consciousness OF consciousness and our ability to study and define it. So it was always automata, but now is becoming quantifiable as we evolve???
*Page #13: "...the snorting assertion that consciousness is nothing at all." This guy is a great writer!
*"Consciousness as the Reticular Activating System" I agree. Add in evolution and helpless spectator and you've got something I think. Or are we just falling pray to the current metaphor fad, computers???
*Page #15: Maybe consciousness will always seem to be what is dominating societies consciousness at the time. I'm currently very conscious of my feelings that consciouness has a lot more to do with COMMUNICATION then is being talked about. It is not a closed system, but effected by society and evolving as we do.
- I found the flashlight bit to be a really good explanation, and probably the clearest example used to explain the issue of not being able to be aware of that which you can't be aware of. Also, this may be something I just missed in grammar school, but the missing vision thing with the eyes was something that really got me. The fact that there's this blind spot we all have that I'd never even been aware of really reinforced the flashlight issue. I think I started reading this thinking that I was pretty comfortable with the conscious/unconscious discussion, and found out pretty quickly I'm missing a lot of what I'm missing (I so wish there was a way to say that without recursing). -MikeD
- Found the anology of "a flash light searching for light in the darkness" really precipitate after reading all the text. Tried out the experiement of invisible finger tip too. It really brought me into thinking how we use our consciousness to analyze it. -- Yan Yan
- Also, I'm clearly on the exact same page as Yan Yan. Neat! -MikeD
- I posted some comments on my blog at http://itp.nyu.edu/~bp432/blug/archives/computers_4_the_rest_of_you/ Ciao! -Benny
- Oh yes most intersting indeed --Dano
- I have mixed feelings about what the author is discussing. On one hand, YES, i completely agree that we can make ourselves miserable by living anywhere and everywhere but in the current moment. Tying ourselves to various identities in order to find some kind of place in the world can be a futile and ultimately unrewarding pursuit. Being controlled by ego is a bad situation, yet one that's really hard to avoid, especially in a society like ours that is completely driven by image. Actually, my mixed feelings stem not from what he's trying to say; I think there is a lot of truth in his claims and suggestions. I think it's more the language he uses that puts me off. It's a little too new-age for me, heh. Anyways, I started to really connect with the book when he said 'do not be concerned with the fruit of your actions - just give attention to the action itself'. This actually ties into the flow article we read last... I find that I am most at peace and happiness when I am not thinking and just doing something, of the moment. Being in the flow of the current activity and current moment is very satisfying and freeing. In fact, I always perform better when I think less. -- Sarah
- Caleb. First 50 pages online: This seemed to me to be a solid self-help book, and literally so in the sense that it is preaching that you already got what you need. I liked what the organization of the book around a sort of Socratic dialog of questions and answers, especially for the self-help genre which has to confront a lot of skepticism. I was struck by the line: "identification with your mind which causes thought to become impulsive," and "Stop the unobserved mind from running your life to stop most pain." This rings true to me in many ways. Often I find myself following my mind's "eye" blindly, without recognizing that it may be giving unhealthy council. On PG #34, I take issue with the line of reasoning, "Remove time from the mind and it stops." I understand his point and it works in a personal sense, but in a larger context our Sun's limited life expectancy means that time is meaningful for all life on Earth because it is finite. After reading Oprah's quote for the book, "More joy, right now!" I hoped the rest of the book tackled more of the suffering and work that Buddhist's preach. The imperfect nature of everyone's ability to put into practice what this book is teaching means change will be slow and hard. There is no magic diet pill for the mind or body, at least so far.
- LUCAS - I agree with Caleb in the sense that there is no magic pill yet the if the methods of the book are taken seriously, I believe that they can truly work. In an interesting parallel to the previous reading, this book starts with the assumption that consciousness is not only real but that it affects your body. I remember not wanting to go to school when I was a kid because I had not done a homework, and sure enough I would wake up with a fever. I actually learned that behavior and repeated it a few times - though after the third time I realized that a fever hurt more than the teacher's scorn or the bad grade. I guess the conclusion here is that there is mind over matter but there is also matter over mind (red is said to be cool, and suddenly everyone is wearing red - a thought is transposed to reality).
- I quite agree --Dano
- p63: It reads, in the history of science, new mathematical techniques often help to understand new questions. Then, what kinds of math approaches are useful or necessary to understand our consciousness and unconsciousness that the rest of us? I'd like to apply I Ching but, still need more study.
- p65: While reading about a simple reflex circuit (ex. knee-jerk reflex), the idea of sleep and alertness came again in mind. I'd like to dig into those thing by researching, experimenting, and calculating, very similar to the study of nutrition. Most of us don't care about a nutrition precisely, but I think we all have some common sense of it, or automatically controlled by a food culture. Therefore, the study will improve of our sleep and alertness of everyday life. Alfred North Whitehead once said that civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.
- p66: It reads, most pathways run in both directions. Recently, I'm curious why a head-phoned friend in library answers so loud. Isn't it an example of this?
- p73: (wild fancy) According to the hierarchy of sensory and motor, signals could go forward and backward. Then what about the sense of time? Does the hierarchy allow time go forward and backward in an instant moment made by the floating signals of sensory?
- p75: Using ambiguity of visual image, military camouflages are designed.
- p120: In the significant word experiment, it uses a combination of sound and brainwave. And also, chapter 4 says, convergent methods such as EEG and fMRI are important. I should make my system a convergent logging design.
- Here is quote from James Watson(co-discoverer of DNA structure): We understand the hardware, but we don't have a clue about the operating system.