Jay Vidyarthi is an attention activist and the founder of Still Ape – the world’s first UX design studio focused exclusively on mindfulness, compassion, and wellbeing. He is working toward a society where access points to self-care and collective transformation are as diverse as the people who need them. He also teaches mindfulness to individuals and groups, where he inspires people to reclaim their freedom of attention in our culture of influence.
As a human-centered designer, Jay’s been involved in creating Muse: the brain sensing headband, Sonic Cradle, the Healthy Minds Program, Brightmind, and 10+ more mindful technologies. He helped start the Mindful Society Global Institute and serves on its advisory council. He’s taught design at major institutions and his work and ideas have been recognized and featured internationally (Harvard, MIT, CHI, UToronto, Mindful.org, Forbes, Vice, World Happiness Week, Fast Company, TED, TransTech200, UX Awards, etc). He also teaches in the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.
Learn more at https://www.jayvidyarthi.com/
Notice your posture as you read this sentence. How might your posture be affecting your mental engagement with this technology?
In what ways is your body impacted by your use of technology?
What are some habits you have with technology? How might changing these habits benefit you?
Is there some piece of technology that helps you to be more mindful or compassionate? How so?
In what areas do you find yourself most susceptible to the attention economy? Which apps do you use the most often, and why might this be?
In what ways are you already engaging in ‘attention activism’?
What more can you do today to be an ‘attention activist’?
Take a moment right now to reclaim some attention for yourself. Breathe in. Breathe out. Look away from the screen for a few seconds. Continue your day with the intention to be mindful and kind.
Read more from Jay Vidyarthi about being mindful in our modern world. This blog includes personal essays and stories about the challenges and rewards of being an attention activist:
The Role of Mindfulness in Design Activism – The hype around an internet utopia seems to be fading. In this presentation, Jay argues that as technologists, it’s becoming more important for us to acknowledge how our context, values and perspectives manifest in the ideas, products, systems, and services we create.
How Do We Create Mindful Societies? – We often think about meditation and mindfulness as an individual pursuit, but in this episode of the Deep Change Podcast, Jay Vidyarthi talks about why it matters to think on a societal level and some of the efforts he’s been making to bring about that kind of change.
How Tech Is Ruining Our Quality of Life—and What We Can Do About It – This article explores how tech is exploiting our attention and disconnecting us from others, but it could also be the answer to humanity’s ills
The Joy of Being an Attention Activist – The JOMOcast with Christina Crook. “The forces all around you are… pushing you to be a different way than you want to be. That’s a design problem”.
Introducing Jay Vidyarthi
Listen to Jay talk about his background in user experience design and how he has incorporated mindfulness into his work.
Meditation as Attention Activism
Jay explains that meditation is more than just a spiritual practice, but also a political act. When we choose to place our attention somewhere healthy for us, we are resisting the influence of the attention economy. Jay adds, “It’s not a coincidence that more and more people in the world are interested in these practices at the same time that our attention economy is rearing its head. It’s a natural response to the circumstance we’ve placed ourselves in.”
How the Mind-Body Distinction is Illusory
Jay explains that the mind and body have a reciprocal relationship. Our bodies are important tools for learning how to use technology in a healthy way, because they impact how we interact with it mentally.
Living in an Attention Economy
Jay talks about how attention has become a commodity throughout recent history. Attention is now something that corporations profit from and try to engage as much as possible. The challenge for us is to participate in the world without giving all of our attention away.
Technology as an Extension of the Mind
Jay explains how we can understand all technologies as extensions of human capacities. Modern technology extends the capacity of the thinking mind by contributing thoughts to it, such as advertisements and other content.
Most of us would be distracted by thoughts with or without technology, but the onslaught of external thoughts creates much more to parse through and impacts the kinds of thoughts we have. This is contributing to disconnectedness
and a worsening of mental health. Jay hopes that one day technology can lead us towards greater connection, but so far it seems to be the opposite.
Designing Technology for Wellbeing
Jay lists the three biggest insights he has gained from his work in design. From these insights, he talks about some pathways towards using and designing technology in healthier ways. Since we cannot escape the use of technology, we need to learn how to use it in the kindest and most mindful ways possible.
Kindness as Activism
Jay points out that our self-care practices are not just for our benefit; they are also a stance against the attention economy. Every time we take a mindful breath or treat someone kindly, we are making a statement about
how we want to live.