Ambient Interruption

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by: David Armano

We are living in an age of ambient interruption. Gone are the days when we flipped through channels while Ads interrupted our programming. Broadband, wireless and file sharing killed the radio star and all our media is served to us on a "need it now" basis. We think we need it? We go out and get it. We’ve been liberated to ignore the assault on our senses telling us to buy, asking us to try and selling the myth of brand.

So it’s ironic that the new form interruption now comes from our peers. It’s pervasive, subtle and ambient—it surrounds us at all times and manifests itself in various forms of technologies and devices. Another point of irony is the notion of permission marketing. Yes, it worked for a while—in fact we gave permission to brands and friends to engage us in what we thought were meaningful relationships. Permission marketing was born and thrived—and still does.

But look at how we behave in our daily routines. Step out of your body and watch yourself over your own shoulder as you work your computer, and check in with your smart phone. We’ve given our friends and favorite brands permission to "interrupt" us, through e-mail, text, IM, social networks—you name it. 

It’s not a bad thing. Actually, it’s quite empowering.

But you have to wonder if it’s become another form of interruption. It’s ambient interruption—we can actively pay attention, or ignore it.   

Or can we?

What happens when we reach critical mass for the volume of ambient interruption that we can handle? For each of us, it’s different. We cope in different ways and use various techniques to filter.  In the end, it’s up to us to manage as our personal media environments continue to evolve. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll become cynical about it—just like we did with the original interruption model. Guess we’ll find out.

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