focus & flow
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the patron saint of finals weeks. The psyche prof developed the concept of the “flow” state. (Watch his TED about it.) You know it as being “in the zone” — that state of concentration where you become so deeply involved in an activity that you lose time. Csikszentmihalyi described it as being “completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies.” Flow is essentially an intense but positive and creative feeling of presence (Heeter, 2003). If, like me, you’re writing papers right now, flow-ing is where you want to be.
For this writer, background music has become essential to reining in my limbic system and achieving something like Csikszentmihalyi’s flow state. To that end, I’ve found a few resources pretty indispensable this year.
“Listening as means of remodeling one’s drudgery.”
There’s a choice phrase, from Herta Herzog’s 1941 study of daytime radio dramas and their effects on listeners. Trying to ferret out the uses and gratifications of all that programmed escapism, Herzog identified three reasons why people tuned in to formulaic soaps: for the “emotional release,” for life-adjustment “recipes” and my favorite above. I made special note of that one because it resonated with the uses and grats of my own daily habit — listening to music — and I was reminded of it again recently as I plumbed a recent subgenre called vaporwave. Here, I thought, is a good example of the other side of Herzog’s equation: musicians making music as a means of remodeling the drudgery they hear around them.
I'm THOMAS CONNER, Ph.D. in Communication (Science Studies) and culture journalist.