MoMA R&D

Salon 2 Focus vs. Distraction

Focus vs. Distraction addressed the current popular obsession with attention and the coveted commodity of focus. Almost daily, a new article, book, or opinion piece laments the loss of focus and the distracting onslaught of digitally delivered and enhanced information. Rather than fall in with the mourners, we examine this issue obliquely from the various perspectives of four speakers—an artist, an educator, a neuroscientist, and an illusionist—as well as our salon audience.

Museums can be experienced both with laser focus on a limited number of works, or as a rabbit holes down which one can wander, stray, and get lost. Today, museum visitors may enter the gallery space at both ends of the spectrum—into galleries too saturated with visitors to permit focus, or galleries that still allow pause, contemplation, concentration, or escape. During the Q&A portion of the salon, an interesting tension arose between the perceived need to allow museum-goers to access networks on their own terms, and the desire to add interpretive information whenever possible.

Watch the videos from the salon and explore some of these questions: Are we experiencing a crisis in our ability to focus, or just an evolution of the natural skill sets required for the contemporary world? Must focus be jump-started from the outside in the contemporary museum experience? How can the viewer retain a sense of agency and freedom in their approach to a work of art?

The salon took place on 11 December 2012

Speakers

Reading Resources