Stanford’s d.school has taught D.Compress: Designing Calm class last year, it will be offered again this year. The students are supposed to build text, e-mail and other tech products that help people “create a calm state of mind” in the midst of overloaded professional and student lives.
Some of the projects built last year in the class include several breathing-based technologies, using computer interfaces and reminders to help people pace their breathing while they are using devices. Others use SMSes to motivate people to smile as they communicate via their mobile phone. A few others introduce morning rituals through Facebook or phone apps, that encourage more stress-free breakfasts and daily resolutions, with positive intentions for the rest of the day.
The class provides insights into the usefulness of breathing techniques, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation to personal satisfaction — and especially how these devices can balance out the growing tide of technology addictions, interruptions, and overloads in our lives. The goal is user control, not just over the speed and power of tech, but on resisting technology too — how to look away from the computer, how to go offline, how to get brain silence, how to be present in the world you are physically present in, and how to break tech addictions.
These goals are so close to (perhaps just one short step away from) those of Spiritual Technology. There could be some excellent overlaps here. Drawing on the centuries of prayer technologies — words recited, positions taken, series of movements, gestures made, interactions planned — these could also be integrated with this domain of Calming Technology. Looking at namaz rituals in Islam, Catholic rosaries and station of the cross prayer recitations, and yoga patterns — there are interesting overlaps that could indicate some new directions for Calming Technology and Spiritual Technology.
Drawing on past richness of offline spiritual rituals could infuse current Calming Technologies with deeper meanings & effects. We could bring technology — sensors, wearables, interactive products — into a ritual space.