Do Zenware Applications Reduce the Digital Distraction of Knowledge Workers? A Qualitative Study Based on Expert Interviews

  • Damian GerbauletEmail author
  • Oliver Korn
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 588)


Applications helping us to maintain the focus on work are called “Zenware” (from concentration and Zen). While form factors, use cases and functionality vary, all these applications have a common goal: creating uninterrupted, focused attention on the task at hand. The rise of such tools exemplifies the users’ desire to control their attention within the context of omnipresent distraction. In expert interviews we investigate approaches in the context of attention-management at the workplace of knowledge workers. To gain a broad understanding, we use judgement sampling in interviews with experts from several disciplines. We especially explore how focus and flow can be stimulated. Our contribution has four components: a brief overview on the state of the art (1), a presentation of the results (2), strategies for coping with digital distractions and design guidelines for future Zenware (3) and an outlook on the overall potential in digital work environments (4).


Zenware Human factors Human computer interaction Workspace optimization 


  1. 1.
    Zytko, D., Lingel, J., Birnholtz, J., Ellison, N.B., Hancock, J.: Online dating as pandora’s box: methodological issues for the CSCW community. In: Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference Companion on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (2015)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Moore, G.E.: Cramming more components onto integrated circuits. Electronics 38(8), 114–117 (1965)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Johnson, C.A.: The Information Diet. O’Reilly, Sebastopol (2012)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
  5. 5.
  6. 6.
  7. 7.
    Soojung-Kim Pang, A.: The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul (iBooks Version). Little Brown and Company, New York City (2013)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Interruptions in Human-Computer Interaction.
  9. 9.
    Cellier, J.-M., Eyrolle, H.: Interference Between Switched Tasks. Ergonomics 35, 25–36 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cutrell, E.B., Czerwinski, M., Horvitz, E.: Effects of instant messaging interruptions on computing tasks. In: CHI 2000 Proceedings, pp. 99–100 (2000)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Csíkszentmihályi, M.: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper Collins, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dragunov, A.N., Dietterich, T.G., Johnsrude, K., McLaughlin, M., Li, L., Herlocker, J.L.: TaskTracer: a desktop environment to support multi-tasking knowledge workers. In: IUI 2005 Proceedings, pp. 75–82 (2005)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Finstad, K., Bink, M., McDaniel, M., Einstein, G.O.: Breaks and task switches in prospective memory. Appl. Cogn. Psychol. 20(5), 705–712 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    McFarlane, D.: Comparison of four primary methods for coordinating the interruptions of people in human-computer interaction. Hum. Comput. Interact. 17(1), 1–61 (2002)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Miyata, Y., Norman, D.: Psychological issues in support of multiple activities. In: Norman, D.A., Stephen, W.D. (eds.) User Centered Systems Design: New Perspectives on Human-Computer Interaction, pp. 265–284. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale (1986)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Agarwal, R., Karahanna, E.: Time flies when you’re having fun: cognitive absorption and beliefs about information technology usage. MIS Q. 24(4), 665–694 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Webster, J., Ho, H.: Audience engagement in multi-media presentations. Data Base Adv. Inf. Syst. 28(2), 63–77 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dane, E.: Paying attention to mindfulness and its effect on task performance in the workplace. J. Manag. 37(4), 997–1018 (2011)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Weick, K., Sutcliffe, K.: Mindfulness and the quality of organizational attention. Org. Sci. 17, 514–524 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
  21. 21.
    Mani, M., Kavanagh, D.J., Hides, L., Stoyanov, S.R.: Review and evaluation of mindfulness-based iPhone apps. JMIR mHealth uHealth 3, e82 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
  23. 23.
    Berekoven, L., Eckert, W., Ellenrieder, P.: Marktforschung: Methodische Grundlagen und praktische Anwendung, 7th edn. Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gilchrist, V.J.: Key informant interviews. In: Bryman, A., Burgess, R.G. (eds.) Qualitative Research, vol. 1. SAGE Publications, London (1999)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Deci, E.L., Ryan, R.M.: Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. Plenum, New York (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kowal, J., Fortier, M.S.: Motivational determinants of flow: contributions from self-determination theory. J. Soc. Psychol. 139(3), 355–368 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Mark, G., Iqbal, S.T., Czerwinski, M., Johns, P.: Bored mondays and focused afternoons: the rhythm of attention and online activity in the workplace. In: CHI 2014 Proceedings, pp. 3025–3034 (2014)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    König, C.J., Kleinmann, M., Höhmann, W.: A field test of the quiet hour as a time management technique. Eur. Rev. Appl. Psychol. 63, 137–145 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
  30. 30.
  31. 31.
    Rams, D.: Weniger, Aber Besser: Less But Better. Design + Design, Hamburg (1994)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Thaler, R.H., Sunstein, C.R.: Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Yale University Press, New Haven (2008)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Communication TechnologyUlm University of Applied SciencesUlmGermany
  2. 2.Offenburg UniversityOffenburgGermany

Personalised recommendations