There are unused icons on your desktop”: this message sometimes appears in a balloon on the lower right-hand corner of my computer screen. I can’t imagine why I should be alerted to this fact. The condition of my personal workspace is my own business, as I see it. But no matter what I might be doing at the moment – writing, reading, coding, thinking or (God forbid) simply letting my thoughts trail off where they may – the designers of the Windows XP operating system seem to think I should stop right now and clean up my desk.
That is why I was surprised to read that Microsoft researchers now feel confident that they can figure out when it’s all right to interrupt me. According to the project director for something called the Attentional User Interface, the researchers believe they “can detect when users are available for communication, or when the user is in a state of flow.”