Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Multitasking and digital diversions

click photo to enlarge
It's often said that women can multitask but men can't. Whether that's true or not, it seems to me, isn't especially important because it ignores a basic underlying truth that has been repeatedly proved down the years. Namely, that when you multitask none of the jobs are done as well as if you do them separately. That's why, among other things, you are prosecuted if you are seen texting while driving, and why serious consideration should be given to banning the use of any mobile telephony by drivers (even hands free) because it has been clearly shown to impair their reaction time.

Apparently today's university students multitask during lectures, often sending messages to friends or playing computer games while taking notes about the business at hand. Moreover, such students believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that they can manage to do all these things with no detriment to their learning, that it is a skill they have learnt and have improved over time. I recently read an interesting piece of research showing that students who do this, and who make these assertions, are invariably WORSE at multitasking than students who have less confidence in their ability to do so.

The advent of phones, computing and music that are usable anywhere has brought many benefits. However, it has also homogenised and degraded the experiences of people who are constantly plugged in, constantly checking, constantly multitasking. The simple act of walking through an historic town such as Newark (above) becomes less of an experience if you are constantly poking your device, instantly responding to a communication or have your head full of music. Moreover that communication and that music are not experienced and appreciated as well as they might be either. If you want quality in your life there is much to be said for focusing all your attention on one thing at a time, doing things serially rather than engaging in multitasking that involves the latest digital diversion.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On