Friday, April 6, 2012

What do you mean multitasking is a myth?

Some say there is no such thing as multitasking. CQ Researcher reports that "Researchers have proved again and again that multitasking, at least as our culture has come to know and love and institutionalize it, is a myth."

But as a Digital Immigrant I can report that I have been multitasking for a while. I can even watch TV and read a comic at the same time. For that matter my great, great, great grandmother could have a conversation while making meat loaf. Even more impressive, my Digital Native friends can talk on the phone, answer a text, play Words with Friends, and update their Facebook status with one hand. Now that's progress.

So for the sake of argument, let's call all those nanosecond switches from one task to another, multitasking. And, as Shakespeare would say, "Therein lies the rub." According to the same CQ Researcher, Digital Natives and savvy Digital Immigrants when "sitting at a computer screen--if they are indeed looking at just one--face multiple open Web browsers, an e-mail server, perhaps an instant-messaging chat or two and myriad other potential tasks among which to toggle." It isn't that Digitals multitask - it's that we switch between tasks a lot faster than we used to. "Technologies in the the last decade not only allow task switching but demand task switching."

What is the effect of all this switching back and forth? As you can probably guess, it's not so good. "Multitasking leads us to do everything a little bit worse all the time."

So I ask all you Dextrous Digital Wizards out there, how many tasks are you doing when writing a paper? Let me guess, responding to this blog is one of them.

29 comments:

  1. Majority of the time when I am writing a paper I try to find a quiet place so then I can hear what I am thinking. I can not deny that I do have multiple web browsers open. Whether that is Facebook, Tumblr, CNN, or gossip magazine website. It is hard to try and focus on one thing for a long period of time. So having those web browsers open helps me personally during the process of writing. The web browsers are there so when I need a break from writing I have something to look at to clear my mind.

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  3. I do agree with this post to some extent. I sometimes try to just do one thing at a time, especially when it comes to homework, because I think when focused on so many things at one time I am not giving enough attention to what really matters. Then regretting it every time, but it is extremely difficult for me at least not to be tempted by all the other things I could be doing other than homework on the computer.

    -Cynthia Neira

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  4. I have run into a lot of people who don’t believe in multitasking and say there is no such thing, but I somewhat disagree with that. Like in the blog, I can multitask by watching TV and doing chores, and having a snack at the same time; I consider this as multitasking. On the other hand, I can see why some people think that multitasking is myth and not real. When we’re on the computer and switching between browsers and doing things at the same time, it is not necessarily multitasking. We are indeed just “task switching”. We tend to jump from task to task instead of concentrating on one task at a time. When it comes down to writing a paper, I need to concentrate on just writing the paper. As I’m writing the paper, all I have out are my drafts and any sources I need for the paper. There comes a time during the writing process that I get stuck or need a break and that’s when I start to multitask. I’ll open up my email accounts, my Facebook, and I’ll just browse the web. Once I start to do that, it is so much harder for me to close all the browsers and get back to just focusing on writing my paper. So, before I know it, I’m not only writing a paper, but I’m responding to emails, commenting on Facebook, and watching music videos at the same time; I’m “task switching”.

    Stephanie

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  5. This article of multitasking hooked my attention because lately in class and in even in some of the readings we’ve been assigned to do. In the article, they mention multitasking doesn’t exist and rather than it being called multitasking, they call it nanosecond switches. I know for a fact multitasking exist because I do it all the time. I could be just as efficient writing a paper and playing video games vs. just focusing all my attention to the paper. I might not finish the paper as fast when I multitask, but I know both the papers will be the same quality.

    Arturo G.

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  6. When I sit down to write a paper, I will inevitably have 3-5 different browser windows open. These will include articles pertaining to the topic that I am writing, because I tend to research interesting caveats of my topic as I write. While this does necessitate a certain amount of switching around, I know that I can not concentrate when I have Facebook, email or even my phone nearby. My capacity for distraction is very high. In fact, I typically start my homework late in the evening when everyone is in bed in order to achieve the optimum quiet atmosphere. I just can not complete any sort of thought process with the noise of the TV, music, talking, dishes clanking--none of it. Perhaps I am just one of those weird digital natives who doesn't like too much going on at once. I prefer to think about one thing at a time, particularly when it is an assignment. -Mandy

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  7. When I write a paper, I'll usually have just the word document open. That's not to say I don't 'multi-task', I'll often listen to music or do other activities at the same time. Though I can't say I fully agree with the ideas proposed in this article. Sometimes you truly are multitasking. To say a blanket statement like that, it must be reliable in all aspects, in this case its not. How can multitasking be nonexistent if everyone is constantly breathing, having their heart beat (albeit not on their own control), using all of their senses and, chances are, focusing on 'one' task.

    Obviously this is on a much smaller scale than normally expected, though other examples are prevalent. If your body and mind are already consistently multitasking, who's to say that humans are not able to multitask on a macro level?

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  8. As I'm writing a paper, I try to have the document be the only thing open. However, in reality that's not the case. Usually I would have Facebook open, along with a few chats, maybe some music, and the TV would probably be on also. I know that sounds terrible and completely distracting, but I still get my work done. I'll admit it might take a little longer, but these things provide a "break" for my brain. For example, if I have a writers block, I would take a break and watch tv, talk to friends, or play a quick Tetris game. >xD
    I do have to completely agree with the article though. We don't truly multitask, we just switch between tasks really quickly. I have never really thought of it that way, but it totally makes sense. I will admit there are some things where we do multitask, but those things are little things.

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  9. I never considered this before but it seems very likely that I have been confusing multitasking with switching between multiple tasks in a rapid manner. Many students can attest to this during the late night cram sessions or last minute draft writing of an essay. The truth does seem to be that actual multitasking requires you to divide your attention between multiple things, thus diminishing how effective you are at the given tasks. However, there are a few examples that seem to exhibit actual multitasking without diminishing returns while completing the tasks. Videogames are my number one example and possibly the only thing I can think of that refutes the claim made by the OP. Moving and looking at the same time is something novice gamers struggle to perform while the pro performs such actions without thought. Not only this, but being spatially aware in a virtual world and monitoring specific occurrences within requires much more experience and practice. Combine those two with the necessity to then act out and complete various game mechanics such as shooting, jumping, communicating, and you have a set of simultaneous tasks that integrate seamlessly together.

    Anyone that has played an instrument can probably also envision examples of multitasking, I play an electric bass guitar and, similar to videogames, it requires me to perform multiple tasks at once. Granted, I am less skilled at the bass and it requires immense focus to move one hand down the neck striking frets while the index and middle fingers of my other hand continuously strike one of the four strings; but it proves the assertion that multitasking exists and is quite possible, although it does require practice before we are able to perform each task with equal effectiveness.

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  10. While writing a paper I tend to just have the document window open on my laptop. I try to stray away from opening up Google Chrome and checking my subscribtion box on youtube, however I always manage to distract myself from the task at hand. Its like a beaming lazer sucking me into an endless abyss of text messages and mini games everytime my cellphone vibrates. I drop everything im doing just to check my phone when it calls for me. However, switching through various apps on my cellphone shouldn't be considered multitasking, but more the downfall of a short attention span. I've noticed that us digital natives have the attention span of an giddy 2 year old. This short attention span causes us to become bored of everything we touch in a matter of minutes, which is why "multi-tasking" is practically nonexistent.

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  11. When I write a paper, I attempt to leave nothing but the Word Document open when I'm on my computer. The easiest distractions for me are Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. I tend to doze off and there is no way for me to be focused if all of those tabs are open at once. I would easily space out and it's purely a distraction to me. My motivation to writing a paper is the brainstorming papers that I've constructed for the essay. It feels a lot easier when I do that because I don't have think too hard on what I have to say. And also, Music (specifically slow hip-hop jams) on Pandora or iTunes keeps me motivated to type. I tend to think a lot better as I type when music is playing at a low volume setting. I guess you can say that everyone has their own preference when they have to write a paper. This is mine. Multi-tasking for me is the hardest ever when I do my homework. I must stay focused on either one or the other.

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  12. When I write a paper I try to only have my Pages open and maybe google if I am trying to get a quote or something. Other than that I try to not be on any social media site so that I can get my essay finished. The only problem is when my phone goes off that I have a new notification is when I get distracted. I get this feeling of 'who is commenting on what?' and that makes me need to go check it. I comment back on it and then look around a little. I have Facebook, google, and pages open. While checking Facebook I think "Oh maybe I got an email from work" so i go check my email, nothing from work. So I go back to writing my paper. Then someone comments again so of course I have to go check that one. it is a never ending process until one of us stops the conversation so i can get back to my paper. I am willing to bet that if I didn't have my phone and abilities to go to the internet while writing my paper I would get a higher grade. All of the distractions definitely don't help me when writing my paper. I think I'll challenge myself to doing this and see how it works.

    I never thought of multi-tasking as how they described it in the article but now that I see it that way it changes my thoughts. I like to think that I am very good at multi tasking. I can text while talking to someone. If two people talk to me at the same time I can almost catch everything both of them said. I do multi tasking on my phone from Facebook, to emails, to texting. But when it is put out there that it is just switching tasks quickly that makes it something else. I guess that I'm good at switching tasks fast which isn't always effective.

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  13. When writing a paper I usually start off with trying to focus how to start it. Most time it is very difficult to think of ideas so I text or go online, or check my email, or talk to someone. Starting a paper for me is the hardest paper. I try to avoid it by doing other things that I say I need to do. Once I have an idea started I usually push away all distractions and write my paper.

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  14. Usually when i'm writing a paper I try to keep my tabs open to a maximum of two. On a good day those tabs will be a word document and Facebook. On a normal day there's usually up to five open. I try to keep the "multi-tasking" to a minimum but it never works.Although it seems like a bad thing to be switching activities every two minutes, I can find a couple of positives to it. It's tough for me to stay on a word document for hours,it usually takes a couple minutes to formulate sentences. I feel like taking breaks are beneficial, instead of staring at a white screen for hours going on Facebook or other web pages can generate ideas. Even if taking breaks help, it is really important that these breaks don't end up taking hours of solid writing time away.

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  15. When I write my paper, I don't prefer a quiet environment like some people do. I like to play my music softly. I can't stand a quiet environment because it makes me feel uncomfortable. Also, I like to have the T.V. on while I write my essays which seems to be a setback to some people, but I think it helps me out. I try to not let it distract me too much, but most of the time, television broadens my mind when I write papers. It also helps because it doesn't make me focus on my paper the whole time so my brain doesn't get fried. So what I do is I write a couple sentences, stop and watch T.V. for a little bit then start writing again until my essay is done. Multi-tasking is sometimes beneficial depending on what you're doing.

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  16. Usually when writing a paper, I'll also have the internet open, usually to Facebook and Google, as well as my phone within reach. When I have to write an essay, it has to be in incomplete silence or else I will be easily distracted. As for multitasking, I believe that it is not a myth and we can actually execute multiple tasks at the same time. But doing several tasks at the same time, and doing them well is another thing. The more tasks we do at the same time, the more room for error. If I'm watching a specific show on the television, and one of my friends texts me, I can easily respond to them while listening to whoever is talking on the television, thus multitasking. But whether I comprehend what the person is saying fully probably not.

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  17. I tend to “multi-task” a lot when I want to get work done faster, or to try and stay productive. I would be online with a lot of tabs open – Facebook, YouTube, schools links, and miscellaneous distractions. I get unfocused a lot, and sometimes I do not get my work done [on time]. Multi-tasking is not a bad thing when you really need to get situations settled at a set time, but if you get too distracted you may not get any of your work done at all. We think we may be multi-tasking, but we are really just switching back and forth from what we are doing. Then distractions come into play, and things do not get resolved. The technology world not only allows us to task switch, but it is in demand and highly preferred.

    Are you really multi-tasking when you think you are “multi-tasking”? I think it actually causes you to do work inefficiently. Eventually, the Facebook tab would be open and you will end up chatting up a conversation rather than finish your essay for English on time, having it turned in to the teacher through email, rather than a hard copy in person. If you do not try to multi-task, you might get one thing finished at a time that is done well.

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  18. I tend to multi task only when I know I have time to spare. And by multi task in this case I am referring to doing homework while browsing the web, listening to music, being on my phone and hanging out with my friends. A time that I won't multi task is when I have to finish an assignment that I should have put in a couple hours of work into, that is due in about an hour. I tend to procrastinate and multi tasking is the biggest problem I have when it comes to it. If I try to start an assignment on my computer earlier than when its due it just seems impossible for me to complete. Because I get distracted by everything else. I think I am multi tasking but my work doesn't get done. I think we can multi task in simple task but I know I'm not to efficient when it comes to homework. As a matter of fact right now I was trying to multi task and now I am rushing to finish this blog before my teacher kicks me out. Not very efficient multi tasking I would say...

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  19. I remembering stumbling across an article like this a year ago, talking about how our minds literally aren't capable of doing more than one thing at a time. Something about not being able to process all that information, and how we mistake multi-tasking for just rapid transitioning because we're doing so many things at once it just feels that way. Once I read that, it kind of opened my eyes a little bit and I realized that I don't multi-task at all. I can take a drink of water while looking at my phone, but my brain is either focusing on actually drinking the water or my brain is processing whatever is on my phone, but it's not doing both at the same time.

    When I write essays, I tend to get scatterbrained easily and have to stop several times. I click through different websites or use the bathroom, or just go downstairs and watch TV for a little bit before coming back to my paper. I've never once just sat here and did multiple things at a time. It's kind of weird to think of it that way.

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  20. Usually when I'm writing a paper I'm listening to music. I started to listen to music because before I would do my homework while watching TV. It was too much time consuming because when I heard something that grabbed my attention from the TV, I would stop writing my paper for 20 min. then continued and then stopped again. I would take too many breaks so I would tend to finish my paper later then I expected. Listening to music makes me not pay attention to anything around me. Even though the TV is still in front of me I tend to look up once in a while and for a few seconds. If I been working on my paper for a long period of time I will open a tab and go on Facebook or any other social website. I only tend to do that just to have a small break and not stay on for hours to procrastinate on doing my homework because I know I will regret it later on.

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  21. When I write papers I like to have a lot of things going. I have twitter open I have music blasting and I have the TV on in the background. Not only am I listening to all of these while working on my paper but I have to have my phone by my side now matter what and during homework is not different. So even though I'm doing homework if I get a text I will answer it. Even though most would think all of these things would slow me down it doesn't, in some ways it helps me think and do work faster.

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  22. I like to say that I am good at multitasking. However, I do find that most of my mistakes are made while multitasking. For example, if I am typing homework or texting a friend while talking, I tend to mix up words between the different documents. Multitasking can also make me get distracted. I have definitely learned to not watch television or have social networks open while working on homework or trying to get things done for work too. I find myself with nothing done and hours wasted. But in the same hand, while doing some tasks it helps me focus to have multiple things going on. While writing the schedules for work, it helps me to have a lot of things open and going on around me. Distraction and multitasking all depends on the person and the task at hand.

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  23. While i am typing my essays, I do have a few other things going on at the same time. I like to web browse, have the TV on in the background and sometimes play music softly while i type. I notice that I always take small breaks in between typing sessions that last around ten minutes. That is when i do some web browsing, or watching some TV. I think multitasking aka taking a few breaks from typing your essay can help you relieve some stress.

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  24. I believe that you are in fact capable of multitasking when it comes to certain things. I can listen to music and do homework at the same time, and even hold a conversation if I really needed or wanted too. But there are some things that I do not believe you are capable of doing. The writer above says that there is a guy that is able to read a comic and watch television at the same time which does not make sense to me. I do not believe that you can physically read the comic book and be ale to watch the television all at the same time. I think of multitasking is when you can do multiple things at ONCE. There are times when I cannot multitask at the same time, like studying, I need to peace and quiet so I can give me full attention to my books. Like I said I would not say that multitasking is impossible but there are times when it is harder than others. But he does have a point when he says that "Multitasking leads us to do everything a little bit worse all the time," because you are more than likely not able to give as much attention to two things as you are to one.

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  25. It is true when people multitask they are typically not putting forth full effort in either areas. Splitting their attention on two tasks ends up being less efficient than focusing on one task at a time. Nowadays people do not necessarily multitask but work on multiple projects simultaneously. This also divides our attention and each task is not being carefully attented to. This may be okay if we were talking to our friends on Facebook and looking up some YouTube videos, however, when school work and play or social tasks and work intertwine, then there is a problem. If tasks were done one at a time they might have a better outcome and would not take as long than with the distractions. Giving outselves distractions by doing multiple things at once conditions us to focus less and less. It becomes more difficult to concentrate on one thing for a long period of time. We become accustomed to switching our attention back and forth. The progression in technology makes distractions more prevelant which is good when we are bored, but may be bad in the long run.

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  26. When it comes to multitasking, all we do is half-ass it. We do not put all our thoughts and efforts into what we are doing. Even though multitasking helps us to achieve alot more work in shorter time, our work is not as good as it can be. We only put small amount of effort into each task. Alot of kids, myself including, watch TV while doing homework or listen to music. These are just forms of distraction and we cannot put all our thoughts into our homework. While some people can converse with other people while cooking, reading, doing homework or any sort of activity, if you ask them what they talked about hours later they probably wont be able to remember as well. Some people even go to the extreme to text, call, eat and drink while driving and we not all know how detrimental that is. While multitasking has helped people to do more work in shorter time, it comes with a price in that your work is not as good as it can be.

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  27. When trying to complete important tasks like writing a paper, I mostly do not multitask. On the other hand, I multitask for much more casual things that do not count for points. I am listening to music while I'm reading a magazine or cutting coupons while watching dramas. It all just seems natrual until you really think about it. This multitasking thing has just become second nature to this society. It's actually quite hard to not multitask. When you are driving you are either listening to music or arecorded book, or talking to someone. It doesn't seem to take a lot out of us to mutitask. And if we are not multitasking it just causes us to get distracted.

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  28. You caught me. I am actually writing a paper and responding to this blog. As the world has become more complicated than ever before, multitasking indeed is required. And it is anything but good because it make us thin out our limited mental resources. A great deal of words, pictures, videos from the screen and sounds and music from the computer or ipods in fact distract our attention. It is true even when we dont sense that we are distracted and it is evident in accidents involving drivers texting while driving. So I think when it comes to important tasks such as driving, doing revision or writing a term paper, we should put everything else aside except the task at hand.

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  29. Unfortunately, I am not writing a paper as I am answering this question. However, I am listening to a professor babble on about something irrelevant about the class, something about orange juice or rocks, not sure anymore. I wouldn't say that I am remotely good at multitasking but I do believe people are capable of multitasking, but only to an extent. People can talk on the phone and answer a text message, however, those people probably do not completely comprehend what their friend had been saying to while talking on the other line. But only because they technically only require for you to use one hand at once. However, you could not text and talk while you're driving. Well you could, but without some sort of stress because they almost crashed into the car in front of them. That is what I mean when multitasking only occurs to an extent. Generally, when I've seen people text and drive they loose concentration because they are constantly looking down. As a child I thought I was able to multitask.
    When I was little I thought I could multitask, watching tv and doing my homework, but in actuality I just couldn't sit down in silence and complete assignments for school. It was just simply boring and my parents couldn't understand why i had to and I wasn't able to explain it to them. In the end, people are always distracted either way if they are multitasking, one task is always slightly neglected.

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