Fragmentation of media tasks on a laptop computer : moment-by-moment analysis of task-switching and writing performance
- Traditional media activities -- watching a movie, listening to a song, reading a news story, writing an essay -- have typically included a one-to-one mapping of media activity and media device. Modern digital technologies, however, have altered the context in which the majority of media content is experienced: today much of our mediated lives are spent on one or two devices -- laptops, tablets, smart phones -- that centralize and permit rapid switching between a wide variety of content. Activities that were once completed -- and studied -- in isolation are now fragmented and re-woven in a form of media multitasking that takes place on a single screen, engaged in a context very different from traditional modes and likely to influence processing of message content and performance on mediated tasks. The present field study includes a two-stage approach to better understanding the process, not just the outcomes, of completing media tasks in the modern context of interwoven experiences of different content. The first stage is an exploration of this behavior while working on writing tasks, through direct monitoring of media use over an extended period in natural settings. The second stage sought to evaluate how writing task performance is impacted by the fragmentation inherent to laptop computer use, testing hypotheses about task performance derived from the psychological literature on cognitive task-switching. Results revealed that writing tasks are completed in short bursts of time (median = 51 seconds) and small blocks of composition (median = 10 words added or removed in a single burst), with writing sessions consisting of jumbled sequences of time spent writing, time spent on content relevant to the task at hand, and time spent on wholly unrelated media stimuli. The impact of this process on writing performance is moderated by several structural and content-related parameters (e.g., duration of writing segments, time away from the document, frequency of switches, relatedness of content accessed prior to a writing segment, and interactions between these factors), and dependent upon the metric of performance considered (e.g., readability of writing, words added, active editing while writing, deletion of previously written text). Implications for writing strategy and instruction, as well as the need for modern effects researchers to observe media use in its full, fragmented context, are discussed.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Cummings, James J
|Stanford University, Department of Communication.
|Reeves, Byron, 1949-
|Reeves, Byron, 1949-
|Statement of responsibility
|James J. Cummings.
|Submitted to the Department of Communication.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2016.
- © 2016 by James John Cummings
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
Also listed in
Loading usage metrics...