What is it about digital technology – our phones, computers, the internet, tv – that captures our attention so thoroughly? What does this do to our memory, attention span, creativity, ability to work for extended time periods and think deeply? Is “Addiction” a valid word to use in regards to the relationships we have? The resources below address these issues in a variety of ways:
One important question is: How does digital technology and media impact our education? Technology and media give us incredible access to the world. However, the very act of bringing a computer into the classroom may be detrimental to learning because of the distraction it provides. Studies show that multitasking is less productive than sustained focus. In the words of an Ivy League computer science professor: The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom (The New Yorker, 2014). Related studies and articles below.
- – Read: “Facebook and texting made me do it: Media-induced task-switching while studying” – Computers in Human Behavior, 2012
- – Read: Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career, New Studies Suggest – Forbes, 2014
- – Read: Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction – New York Times, 2010
- – Read: Media Multi-Tasking ‘of benefit’ – BBC, 2012
- – Read: A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes With A Laptop – The Scientific American, 2014
- -Read: Teaching the Smartphone Generation: How Cognitive Science Can Improve Learning in Law School – Maine Law Review, 2013
- – Read: Is Google Making Us Stupid? – The Atlantic, Nicholas Carr – 2008
- -Listen: Nicholas Carr on NPR’s Fresh Air to discuss his longer related work, The Shallows (2010)
- – Listen: The Myth of Multitasking – NPR, 2013
- Read: The ways that technology have improved education around the globe: Education in the Digital Age – The Scientific American, 2013
The knowledge that multitasking is detrimental to absorbing new information and accomplishing tasks is not vigorously disputed. However, the question of “addiction” remains. Are we addicted to our devices? Neuroscientists argue that, unlike technology like television and radio, smartphones are uniquely formatted to pull and hold our attention. While we know they may be “bad” for us, in the long term as well as critically, during high-focused tasks like driving, we somehow can’t resist. Why not?
- – Listen: The Diane Rehm Show featuring Matt Richtel, author of A Deadly Wandering (11:26:52 – 11:31:52)– The Diane Rehm Show, 2014
- -Read: Attention Must Be Paid: Sunday Book Review of Matt Richtel’s A Deadly Wandering – New York Times, 2014
- -Read: The Evolution of Internet Addiction – Addictive Behaviors, 2015
- -Read: Publications from Dr. David Strayer’s applied cognition lab – seminal work on multi-tasking and distracted driving – 2001 – 2014
- –Read: A positive look at digital media’s effects, with related studies – Kids, Tech and Those Shrinking Attention Spans – Huffington Post, 2014
- -Read: Looking for help with wandering attention? Try these different computer applications that help you maximize your time online.
- – Watch: The Paradox of Choice – Ted Talk, Barry Swartz, 2005 – for tech specific, start at 6:00
The long term effects of digital technology on our attention are not conclusive. However, the idea of missing “downtime” has pervaded digital technology critiques. Turns out, our brains do better with time to be “bored,” in order to go perform necessary internal processing and to produce creative thought. Using technology has actually shortened our finite attention spans. However, technology can enable technology, as well, when used wisely.
- -Read: Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime – The New York Times, 2010
- -Read: Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime – Scientific American, 2013
- -Read: You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than A Goldfish – Time, 2015
- -Read: Why You Should Unplug: Taking The Occasional Digital Fast Could Improve Your Focus –US Money, 2013
- Watch: Creativity and technology are not mutually exclusive – How art, technology and design inform creative leaders Ted Talk, John Maeda, 2012