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Friday, July 10, 2015

Can work be completed through Multitasking?


Many of us try to balance and perform many activities at the same time in our lives.  We call it multitasking to save time but are we really causing more harm than good in our lives doing this?  When you switch your concentration “from one thing to another, there’s something called a switchcost…Your brain stumbles a bit, and it requires time to get back to where it was before it was distracted.. it can take your brain 15 to 25 minutes to get back to where it was after stopping to check an email.” (Heid, 2015). 


A 2007 study, found that computer users go through a “task switching” where  “they run programs simultaneously to support multiple tasks, including word processing, financial analysis, searching, browsing, and communications [which can cause the end user to experience] “task suspension”” (Iqbal and Horvitz, 2007). 

This task suspension happens when “a computer user may be drawn to switch from a spreadsheet program to their email application after hearing or seeing an alert about incoming email or receiving an instant message” (Iqbal and Horvitz, 2007).  When a computer user stops one task to start another task, the computer user may not return to their suspended task. 

They may start another task and another before realizing that they need to complete other tasks that they had already started.   It not only happens with applications that are used in the workplace but also devices, for example, the tablets, smart phones, and laptops.

The Multitask Enabler

The society has found itself to be always connected to a constant supply of data but not enough time to process all of it for information that they need.  The computer user has been found to be dependent on this connection—constant flow of data.  Their dependency, as a 2011 study found, caused them to “have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it” (Sparrow,Liu, and Wegner, 2011). 

Since we are always connected to the Internet, another study has found that  we “are happy to risk forgetting information [we] can easily find–or find again–online” through our tablets, smart phones, and laptops   (Kapersky Lab, 2015).  But what happens when your connection is broken?  What happens when your smartphone breaks and cannot be repaired?  What happens if your tablet needs an upgrade?  With some companies, the upgrade or the repair means buying a brand new device.  Buying new devices to keep in touch with the multitude of data out there to process into information means that there would be a lot of unusable devices.

Walt Kelly’s “Pogo Possum” cartoon, used on an Earth Day poster in 1970, could be used to describe our situation with these mobile devices.  As can be seen in the picture in the following link, “We have met the enemy, and he is us” at  

We have a lot of mobile devices cluttering up our desks, briefcases, and our lives.  If they do not work or do not have enough functions, we dispose of (recycle) them.  Needless to say, we still become slaves to them due to our workloads in our jobs having us try to do so much in a 24 hour window.  We end up depending on our mobile devices.  Or do we depend on them and how much? Do you agree that we will become like humans glued to our social media devices in “Wall-e”, a 2008 American computer-animated science-fiction comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures?  Please see a scene below.


Can you multitask at work?

You are invited to participate in a survey that is designed to explore multitasking abilities that researchers, students, and practitioners in the field of Library and Information Science perform in their workplaces.  Participation in this survey should take about 10-20 minutes of your time.  Participation will involve responding to 11 questions about working by multitasking.  The study is being conducted by Lorette Weldon’s Computer Savviness Blog panel.  Results will be used in an animated asynchronous conference to share the panel’s  findings with you who are researchers, students and practitioners in the field of Library and Information Science.  It will help to contribute to the body of research discussing multitasking in the digital age.

Participation in this project is strictly voluntary.  Your responses will be identified by a Computer Savviness Blog panel representative and will be able to be viewed through an animated asynchronous conference .  Please view the following video about the animated asynchronous conference that will be produced from your survey responses discussed by the Computer Savviness Blog Panel.  Then, please fill out the survey that follows. 

Please answer the following survey.


Heid, M. (May 13, 2015).  “You Asked: Are My Devices Messing with my Brain?”, Time.

Iqbal, S.T. and Horvitz, E. (April 28-May 3, 2007).  “Disruption and Recovery of Computing Tasks: Field Study, Analysis, and Directions.”  CHI 2007.

Kaspersky Lab (June 2015).  “The Rise and Impact of Digital Amnesia”. Retrieved from

Sparrow,B.; Liu, J.; Wegner, D.M. (August 5, 2011). “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips”.  Science. Retrieved from

About the Author

Lorette Weldon is the teacher and creator of the online course, Microsoft SharePoint for Non-IT Users (Enroll today at ).  She is also an author(