Continuous Partial Attention

Another informative section of the Sarah Perez post mentioned by me was about continuous partial attention. I thought I understood this condition but the much-revised and authoritative wiki page by Linda Stone describes how continuous partial attention is different from multi-tasking that I had assumed was a synonym.

Linda gives an excellent discussion although why she commits the typographical sin of setting whole paragraphs in italics is surprising. I eventually found a more concise definition of continuous partial attention on the father of all wikis, Ward Cunningham’s C2:

An activity or mental state of accommodating multiple information streams. A survival strategy for today’s youth. An opportunistic strategy similar to, but not the same as, multitasking (which is more about productivity/efficiency than scanning for opportunity).

A term coined by LindaStone

Note that one side effect is "knowing about a lot of things, but not knowing a lot about any one thing".

I’ll be more careful in future when describing students as multi-tasking – a term used commonly in computer science and hence in the forefront of my mind.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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