Modern gadgets of communication such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets areas a result of advanced technology. These gadgets are both portable and user-friendly features that enable users to multi-task. While research on the individual concurrent media multitasking behavior looks like a fascinating area of study, only a few researchers have dedicated their time and effort to this task. The focus of this paper is to analyze the article, “Media Multitasking Behaviour: Concurrent Television and Computer Usage” by Brasel and Gips (2011). Besides summarizing the article, they also intend to highlight areas of agreement and/or disagreement with the article. Potential discussion questions will also be provided.
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In their article, Brasel and Gips (2011) explore individual media multitasking behavior. Specifically, the authors are concerned with individual concurrent television and computer usage.
The study seeks to answer the following research questions:
- What is the individual allocation of attention across diverse screens?
- Is individual visual attention to television different from that of a computer?
- How frequently do users switch between media?
- Are media users aware of their multitasking behavior?
- Do variables like age affect media multitasking behavior and patterns?
Forty-two participants were recruited from campus to take part in the research study. The participants consisted of both students and staff. The experiment started with a 30-minute protocol that required researchers to record participants’ multitasking behavior. Every participant was allowed into a room with a television turned on, and a computer connected to the internet. Participants were free to use the two media as they pleased. Participants’ behavior was recorded on two video cameras. Participants also recorded their daily media consumption patterns on survey forms.
The study findings revealed that participants spent more time on the computer (68.4%) than on TV (30.6%). Each participant spent an average of 27.5 in the observation room, during which time they made an average of 120 switches between the two media. The researchers noted a tendency among participants to underestimate their switching behavior. The switching habit was more prevalent among younger participants.
This research finding echoes the results of a study by Foehr (2006), where the researcher reported a high prevalence of media multitasking among younger users. Nearly 80% of the youngsters surveyed by Foehr’s study confessed to media multitasking at varying degrees.
I also concur with the authors’ observation that respondents spent more time on the computer than watching TV. This is in line with the findings of a research study by Rosman (2013), who reports that in 2013, American adults spent 4 hours and 31 minutes daily watching television. On the other hand, Rosman (2013) reports that American adults spent over 5 hours on the internet, be it on their smartphones or computers.
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Some of the discussion questions that the writer has come up with regarding the article under review are as follows:
- Given that the researchers were only interested in comparing two media activities, would the rate of multitasking have increased if they had made a clear distinction of the various internet-based activities such as twitting, facebooking, checking email and web surfing?
- Would the user switching behaviour change if the study involved more media alternatives like the radio, magazines, and newspapers?
- Would increased exposure time to the two media affect the respondent’s switching habits?
The article by Brasel and Gips (2011) is both informative and mind provoking. It sheds light on user media multitasking behavior. However, it would have been interesting to observe the effect of additional media alternatives on users’ switching behavior. Moreover, I am curious to find out what would have been the effect of user switching behavior if the researchers had distinguished individual media activities like web surfing and checking email.
Brasel, S. A., & Gips, J. (2011). Media multitasking behaviour: concurrent television and computer usage. Cyberpsychol Behavioural Social Network, 14(9),527-34.
Foehr, U. G. (2006). Media Multitasking Among American Youth: Prevalence, Predicators and Pairings. Web.
Rosman, K. (2013). In digital era, what does ‘watching TV’ even mean? Web.