Attention in the presence of multiple media devices

In our ever growing society of technology and digital-based behaviour, we are constantly looking towards our media devices for the solution. These devices can be a blessing, enabling us to efficiently research something, be guided via maps to a destination and most importantly, to communicate with our friends and help us in many innumerable other ways. The public however, is constantly overusing these technologies because they are now such an integral part of our lives, these digital technologies, and our reliance on them has created many distractions for modern life. Our increased media consumption and digital lifestyles has reduced the ability for consumers to focus for extended periods of time.distracted-texting300

A prime example is the education system, with many teachers noting that students lose focus in the presence of these devices, impacting their will to intellectually engage in the classroom. The idea of intelligence being relative to attention is something that challenged me to think much more critically about that idea. Is the presence of multiple media devices honestly so damaging to our attention that it affects our will to learn? So I set up a small test, to view the attention of participants in relation to identifying articulation mistakes made by myself reading out an original story.

 

I started off by choosing two participants, of the same age, and bringing them to my room, in which the media devices were set up. Reid, and Bill were the two subjects of research, both in their 2nd year of Commerce at UOW. I informed the participants that all I wanted them to do was to carefully listen to myself read an essay I had written, in the presence of other media devices (TV and mobile phone)- and raise their hand every time I incorrectly pronounced a word. I must also note that the TV was placed on mute to avoid confusion when articulating words. These particular words were identified before the study began. They however, did not know, that their attention movements would be continuously recorded throughout the test. The main aim of this test was less to see if they could recognise a majority of the articulation mistakes, but rather to identify how many times their attention drifted.

 

 

The results of this test were quite as I had expected. For the first one and a half minutes in both instances of the study, participants were engaged and routinely recognised articulation mistakes. Their attention at this point had not switched to either their phone or the TV. As I continued further and further into the paper, their concentration levels lapsed and so too did their levels of attention. The results show that Reid identified the articulation mistakes much more than Bill, which is not surprising considering Bill turned his attention to the TV and/or phone much more than Reid. A Microsoft study notes that due to multiple media devices being in our presence each day, our levels of encoding and decoding tasks have been heightened (Microsoft, 2015). Though in this case, despite being an informal task, the inability to recognise significant mispronunciations of words in the last 2 paragraphs by both participants suggested that one’s level of media distractions is closely related to one’s ability to effectively learn. Higher the level of distractions, lower the willingness to learn.

 

Clifford Nass, a co-author of ‘cognitive control in media multitaskers’, concluded that “heavy media multitaskers are distracted by the multiple streams of media they are consuming, or, alternatively, that those who infrequently multitask are more effective at volitionally allocating their attention in the face of distractions.” If we are to believe this conclusion, then it would be fair to suggest that both participants in the study, Reid and Bill, both have a high level of media devices in their presence each day.

 

This test gave a small indication as to the effects of media distractions on learning. It is something I would love to research further, with a bigger pool of participants, and a much more carefully thought out design to help address the main research question.

Learning with new technologies, and multiple devices, is somewhat of a double edged sword. They have an ability to stunt our attention to learn, though their vast power in relation to productively research is something that is widely recognised. Maybe what Microsoft said is true? Maybe we do have the capability to encode and decode information much more efficiently after being in the presence of multiple devices? Though I believe this is only true for certain situations, and after watching the two participants undergo the small test today, I have good reason to back my suggestion.

 

References:

  1. Ophir, E, Nass, C, Wagner, A, 2009, Cognitive control in media multitaskers, Stanford University, Available online at http://www.pnas.org/content/106/37/15583.full.pdf
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Leave your cameras in your pocket: leave the players alone

 

For many using your phone in a public area is a constant occurrence. It is a way to keep connected with different interests all around the world. The evolution of smartphones has enabled them to be a multipurpose tool; one tool that is constantly in our grasps. The role of the camera on mobile devices is very important, and has increased our use of public photography. It is a tool that empowers the public to share videos and photos with people all around and create related discussion. Witnessing the impact of public footage in America regarding the shootings of African Americans by police, can give just a small indication of just how powerful a device it actually can be. But why is it that a technology once used for capturing and saving precious memories, can now at times be a corrupted method of bribery and extortion?

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Let me set the scene. It’s a Saturday night and you’re in the city with the rest of your teammates celebrating the end of the footy season. This is the culmination and celebration of what you’ve worked towards all season. The effort of those early morning starts, extended fitness sessions, and mentally challenging game situations is now passed you and its time to relax. You have a few beers… and a few more… and a few more, buts it’s all a bit of fun because you’re hanging out with your mates and having a good time. You’re feeling pretty drunk, so you decide its time to go home. You stumble out of the establishment and struggle to the nearest taxi, around 100m down the road. You witness some people with their phones out, but it’s all a bit of a blur and you think nothing more of it.

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It’s the morning, you’re feeling pretty groggy, you get out of bed and go and turn on the TV, and to your horror, a drunken video of you has been given to the media for all to see. The one night a year you can celebrate is now a night you wish had never happened.

All too often we see things like this happen to high profile sports stars all around the world. People considered being the elite and respected in society are now paraded as the poster boys for alcohol-fuelled intolerance. But is it really their fault?

These sportsmen and women are regular people just like the rest of us, so why is it assumed that they should be exempt from having a good time like the rest of the public. Certainly there are cases where these stars are in the wrong, and thus should face the consequences. Examples like Joel Monohan… need I say any more? If these celebrities are drunk and do something illegal, than sure use the photo or video as evidence just like it would be used for any person in a similar illegal situation. Though for someone to use footage of an intoxicated sports star just to further scrutinise him or her in a public environment, is nothing more than cowardly.

The increased public appetite for celebrity misdemeanours has led to a surge in the amount of public footage sent in to media organisations. These forms of media are encouraged by the media outlets, and are good pieces of evidence to build a story around. Theses outlets are willing to pay good money for the evidence, and this has been recognised by the public and makes bystanders much more aware of who is around them and what they’re doing. In a roundabout way the media outlets have unmeasurable reporters out there looking for a good story! Recently we saw the example of Parramatta Eels player Corey Norman, who was blackmailed for $30,000 by a woman who was threatening to leak an explicit sex tape of him. The issue was reported to the NRL integrity unit, and the matter was resolved.

The biggest issue with these extortion attempts is the legal side of these images, which are consistently overshadowed by the related evidence. The ‘Arts and Law: Street Photography’ information sheet explains that, “the test of whether the publication of a photograph is defamatory is: does the publication lower the public’s estimation of the person portrayed, expose the person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or cause him or her to be shunned or avoided.” Photography or videos of this nature surely defame the individuals involved, however the legality is forgotten if there is an issue in the footage that implicates the individual or individuals.

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These sports stars, although of high social status, should not be treated differently to any other person in society. They work hard for most months of the year to perform at the best of their ability so they can entertain and create enjoyment for the public. Surely they can be forgiven if they want to let their hair out for that one available month in the year. The increased tolerance of public photography has only discouraged sports stars from going into a public environment to celebrate. There needs to be a social change, to accept these high-profile individuals as regular people who strive their hardest to please the sport’s loving public in their respective sports. We shouldn’t be aiming to exploit at every available opportunity those same sport’s stars if by chance they err at times. Pity help ourselves if we came under that same “mantra”!!

 

References:

  1. Walter, B. (2010). Monaghan faces sack over Mad Monday dog photo disgrace. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/monaghan-faces-sack-over-mad-monday-dog-photo-disgrace-20101104-17fx1.html
  2. Arts and Law Centre of Australia, ‘Street Photographers Rights’, Australian Federal Government
  3. Logue, M. (2016). Police investigate Norman extortion attempt. [online] Dailytelegraph.com.au. Available at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/teams/eels/corey-norman-is-the-victim-of-an-alleged-extortion-attempt-that-has-become-a-police-investigation/news-story/b0d9bae2b572db974edbe75675cc27b6

The first cinema experience

I walk into the building, hand in hand with my mum. I gaze around. To the left, adults crowd around, fixing their eyes to a small screen of movie trailers. To the right, a dispersed group of rogue children run rampage amongst the various game machines, all unsupervised, behaviour unrestricted. In the middle, a large section of parents, grandparents and middle aged children all congregate impatiently, all ready to splash money on their unappreciative children. We collect our ticket and popcorn and make our way towards the cinema. We both sit, the smell of popcorn masks all other odours, I slump back into my chair and eventually the movie begins. A screen the size of a 100 TV’s surrounds me, the speakers blast out a sound that captivates me, and story …..well I don’t really remember the story, but the ending was good, so it must’ve been a good movie. I leave the establishment; I’m satisfied, impressed, and excited to tell everyone of my new experience.

This was the first time I visited the cinemas.

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The experience of going to the cinema is an enjoyable for all. It combines a love for fiction and storytelling, and the aspect of relaxation all in a well recognised social environment. The cinemas are a place where all ages can come together to experience all different genres of fiction. In my own regard, the idea of attending the cinemas is foreign to me. The development of new streaming technologies, and movie websites, has left many, including myself, questioning the option of going to the movies, when all your favourite films can be found on a computer in the comfort of your own home. For some, a trip to the cinema is a common occurrence, an event that takes no time or planning, however for others there are many constraints, which limit the amount times, an individual can attend the cinemas. As seen in Hagerstrand’s paper…. These constraints fall under 3 categories, capability, coupling, and authority.

Coupling constraints refers to the need to be in one particular place for a given length of time, often in interaction with other people. There are time factors internally- in the cinema- and externally- outside of the cinema- that have a huge impact on whether or not you can attend the cinemas. In regards to the cinemas, the audience must analyse both the delegated time slots, and the running time of movies to assess the availability of attending. A movie with a long running time, or a late time slot leaves poised to decide if pursuing the movie experience is truly worth all the effort. In the case of our own lives, the movie set times impact how we plan our day, and inevitably we work out these plans around the awareness of watching a movie. Personally, growing up in a country town 60kms from the nearest cinema, careful time planning would have to be taken to watch a movie, and so in many cases we would not go. Possibly this is one of the reasons I don’t have a keen interest in the movies, it was rarely feasible to attend.

The coupling constraint would be the biggest factor that reduces how often we attend this establishment.

Capability constraints refer to the limitations, on human movement due to biological or physical factors. The capability constraints have aspects that are closely related to those of coupling constraints and these both supplement each other in many ways. For an audience attending the cinema, you will need some form of transport to reach the destination, and if you have limited or no transport, than the chances of going to watch a movie are very low. However, if you have some kind of capability constraint that impairs you, but you are willing to take the time to reach the cinemas then more time planning must go into your coupling constraints. For me, reaching the movies wasn’t difficult as my parents had a car and were willing to drive, if the circumstances satisfied.

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An authority constraint is an area that is controlled by certain people or institutions that set limits on its access to particular individuals or groups. For an establishment like a cinema, there are no realistic constraints that apply in this case. It opens at around 8:30-9am and closes around midnight, depending on the running time of the movie in the final time slot of the night. Not many people would consider seeing a movie in the early hours of the morning, unless however, it is a special screening or a premiere.

For many a decision on whether or not to attend the movies does not fall under any of these constraints. Surely these problems exist when making the decision, but most of the factors that affect the decision making process are certainly social. As similar in my case, many are overwhelmed by the high capabilities of streaming services and thus do not need to attend the movies. For others, it can depend on what movie is showing, if their friends are attending or if they are in a financial state to afford it. These constraints are issues, however the socio-economic issues far outweigh these constraints.

 

References:

  1. Corbett, J, 2001, Torsten Hägerstrand: Time Geography, UC Santa Barbara