The multiple tabs of attention

In beginning to write this blog post, my attention has wandered about three times in the last five minutes. Right now I can’t even remember what I was thinking about.

Gen Z has been conditioned to a decreased attention span. It’s no wonder with the way we use technology, and our brains’ attention span is now described as something akin to all the tabs that we have open on our devices. The evolvement of humans means that we are constantly adapting to our environments and have hence changed our attention span to match the demands of our technological, information saturated landscape. According to Microsoft’s study of attention spans (2015), the average human attention span has decreased from twelve seconds in 2000 to nine seconds in 2015. Thus, the statement that our attention span is the same as that of a goldfish is actually true. Technology use is decreasing this attention span across the board, however it is particularly prevalent in the younger generation who is using technology much more than older generations.

Of course, this would vary amongst individuals. With our attention spans being that short it’s quite an amazing feat that the population still manages to follow through with huge projects such as thesis’ at universities or large creative projects.

Microsoft’s study broke attention down into three different types, as it’s impossible to assume that we all us the same type of attention for every activity in our lives.

  • Sustained (prolonged focus) – Maintaining prolonged focus during repetitive activities (Microsoft 2015)
  • Selective (avoiding distraction) – Maintaining response in the face of distracting or competing stimuli (Microsoft 2015)
  • Alternating (efficiently switching between tasks) – Shifting attention between tasks demanding different cognitive skills (Microsoft 2015)

The study found the top factors that impact attention to be:

  • Media consumption
  • Social media use
  • Technology adoption rate
  • Multi-screening behaviour

The way that society uses technology and social media is severely affecting our attention spans when it comes to sustained attention and selective attention. The sheer availability of stimuli that is available by just using one screen is enough to distract anyone from sustaining attention for one activity, let alone the factor of bringing other screens into the equation, such as having your phone in front of you on the desk whilst working on a computer.

For alternating attention, however, our technology use has positively impacted this in training and developing our brains to multi-task. Multi-tasking has become the most efficient and used way for people to complete tasks by jumping between a couple of different tasks at the one time. Overcoming boredom and repetitiveness is difficult when attempting to stay on one task for a long period of time, therefore multi-tasking can overcome this by keeping the brain active and stimulated through switching between different activities.

Brain researcher Jean-Philippe Lachaux delivered a talk on attention and the neural processes involved in different cognitive activities related to attention.

Lachaux discusses visual attention, which was the focus of the small task I put together to test attention spans. After talking to someone about the subject material of class whilst their phones were in front of them, I proceeded to read out one of the reading’s posted on Moodle for two minutes and monitored to see how many times  they checked their phone throughout the whole conversation. This test found that they checked their phone, on average, every 7 seconds while I was talking about the subject at first. When I began the reading the participant spent over half the time I was talking concentrated on their phone.

Lachaux also brings up the point of focusing on what’s important to us and what our brains prioritise when it comes to directing our attention. There is so much content on the internet and in magazines about prioritising tasks, with articles attempting to teach us how to most efficiently prioritise  to get everything done.

The problem lies within it seeming that everything in our lives is a priority and we are apparently running out of attention.

Sources

Gausby, A 2015, Attention Spans, Consumer Insights Microsoft Canada, pg. 6 – 39

Regulation: The Do’s and Don’ts of media use

 

We encounter regulation signs everywhere we go. Signs all over the roads telling us what speed to drive, signs on streets and in car parks telling us we can only park here for one hour in the middle of the day, signs in restaurants and bars telling us not to smoke in the area.

Admittedly there are many of signs that we don’t pay a lot of attention to. Obviously road signs are of more importance to us than others, including signs about the use of media in public spaces. The other day I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room on my phone only to look up and see a ‘No mobile phone use’ sign on the wall opposite me. Looking around the waiting room, there were only one or two people who weren’t on their phones.

Why don’t we pay attention to these signs about phone usage when we’re out in public and abide by regulations? I believe that society pays attention to signs when we know the consequences of not abiding by the rules and are aware of the dangers or threats in certain environments. It is well-known that radio signals from phones can be detrimental at petrol stations and spark flames, therefore there is limited, if any, phone use from customers. Phone use is also not allowed on planes, in cinemas and in hospitals where the signals may interrupt the functioning of medical technology, such as pacemakers. In a doctors waiting room, however, there is unclear reason as to why people can’t use their phones.

In situations where the reason not to use your phone is unclear, it is more of an issue of appropriateness than anything else. Mobile phone etiquette is something that parents will now have to teach their children, being so prevalent, and there are certain environments or times when it is not polite to be on your phone, however this is not conclusively stated. For example,  it’s polite to keep your phone in your purse or pocket during a wedding reception. however it is not completely banned.

Regulations around technology are necessary due to the sheer prevalence of technology in our lives. The majority of signs are negative, telling us what not to do. With signs telling us not to use technology in certain environments without proper enforcement but merely as a prompt it suggests that we are still trying to separate technology and media in some aspects of our lives and preventing it from seeping into everything that we interact with.

The artistic world is one where mobile phone use is frowned upon or simply not allowed. Art galleries discourage the use of phones and don’t allow pictures to be taken for copyright reasons. If attending a talk from someone the same rules in cinemas apply. Interestingly, there is a growing number of musical artists who are addressing mobile phone use at live concerts and performances.

It is commonplace to see the moshpit filled with cellphones raised high up in the air to record the experience. People have now even started bringing iPads, thus these devices are creating a blockage of technology between the audience and the performers. People hold varying views about this increase of technology at concerts. It’ is normal to wish to document an amazing experience or share it with friends, however if you’ve paid that much for a live concert you should soak up the experience and for once enjoy music without the presence of technology.

One of a few celebrities beginning to place locks on phones at concerts, Alicia Keys provided special pouches for her audience to each lock their phone whilst attending her performance.

Matt Corby also made a point against the use of technology when attending a live concert during an interview:

In this case, the artists definitely have a point. Our iPhones should not be preventing connection between audiences and an experience. In a technology obsessed culture, rules and regulations surrounding technology are justified in assisting us to live in the moment and experience something ourselves rather than through a screen.

Pokemon Go Home: Public Phone Usage

People using their phones out in public is nothing new and has increased largely in terms of social acceptance. Ten years ago it was rude to have your mobiles out while involved in a conversation. Now we all hold our phones in our hands when we’re socialising, even at formal events like weddings.

This normalcy and frequency of public phone usage is changing the world’s social landscape. Technology is seeping into every form of socialisation and group activities, replacing verbal exchange between parties by locking our eyes and attention to a screen. Where before dinner was strictly no screens allowed, the television now plays in the background while we eat at the table in silence. Particularly noticeable in the younger demographic, we now get together at cafe’s with a group of friends and all sit scrolling through Facebook.

Our lives can seemingly be lived through our phones, with an app happy generation progressively finding an app for pretty much everything. Tinder was a real break through in what-the-fuck-is-society-turning-into technology. Never fear awkward encounters, small talk about the weather or actually chatting to a real life human: now we have an app for when you’re horny so you can basically shop for a hook-up. Add to cart. Swipe left. Or right. I don’t know. That’s going straight in my basket.

We all knew the progression of our technology crazed society would bring some pretty stupid innovations; enter Pokemon Go where you *Go* around chucking balls at things. Get it? Because it’s Pokemon on-the-go. Genius. Make no mistake, it’s all virtual; anyone with real balls probably doesn’t play this dumb-ass game.

First off, here’s some stats to educate ourselves about this goldmine of an app (Expanded Ramblings 2016)

  • On its busiest day Pokemon Go had 25 million users
  • 60% of users are male, 40% female
  • The Japanese police issued 727 tickets for Pokemon Go related offences within the first two weeks of its release
  • Users have walked an estimated 4.5 billion kilometres catching Pokemon
  • There are a currently estimated 30 million users

Congrats, Pokemon Go developers. Your app has successfully sent humans chasing after little animals that look like various forms of the numbered experiments from Lilo & Stitch over the farthest distance Neptune has ever been from the sun. Apart from that there is little evidence to have us believe it has done much more.

In an argument for Pokemon Go, the app aims to meld the virtual world with the physical by bringing the game into the natural environment and getting everyone outside to breathe in the fresh oxygen. What a feat. However, instead of going somewhere and soaking in the view, Pokemon Go makes you look at the scenery that you’re standing in on the screen in front of you, completely defeating the purpose of venturing outside.

On that same note, before Pokemon Go we were at least keeping morons with technology indoors. Now they’re running around outside where there are people trying to do actual things.Our favourite cafes and hang outs are being turned into Poke` stops with people milling around, taking up all the seats, blocking all the entrances and generally disrupting the peace as they break their phone screens in an attempt to win whatever the hell the prize is. Peel your eyes away from your Pikachu’s and observe the following behaviour that is consistent pretty much everywhere amongst Pokemon Goers:

The game is pretty much one giant accident waiting to happen. On a lovely spring day I decided to soak up the sunshine and was jogging past a Poke` hot spot only to be rebuffed by a large group of idiots with their heads down, eyes on their phones and blocking the entire pathway. Another day I was driving along to see a man cycling down the side of the road right near the same hot spot, swiping away on his phone as cars drove right beside him. Do not Pokemon and pedal, kids. There’s already been a ridiculous amount of car accidents with people stopping unexpectedly, jumping out of vehicles and swerving onto the opposite side of the road in their attempt to ‘catch them all’. The only thing catching here is idiocy. Before we know it people will be wading into oceans and walking off cliffs after these little monsters. I see a law suit on the horizon.

It’s a sad day where someone says “gym” and you’re not sure if they mean fitness or trying to battle someone for a Pokemon. Rest assured if someone starts creeping on you in public with their phone as if they’re filming you, you’re probably sitting on Poliwag, or Poliwhirl, or Poliwrath. Until the next craze, ya’ll have fun flinging fireballs at imaginary creatures while we take a serious look at what the world has become.

Sources:

Smith, Craig 2016, Pokemon Go Statistics, Expanded Ramblings, viewed 20th September 2016

 

 

Cinema Club

When casting my mind back I found it difficult to remember the last time I visited the cinema. As a broke university student who can’t afford nice things, cinema trips do fall into the category of unnecessary wants. Now I really only go if it’s an organised group event and a movie that I really want to see.

On that note, is cinema attendance something that’s changing because of the Internet? Originally the theatre was the only place where you could see a movie when it was first released. Now movies are easily pirated and uploaded on several websites for people to download or stream at home. Does the theatre offer enough in terms of quality and experience for people to bypass this option?

Let’s be real, we all stream our favourite T.V shows and movies. Sometimes it’s easy; type in Game of Thrones and you’ll be given a plethora of websites to choose from. Other times it’s completely frustrating and not at all worth it. We’re all familiar with those instances when you go to sit down and watch something and an hour later you’re still loading a movie after going through several links that ask you to purchase a subscription to their website and have closed down several “Congratulations you’ve won!” ads. In this situation you’re definitely not the winner as when the movie finally loads it’s poor, blurry quality and you just can’t ignore the fact that the sound is out of sync with the footage for the next two hours.

Hagerstrand (1970) identified three constraints that can be applied when going to the movies:

  • Coupling constraints – Limits on where and when the activity takes place. This applies to how long movies are screened in cinemas and people’s proximity to a cinema. People may not have the time to see a movie they want while it is showing or those living in rural areas may not have access to a cinema they can easily get to.
  • Capability constraints – limits on human movement due to physical or biological factors, for example sleeping, eating and financial resources. Price is a large factor in the decision process of whether or not to go as the cost of seeing a single movie is gradually increasing.
  • Authority constraints– limits on when activities can or cannot take place or be located, imposed by external parties constraint controls the behaviour of people participating in an activity. Movie goers are expected to stay in allotted seats, turn off phones and stay silent throughout the showing, which may sway people to viewing it in their own home instead.

The last movie I attended was the final ‘Hunger Games’ with my sister last Summer. A student ticket at Hoyts was almost $20, and extras such as popcorn and drinks tend to bring the price up close to $30. Popular movies like this tend to still bring people to cinemas as they can then join in the conversation about the movie with friends and on social media without having it spoiled. However, with sites such as Netflix and the introduction of a television with Internet access, the home provides a more comfortable and private environment where people can socialise throughout the movie and conform to their own rules. Will this win out over the social activity and novelty of going to the movies?

 

 

Introducing the Internet

internet

Ah, the Internet. The world we know now would not be possible at all without it as everything around us is converging online.

The introduction of the internet is a topic that’s a little closer to home for our generation, although our earliest memories still probably involve instant connection and Google with a vague recollection of telephones and downloads stopping when our parents were on the phone for an hour.

Along with the introduction of the television, the internet was a huge milestone in our technological history. It was an innovation that allowed global communication and an endless amount of content and information at our fingertips, and so complicated that people were quite unsure where to begin using it.

“Compared to what we’re using today, the version of the Internet that first came out seems so simple and basic in comparison. At the time, though, it was so advanced,” said Sarah.

It was particularly integral in its invention for workplaces. “My business wouldn’t exist without it,” says John, a bookkeeper who works for himself. “I’m able to work from my office at home instead of driving to clients in Sydney through email, and through this time I’m saving I’m able to do more work for other clients. You don’t realise how dependant you are on it until there’s a blackout and you can’t automatically connect with clients.”

For our parents, they can easily remember performing their jobs without the Internet. For our age, however, our degree would be non-existent without it. The web has evolved so much that entire jobs are built around it, and we’ll spend our entire careers utilising it and figuring it out. When it comes to communication purposes for workplaces there’s no replacement for it, with so many businesses with online profiles and constant communication via email.

“I’m always on my email. For work, and especially to keep in contact with friends that moved to the States. I even email John throughout my work day,” Sarah laughs.

In the home, Sarah and John use a broadband wireless network that works quite efficiently with all different devices. They connect to their wifi with the main computer, laptops, the iPad and mobiles.

“The internet has become much more frequently used in the last couple of years, especially with Apple products, like their phones and iPads, that are easier to use and have lots of features on them,” Sarah commented.

Always a feature of the house, they have found that Internet usage has increased with the development of devices, apps and the Internet itself. It appears that easy usage and access will allow the Internet to become even more of a staple feature of the family household.

Television Talk

TV

 

Last week we took a trip back into the past and discussed the memories our parents and grandparents had of the early days of television. It’s extremely difficult for us to imagine a time without it and its integration into the family home as a generation where it has always been a staple feature of the living room.
Findings were quite standard across all experiences, with the introduction of television to Australia in 1960, initially in black and white. For our parents, it was introduced around the time they were born, making it an easier incorporation into their routine. For our grandparents, however, it would have been an alien form of advanced technology that would have taken some getting used to. The birth of television and live broadcast symbolised the beginning of a technological revolution, one that was now accessible to the everyday household. Where before families gathered around the table for board games, television was now the centre focus of the night’s activities.
It also symbolised a whole new change in lifestyle and entertainment and the way young children learned about the world through play. Instead of heading outside, kids were spending much more time in front of the television watching programmes such as the Brady Bunch and Skippy. Thus, new habits were born and integrated into the family routine, developing further and further into the familial household activities we partake in now. People were now able to engage in events without being present and start to enter the globalising world of communications and entertainment.
For ethnographers, technology is a continuous study with so many aspects to look into that it’s almost overwhelming. A study that is often so present-day focused, it’s fascinating to look into the beginnings of the huge flurry of technological inventions and innovations that have since been introduced and constantly improved upon. It seems that technologies are converging across platforms and merging together, with the televisions that we know and use now being “smart” with the inclusion of the Internet. This also sparks a change in usage patterns: the amount of usage is definitely increasing, but how are we using it and interacting with it in different ways?
Ethnography answers these questions through undertaking research, involving interviewing, discussion and observation as a means of gaining insight into the habits of others and memories of times we weren’t present for. As such, ethnography can help uncover any problems or issues with people and their environments as it is a more observation focused research method. Ethnography gains an in-depth analysis of the behaviour and patterns of users through its extensive interviewing and observation, therefore proving itself above other research methods that are less personally focused.
In general, however, ethnographic studying of habits does tend to take longer than other research methods. As observation needs to be thorough, ethnographers find that they spend more time to gain this insight into behaviours and usage patterns. Subjects of the study additionally may not be acting completely naturally if they know their actions or the answers they are giving are being published.
While there are both advantages and disadvantages to ethnography, overall the advantages do outweigh these disadvantages as the insightful information gained is a direct observation of usage. Findings are much more useful to ethnographers when analysing human behaviour to determine usage patterns of modern technology.

Introducing Home Entertaiment

family_watching_television_1958

In an age of constant technology updates, we will remember the birth of the iPhone and the creation of Facebook. Our parents, however, recall the introduction of the television into the family home. Most of us don’t think about it as it has become such a staple in the living room, so I talked to my parents about their young memories of television in a society that wasn’t used to it.

The television came to Australia in the 1960’s, the decade that both my parents were born into.

“I don’t remember not having one,” said Sarah. “But it was more of a treat for us when we were children rather than something we were always allowed to do.”

There is definitely a difference between television consumption in their generation compared to ours. In a time when television is so normal it becomes just another activity in our daily lives, and children today are introduced to it much earlier.

My father, John, remembers black and white television for a small time of his early childhood. “When colour came it was so amazing to us. Compared to the T.V’s we have now it’s pretty laughable but at the time it was this huge breakthrough in technology.”

My parents recall watching children’s programmes such as Skippy and the Brady Bunch in the afternoons with their siblings, however they would always go outside and play if they were seeing friends. “Watching television with friends didn’t really start until I was in High School,” Sarah remembered.

 

As they grew older television habits changed as it became a more familiar part of the family home. As is the same with any technology there is a period of adapting and creating habits for future users. I wonder what stories we will be telling our children.