Human Multitasking

In Ellen Goodman’s Crosscurrents essay on Multitasking, she highlights the research of Clifford Nass, a professor of human-computer interactions at Stanford. Nass led a research team that studied 100 multitasking students and went on record to say, “I don’t know that this generation values focused attention. The notion that attention is at the core of a relationship is declining.” Nass’ research showed that the multitaskers focused poorly, remembered less, and were more easily distracted. They could not shift tasks, prioritize or organize well. I must say, this research does not surprise me in the least.

Some say that the effectiveness of multitasking depends a little on timing. The student reading a textbook or listening to an audiotape or videotape while experiencing frequent interruptions can often take as much extra time as he or she needs. In other situations, however, such as a student watching a lecture or educational film or a class discussion while text messaging, the situation would not offer any option to pause the educational presentation (Pashler, 2013).

What might the long-term consequences be of human multitasking for individuals? They may result in more distracted living. Craig Wax, writer of “The Illusion of Multitasking,” coins the phrase ‘distracted living,’ as this technologic form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “Instead of starting and seeing a task to completion, constant interruptions, messaging, and intervening media events unnecessarily complicate the task at hand. Each project now takes much more time to complete, and more errors and omissions result from the tech multitasking” (Wax, 2012).

In some cases, however, multitasking may actually be positive. According to Wasson, writer of “Multitasking During Virtual Meetings,” multitasking during virtual meetings can be productive, as long as employees make the meeting their first priority and only multitasks when attention resources are not being utilized by the meeting (Wasson, 2004).

And what then, are the long-term consequences of human multitasking be for society? Craig Wax, states that “Civility is giving away to isolationism. Common courtesy has been reduced to uncommon or unheard-of courtesy. People have become irritable and easily annoyed by delays — and completely inconsiderate of others” (Wax, 2012). This marks the notion then, that we as as society will need to accept this or strive to change it in some way. “Would you be happy if your doctor was checking e-mail or Facebook during your surgery or office visit?,” Wax asks.

In simple terms, perhaps we need to use ‘evil’ to perform ‘good’ deeds. We can use technology by active engagement — develop strategies to engage students in sequential learning. Students need to be given problems that require computer/technology skills, and taught how to structure problems so they can solve them. We can use visual media, social media, and auditory media to stimulate their thinking (Pfohl, 2012). It sounds so crazy that it just might work.


Work Cited:
Pashler, H., Kang, S. H. K. and Ip, R. Y. (2013), Does Multitasking Impair Studying? Depends on Timing. Appl. Cognit. Psychol., 27: 593–599. doi: 10.1002/acp.2919. Retrieved from

Pfohl, B. (2012). Is multitasking helpful or harmful?. Bethesda: Retrieved from

Wasson, C. (2004). Multitasking during virtual meetings. HR.Human Resource Planning, 27(4), 47-60. Retrieved from

Wax, C. M., D.O. (2012). The illusion of multitasking. Medical Economics, 89(7), 7-8. Retrieved from

What Rights Should Avatars Have?

Should avatars have rights? As Raph Koster admits in his article, “Declaring the Rights of Player,” the subject is nearly paradoxical. “No matter what, any answer I give is bound to be wrong” (Koster, 2012). For argumentative purposes and despite the reality that there is no perfect answer, my answer today, is “Yes, yes they should.”

To support this answer, I will call on my experience as both a manager and player of (several) virtual world games. As a player, particularly in a virtual world game, the purposes for playing may differ, however one thing is constant, a player’s desires to have fun and to ‘reap what you sow.’ Players want to get out of the game, what they put in, and sometimes, ‘way more.’ The protection of a player’s possessions and ‘earned content’ is a good start.

As a game manager, the roles are flipped and priorities are too. Game managers do not seek out players to prosecute, instead they deal with abuse reports, often times the result of one person thinking that another person ‘stole his creation.’ A game manager’s job is to enforce the Terms of Service (TOS) and Code of Conduct. Managers aren’t concerned with policing every person, only with tackling issues where there are infractions against the TOS. If something is not mentioned in the TOS, it is considered ‘fair game’ — pun intended.

Today, Second Life has over 26,000 simulated regions, 4,000 of which are marked as ‘Adult’ regions and nearly 18,000 of which are at least marked ‘Mature 18+’ (Shepard, 2014). In a Mature 18+ region, obscenities are allowed and in Adult regions, you may find virtual prostitution and strip clubs on every corner, so to speak. People choose which regions to visit, based on age and personal preference.

One of the problems of placing real-world consequences on virtual world actions, is the fact that virtual world players are international — one person might be from the United States, while his ‘partner’ might live in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Australia, etc. Different countries have different laws of course, so this complicates things. For example, people can gamble in the virtual game, Avination, based out of Germany, but not in Second Life, based out of the United States. So what, would we do then, in those cases? That, I just don’t know.

What rights should avatars have? Well, at the very least:

  • The right to back-up purchases and own creations
  • The right to remove currency from the game in a timely manner
  • The right for prompt investigations of submitted abuse reports (for cases like repeated harassment, content theft, etc.)
  • The right to an appeal process in the case of account cancellation or banishment

There is a certain beauty to the freedom that can still be found in virtual worlds today. As long as avatars can build, keep their creations as their own, make money and free themselves from unwanted visitors and power-hungry ‘Game Gods,’ rest assured they will keep logging in.


Work Cited:

Avination Virtual Ltd. 2010. Retrieved from

Koster, Raph. October 23, 2012. Declaring the Rights of Player. State of Play: Law and Virtual Worlds. Retrieved from

Shepherd, Tyche. 2014. Second Life Grid Survey. Retrieved from

eCLOUD — Can you dig it?

Have you ever seen the networked media — eCLOUD? I have just read about it and I have to admit, it is a little bit hard to understand.

photo: spencer lowell

According to their website, the eCLOUD is a permanent art work installed between gates 22 and 23 at the San Jose International Airport. It is a dynamic sculpture inspired by an idealized cloud, designed by Dan Goods, Nik Hafermaas and Aaron Koblin. The eCloud is made from polycarbonate tiles that can fade between transparent and opaque states. A dynamic display shows which city the eCLOUD is listening to, it’s current real time weather data, and a preview of how the eCLOUD is actually behaving.

photo: spencer lowell

Through the use of custom software and circuitry, Goods, Hafermaas and Koblin were able to simulate the look and behavior of weather patterns from around the world. The eCloud has 100 custom designed circuit boards that control the liquid crystal pixels. As information is sent from the master computer, it goes to the circuit boards, then they tell each pixel whether to turn on of off. Each board can have up to 30 pixels attached to it.

photo: spencer lowell

So basically, the polycarbonate tiles of this dynamic eCloud correspond to weather patterns of a particular city. What I still do not understand, is: how does the weather in that city dictate which tiles to turn visible or transparent? This technology and art form are so innovative, it is hard to wrap my head around it all!

To view videos re: eCloud, visit and

For more information, visit and