October 27, 2008

The wonder of single tasking

The NY Times has yet another article on the inherent human limitations of multitasking (some previous ones here, here, and here). While we all love to do several things at once, the reality is that we can't do so effectively, and there is more and more research that supports this.

This is one of those issues where we all know this essential truth, but just don't follow it. And the nature of innovation means that we will have more and more communication and information technologies (think historically: phone, email, web, IM, texting, social networks, etc.) And there are plenty of researchers trying to figure how the best way to interrupt you to deliver more information.

So, at the moment, this means people actually have to take responsibility for themselves while we interface designers figure out how to bring these disparate information sources together in a way that increases, not decreases focus. I've discussed this before and just wrote a new essay relating these issues to how children read online.

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