When Multitasking is Not a Good Idea
This is a guest post by my friend Andy Naselli. Andy is research manager for DA Carson and editor of the online theological journal Themelios. He has two (!) PhDs and blogs at andynaselli.com, which I highly recommend.
From Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 113, 117–18:
During a time of singing at a recent conference, I spotted a woman raising one hand in worship while sending a text message with the other one. We mix worship with our work and pleasure. Why are we surprised when we can only give partial attention to any one of them? . . .
One way we pursue the virtue of efficiency is by becoming multitaskers. If we are driven by efficiency, it is not enough that we work quickly; we must also work on many things simultaneously. Imitating our computers, we seek to switch seamlessly from one task to the next, from one priority to another. At our desks we work on our projects while chatting on instant messengers, sending off text messages, and glancing at our favorite blogs. Even in our entertainment we want to be able to do many things at once—to be able to watch television while sending a text message and checking in on our friends’ Facebook pages.
A rash of recent studies shows that multitasking is not a solution. In fact, studies show that multitasking is actually a misnomer. While we think we are multitasking, we are actually task switching, doing a little bit of one thing and then doing a little bit of another. Our brains just won’t allow us to perform two complex operations at the same time with the same skill. Quality necessarily suffers, as does depth. Not only that, but multitasking is not even very efficient. David E. Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, found that “people who switch back and forth between two tasks, like exchanging e-mail and writing a report, may spend 50 percent more time on those tasks than if they work on them separately, completing one before starting the other.”
Meanwhile, if we surround ourselves by too many stimuli, we force our brains into a state of continuous partial attention, a state in which we keep tabs on everything without giving focused attention to anything. . . .
Whether through multitasking or through monitoring so many sources of input that we remain in continuous partial attention, we lose the ability to think in a sustained way. . . .
This is as true in worship as it is in the workplace. Efficiency is a dangerous mind-set to bring to our faith. We do not want to be efficient worshipers, driven by a desire to get more of God in a shorter amount of time. We do not want to be hurried worshipers who value speed over quality.
Related from Andy’s Blog and Themelios:
- In the Zone
- Andrew Franseen reviewed The Next Story in the April issue of Themelios.
Apple Introduces iCloud
Here’s a good summary of iCloud from Mac Rumors. Apple also has a helpful overview on its site, of course.
A Preview of iOS 5
Here’s a preview of iOS 5 from Engadget.
Recommended iPad Resources
Andy Naselli has a helpful post where he shares the apps he uses for his iPad and how he organizes them. It is well worth checking out.
He also includes some my thoughts on organizing your iPad apps, which I sent him after he sent me an early draft of the post.
Why Bookstores Matter
Al Mohler. Here’s an excerpt:
Being in a bookstore helps me to think. I find that my mind makes connections between authors and books and ideas as I walk along the shelves and look at the tables. When I get a case of writer’s block, I head for a bookstore. The experience of walking among the books is curative.
. . .
My Kindle and iPad are filled with digital books, and the e-book will be one of the dominant book forms and formats of the future. When I need an e-book, a push of a button makes it happen. Who wouldn’t welcome that development? But the e-book is not the same as a physical book, and both the digital and the printed book have their own charms.
Mike Shatzkin thinks the handwriting is already on the wall — “Book stores are going away.” He may be right, but I hold out hope that he is not. If he is, it is far more than bookstores that we will lose.
The Next Story
I’m looking forward to Tim Challies’ new book, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. The book releases April 1, but you can also pre-order to get a signed copy).
Here’s a commercial for the book that Tim debuted on his blog this week:
I’m sure I’ll be blogging more about Tim’s book as the release gets closer. The issue of technology and faith is something that we all deal with and can understand better, and, in my view, there are few who have thought through this issue with the insight and depth that Tim brings.
The E-Book Reader that I Wish Existed
I’m slowly beginning to read more and more books on my Kindle or iPad, rather than in printed form. I enjoy reading books electronically, but there are two large drawbacks.
First, it is hard to thumb through the book quickly. You can click “next page” over and over, but this is still relatively slow compared to just quickly turning through the pages of a physical book. The ability to thumb through a book quickly is extremely important for maximizing your comprehension of the book because it enables you to preview the content rapidly before your main read, and it allows you to review the content rapidly when you want to look back and reinforce what you’ve learned. E-books just go too slow to make this work well.
Second, it is hard to quickly go through the book to find a particular section or quote. I know you can easily review all your underlined portions together, which is a nice advantage. But sometimes the section I want isn’t something I underlined. It becomes cumbersome to get to the point I want.
What is the solution to these two problems? Here’s what I would like to see. It is probably technologically impossible right now, but it would almost be a perfect solution.
What I would like to see is a digital book with actual pages. It would have about 300 pages, like a printed book. The difference with a printed book, though, is that each of those pages would utilize electronic ink. As a result, when you decide to read, say, George Bush’s Decision Points, the whole book becomes that book. When you select a different book to read, the whole book then becomes that other book. And so forth.
In other words, instead of having a single screen that displays the contents of the book, like the Kindle does, you have actual pages which allow you to read the electronic book just like a printed book. To go on to the next page, instead of hitting “next page” and waiting for the screen to change, you actually turn the page and there it is — just like in a printed book. This creates a more natural experience and allows you to flip through the pages quickly in order to preview and review, thus solving the two problems I outlined above.
But unlike a real book, this book can be turned into any book you want. For, since the pages use digital ink, the contents of the book can be changed to whatever electronic book you have purchased and want to read. At the beginning of the book could be your library and the primary controls (similar to the “home” section on the Kindle), which would then serve as your control center where you can browse your library, select what book you want to be reading, shop for more books, and so forth.
If a book is longer than the 300 pages that this electronic book would have built into it, when you get to page 300 you just push an icon on the screen to tell it to change the pages to show 300 to the end, rather than pages 1 to 300. Or something like that.
Obviously the big challenge with this type of e-reader is creating pages which display digital ink and are able to bend like real pages. That might be a large obstacle! But it would seem that there should be some way to get that figured out.
There may be other drawbacks as well, making this an utter pie-in-the-sky dream. But it sure would be great to see something like this.
One Way to Look at the Internet, Mobile, and Tablets
Seth Godin has a helpful graph and discussion today on how the way we use the internet (and the devices we use to accomplish our tasks) is affected by “time, screen size, and selfishness.”
Google Opens Online Bookstore
From the Wall Street Journal:
Users will be able to buy books through books.google.com/ebooks and read them on many devices, including tablets, computers, smartphones and open format e-readers. Google on Monday released e-book buying and reading apps for Apple’s iPhone, iTouch and iPad as well as Android mobile devices.
Customers will be able to store their Google-purchased titles online on their own bookshelf accessible via their Google account. They will be able to start reading e-books on one device or computer and switch midway through the book to other devices without losing their spot, Google engineers said.