Distractions, Digital & Otherwise

Digital Technology & Culture 101

We hear all the time that digital technologies distract us from other, more important things. Perhaps your smart phone encourages you to play games or check social media instead of chatting with your family. Perhaps your laptop distracts you from listening to a lecture. Statistics show that text messaging distracts us all from careful driving. Digital Nation makes much of distraction as a new condition—especially for students—in the age of hypermedia. Multitasking, the filmmakers tell us, has become an unfortunate norm for college kids all across the nation. Unfortunate because studies show we don’t do it very well. So-called digital natives are no exception to the rule of split attention causing decreased productivity.

There’s little doubt that distraction can have unfortunate consequences, and less still that digital devices can distract us. However, the idea that distraction is a new problem specific to digital culture ignores the pertinent history. The comic…

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