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Sabbatical week 3: second screening and media multitasking

In recent years there has been a profound shift in the way that people consume television programmes. We’re no longer constrained to 4 or 5 channels on the single TV in the living room. With the rise of internet TV we can use a mobile device, such as laptop or tablet computer, to watch our favourite television show whenever we like.  But look around the average living room and what are people doing? They’re no longer glued to the box in the corner but are shifting their attention across multiple devices: keeping up with others through email and social networking sites, as well playing games and looking up information (Müller, Gove, & Webb, 2012; Stawarz, Cox, Bird, & Benedyk, 2013).

  Encouraged by a friend who loves x-factor and her husband who works for a (competitor) UK TV channel, I subscribed to the x-factor app on Saturday (for research purposes!!!).  There’s loads of video content on the app which I’ve not looked at. The bit that I played around with, the 5th judge, only appears when the show is live.  As each act does their audition the app offers you the chance to vote. If you log in via facebook then you can also see whether your friends voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

But I guess the truth is that I don’t really watch x-factor, in fact I don’t often really watch any TV.  More frequently you’ll find that it’s on in the background whilst I sit on the sofa and do my emails. But what I discovered yesterday was that this app is working really hard to stop me doing this by demanding my attention.  It talks to me and tells me what the majority of 5th judges have decided, thus prompting me to interact with it.  And just when the adverts come on and I think I can dedicate my attention to my email, it asks me questions and makes a ticking clock noise that suggests that I only have a limited time in which to give my response – who can resist that?? Companion apps like this are really successful in keeping the viewers attention on the TV programme and preventing them from switching to their email or social networking sites. 

This week I also came across a startup called CanFocus http://www.canfocus.com/ .  They’ve designed a button that switches all your email, phone and IM statuses to “do not disturb” so that you can focus on work and “become a productivity superhero”.  There’s been many a situation where I’ve sat down with the idea of watching something, only to be distracted by a desire to engage with a digital device.  I think I need one of these to help me resist temptations to engage in work when I’m supposed to be doing non-work!

Recovering from interruptions

Hospital wards are busy places, and medical professionals conducting routine tasks, such as setting up an infusion pump, are likely to find themselves interrupted at some point in the sequence. We have been investigating ways to reduce cognitive slips caused by interruptions, such as exploring the value of encouraging users to stop and think before resuming a task following an interruption. Findings suggest that the process of retracing previously achieved sub-goals can help with resuming a task. Ways of encouraging people to take time before resuming their task rather than jumping straight back in have been tested. In addition to demonstrating that people make speed/accuracy tradeoffs when resuming after an interruption, we are also investigating whether we can predict from eye-movement data if someone will make an error. Ultimately, as this work matures it will allow us to make predictions about device designs that better support error avoidance.

Back, J., Brumby, D. P., Cox, A. L. (2010). Locked-out: Investigating the effectiveness of system lockouts to reduce errors in routine tasks. Proceedings of the 28th international conference extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems, CHI EA ’10. ( pp.3775-3780). New York, NY: ACM Press. Author URL Publisher URL