Recently I watched Digital Nation on the PBS show Frontline. The show apparently first aired last year, but it and more are on line. This morning at 5 am I found myself thinking about the research and the questions that were raised so I went on line. There I explored even more than was in the program! An hour later…I was writing this blog and still going back to the website. If you are interested, I recommend you start with this page, then explore.
I am not a digital native—one who has been using digital media since very early childhood. I am a digital immigrant! Interesting concept. Given stereotypes about my temperament (Theorist-INTP), you would think I’d be fully on board. Well, I am, but it is overload and I’m not yet competent at it. It seems that just like my French—I’ll never be a native speaker, and it may not be possible to rewire my brain that way. If I were in a University setting or a student again, I’d be all over the research on this.
I wonder what type differences show up with different responses to all the digital stimulation, constant connectedness, and the brain.
The program says that digital natives are constantly multitasking and that they may not be as effective at doing well with all the tasks as they think they are. A study is needed to see if some of them do it more easily than others and in what arena. My ENTJ colleague, another digital immigrant, can carry on a serious conversation about business strategy or workshop design and still sort through papers and files. She multitasks all the time, even when watching television. When I sort through papers, I need to have no one around and be focused only on the filing system. So, it isn’t age, it is type and experience. On the other hand, I multi-think. I can think of multiple trains of thought at one time. The physical world gets in the way of that and I can’t talk while do it. We both multitask when conducting a workshop as we focus on the content, the logistics, the agenda and timing, the physical comfort of the participants, their interpersonal issues that are arising, their level of participation and more. I know I had to learn to attend to some of these things and attending to others of them came naturally. I do believe research needs to take into account type differences as well as learned skill. In my experience it depends on the kinds of activities involved in the multitasking as well as the type preferences and type development of the individuals.
The following quote struck me as a way to do some research. This was a rotating quote from the above website. “It takes 15 minutes to fully resume a serious mental task after answering an e-mail or IM.” Iqbal & Horvitz, 2007
I’ve been writing a book and still very responsive to my email as it comes in. I noticed that sometimes it was hard to get back to what I was doing, but that was entering edits and I kept losing my place visually. I’ll be watching how hard it is to resume my serious mental tasks after answering email. (I don’t IM—yet!). I often welcome the diversion as it sparks my creativity and is that an extraverted iNtuiting (Ne) thing?
So, what do you think? How are you responding to this digital age? Do you think there are type differences? What are they?