Britannica Blog Probes the Dilemmas of Multitasking; A Boon or a Bane? Author Maggie Jackson and Others Debate in Online Forum

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Multitasking, the growing human habit of doing several things at once, often with the aid of modern-day technology, will be the focus of a discussion at the Encyclopaedia Britannica blog (http://www.britannica.com/blogs) this week as several prominent thinkers and writers exchange views on the subject in a series of posts and comments.

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The ability to juggle two or more activities is sometimes thought to be the key to effective performance in today’s hectic world, but multitasking is increasingly seen as a source of social dysfunction, rudeness and even danger.

Multitasking, the growing human habit of doing several things at once, often with the aid of modern-day technology, will be the focus of a discussion at the Encyclopaedia Britannica blog (http://www.britannica.com/blogs) this week as several prominent thinkers and writers exchange views on the subject in a series of posts and comments.

The ability to juggle two or more activities efficiently is sometimes thought to be the key to effective performance in today’s hectic world, with its increasing demands on people’s time and attention. Computers, cell phones and other wireless devices are said to help, but multitasking is increasingly seen as a source of social dysfunction, rudeness and even danger as, for example, when motorists and even commercial airline pilots become distracted by the compulsions of digital media, text messages or mobile phone calls.

Maggie Jackson, author of “Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age,” will lead off a discussion of these issues with a series of posts touching on key themes from her book, a critical examination of the multitasking trend and the fragmenting of attention in daily life.

Also contributing to the feature will be:

Nicholas Carr, a member of Britannica’s editorial board and author, most recently, of “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google”;

Heather Gold, a prominent speaker, writer and media producer active in social-media circles who appears frequently at Internet conferences;

Howard Rheingold, author of “The Virtual Community,” “Smart Mobs,” and other books on digital culture;

New-media anthropologist Michael Wesch of Kansas State University, dubbed “the explainer” by Wired magazine and also a member of Britannica’s editorial board.

“Despite the pressures and hassles of the networked life, it’s here to stay,” said a post on the Britannica Blog promoting the forum. “So let’s not give in to despair, moral panic or endless grousing. Let’s find real solutions together.”

The forum is under way now and can be found at http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2009/12/multitasking-boon-or-bane-a-new-britannica-forum/.

About Encyclopaedia Britannica
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a leader in educational publishing. The company’s encyclopedias and other products can be found in many media, from the Internet to wireless devices to books (http://info.eb.com). A pioneer in electronic publishing since the early 1980s, the company also still publishes the 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica, along with educational online services such as Britannica SmartMath and Britannica Online School Edition and new printed products such as Britannica Illustrated Science Library. Britannica’s editorial operation is overseen by some of the world’s most distinguished scholars. The company makes its headquarters in Chicago.

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