Fragmentation of attention in mobile interaction
An interesting paper I perused recently: The fragmentation of attention in mobile interaction, and what to do with it by Antti Oulasvirta, interactions, Volume 12 ,Â Issue 6 Â November + December 2005, pp. 16 - 18. Some excerpts:
Our goal has been first to understand how serious this "multitasking craziness" , or fragmentation of attention as we see it, is, and also to explore some possibilities to counter this unwanted phenomenon. (...) we conducted a field experiment to investigate the seriousness and extent of fragmentation. (...) In mobile situations, continuous attention to the mobile device fragmented to bursts of just four to eight seconds (...), and attention to the mobile device had to be interrupted several attention shifts, by glancing the environment up to eight times during a page loading
What's interesting is this:
Interestingly, we observed several strategies that users adopted to compensate for this unwanted situation. In general, the simple strategies can be described as strategic withdrawals of resources from less important tasks (e.g., slowing down walking, or postponing and refusing tasks). More sophisticated strategies were enabled by users' preknowledge of the particular situation. For example, when a metro leaves from the station, travelers "preprogram" themselves to what is to be expected; in this case to the announcement of the destination station. After this calibration, only brief sampling is required to observe that the task is proceeding normally.
Then they came up with potential solutions:
Some design tactics to fight mobile multitasking craziness.(...) At the very least, our results should convince designers to put effort to: â¢ shorten interaction units (down to less than five seconds). â¢ automatize or eliminate tasks. â¢ Offload tasks to unused resources, support execution of tasks in different modalities. â¢ Provide modality-targeted feedback for long system response times. â¢ Support brief monitoring of changes. â¢ Support temporal control and orchestration. â¢ Provide unsanctioned delaying of responses. â¢ Provide cues for anticipation of upcoming events and schedules. â¢ Support user's understanding of tasks' upcoming demands.
Why do I blog this? the paper is a clever summary of how a field experiment in the domain of mobile computing usage can be useful to set guidelines for mobile application designers.