Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Your brain on the Net -- enhanced productivity and pleasure or wasteful distraction?

We discuss the affect of the Internet and information technology on the way we work and our brains.

The New York Times recently ran three articles highlighting some of the psychological research showing negative effects of our use of information technology: The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In, An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness and Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price.

The latter article focused on Kord Campbell, who seems distracted by information technology while working and during family and other activities. This photo shows his workstation.

The Times also published some online tests of one's ability to switch focus and a video showing Campbell's eye movements while he works.

Articles like these raise questions about our productivity when multitasking and about addiction. Does the Internet make you more productive? Does your attention dart around as rapidly as Mr. Campbell's (see the video)? Where do we draw the line between relaxing play or being in a productive state of "flow" while working and harmful addiction?