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Digitally Distracted

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Work activities are constantly punctuated by interruptions, and maintaining focus can be challenging. There are three main sources of distraction. First, work tasks are often distributed across different applications (e.g., emails, browsers, documents) and devices (e.g., laptops, phones, tablets), and switching between these is cognitively demanding. Second, new digital distractions abound, from social media and breaking news stories, to new urgent work requests. Third, the rise of remote work, and greater flexibility over when and where work is done comes at a cost: work must now be juggled with other activities and obligations.

In this talk, I’ll discuss the results of our recent research aimed at understanding how people organise their work and manage digital distractions. To investigate this question we have used different research methods and approaches, from controlled lab experiments to situated observational studies, and online studies with crowdsourcing platforms. The results of this research give insights into how people can better manage digital interruptions, and how systems can be better designed to help people maintain focus.

Duncan Brumby is a Reader of Human-Computer Interaction at University College London (UCL). His research is concerned with understanding how people manage digital distractions in the workplace, in the home, and in the car. He has published 75+ research articles (Google Scholar profile: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=C5eTGe8AAAAJ&hl=en). This research has been supported by grants from the UK’s EPSRC , the European Commission, and EIT Digital. He directs the Human-Computer Interaction MSc programme at UCL , is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, and was a Papers Subcommittee Chair for CHI 2018 and CHI 2019 . He received a PhD in Psychology from Cardiff University and has held appointments at Georgia Tech, Drexel University, IADT Dun Laoghaire, University of Sussex, Microsoft Research, and PARC .

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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