Multi-tasking, phones & phenomenology

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I never expected to see four fixations of mine (multi-tasking, the dangers of driving while phoning, phenomenology, and dance) come together in a single scholarly article, but today’s the day.

The latest issue of Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences is devoted to dance and cognitive science (see here), and one of the articles, by Robert Rosenberger, “Embodied technology and the dangers of using the phone while driving” is an attempt to unravel from a phenomenological perspective just what it is that is distracting about mobile phone use while driving, particularly since it seems that a lot of the evidence suggests that hands-free phones causes a similar drop in driving performance.

It links very nicely with the book I’m reading The Audible Past, where the author Jonathan Sterne talks about the concept of a private aural space that is created by audio technology.  I see a connection between this and what Rosenberger calls  ‘field composition’ – the way that a user’s field of awareness becomes ‘composed’ by a mediating technology (such as a phone, or a car). What Rosenberger is saying is that a phone and phoning creates a particular field of awareness that has a different phenomenological character to that of a car and driving.  Although that sounds intuitively correct, the distinction between this and a thin account of ‘distraction’ or ‘multitasking’ or ‘cognitive load’ is important if we are to find out what it is that is distracting, and whether a hands-free device is going to make any difference.

I think if Rosenberger lived in Wandsworth, he’d see a whole other level of distraction, where people on the school run use ‘hands-free’, but look down at the phone (i.e. not at the road) while they’re talking, but that’s another subject.

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3 thoughts on “Multi-tasking, phones & phenomenology

  1. robert rosenberger

    Hi Johnathan. I stumbled across this blog post about my article, and am very glad to see that you like it. Shoot me an email and we can discuss the topic of phenomenology and driver distraction further. In the mean time, you might also get a kick out of this little booklet I wrote for a Danish science literacy group:
    http://www.science-society-policy.org

    Reply
    1. Jeff Friedman

      jonathan,
      which phenomenology and cognitive science edition was focused on dance? the reference embed didn’t take me anywhere near it.
      thanks!
      jeff

      Reply

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