Age of Interruption

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The Age of Interruption refers to a seeming increase in fractured attention due to media tools and virtual multitasking. The term was popularized by Thomas Friedman in a 2006 New York Times opinion editorial.

Origin of term[edit]

Friedman deemed the age of "malady of modernity", and characterized it as reflecting information overload and lack of adequate attention span:

"Continuous partial attention is when you are on the Internet or cellphone or BlackBerry while also watching TV, typing on your computer and answering a question from your kid. That is, you are multitasking your way through the day, continuously devoting only partial attention to each act or person you encounter."[1]

Technology and education[edit]

Characterized by information overload and multitasking, the age of interruption is a relatively recent but still frequently studied topic in education and technology disciplines. Educators and technology researchers study the phenomenon in relation to its effects on social, cognitive and emotional development. Ellen Rose, a professor of education at University of New Brunswick in Canada, studies online learning environments, with particular expertise in social effects of technology and media ecology.[2] In a 2010 academic article, she posits that the Age of Interruption is another age in technological formation, following the Information Age. She discusses the Age of Interruption in relation to younger generations (digital natives) who have an over-abundance of information along with a general attitude of inattention.[3]

Conversely, other researchers find a more optimistic view of technology's relationship to multitasking. In Media as Extensions, Lin (2009) determined that the hyperlinked structure of information on the web may promote learning and creativity.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Friedman, Thomas (5 July 2006). "The Age of Interruption". New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  2. ^ "Work of Ellen Rose". University of New Brunswick. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  3. ^ Bassendowski, Sandra (April 2012). "The Age of Interruption". Canadian Journal of Nursing Infomatics. 6 (4). Retrieved 14 December 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Lin, Lin (September 2009). "Breadth-biased versus focused cognitive control in media multitasking behaviors". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. National Academy of Sciences. 106 (37): 15521–15522. doi:10.1073/pnas.0908642106. PMC 2747151. PMID 19805207. Retrieved 14 December 2012.