What do we mean by multitasking? – Exploring the need for methodological clarification in time use research
We can learn a lot about society by knowing how people spend their time during the typical day. However, in-consistency in the recording of time use, specifically, in how we record details of people’s participation in more than one activity at a time (“multitasking”), may be preventing full understanding of how people use their time in their everyday lives. It is not clear what “we” – as academics, survey designers and participants – mean by “mul-titasking”. This may be affecting the reliability and validity of recorded multitasking. In consequence, we may not know what we think we know about time use, with implications for “knowledge” in a wide range of aca-demic disciplines and policy areas. This paper begins by presenting examples of popular use of the term “multi-tasking”, taken from a national (GB) survey, illustrating a diversity of understanding of the term amongst par-ticipants. Next, analysis of selected time use diaries highlights the impacts of this diversity in meaning for inter-participant and inter-survey consistency and therefore for reliability and validity. Finally, the paper raises a num-ber of questions regarding the meaning of multitasking, with reference to its conceptualisation in selected aca-demic papers. The paper identifies an important gap in the research literature, illustrating a need for methodo-logical investigation in time use research, to enhance our understanding of the meaning of multitasking and therefore to enhance the comparability, reliability and validity of time use studies.
Volume (Year): 7 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (October)
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