continuous partial attention


continuous partial attention
n.
A state in which most of one's attention is on a primary task, but where one is also monitoring several background tasks just in case something more important or interesting comes up. Also: CPA.
Example Citations:
One of the most interesting talks came from a former Apple and Microsoft executive named Linda Stone. Her emphasis was less economic than social. It was a plea to consider an epidemic she identified as continuous partial attention (CPA).
She couldn't have picked a more perfect audience. During the presentations, the faces of at least half the crowd were lit with the spooky reflection of the laptops open before them. Those without computers would periodically bow their heads to the palmtop shrine of the BlackBerry. Every speaker was competing with the distractions of e-mail, instant messaging, Web surfing, online bill paying, blogging and an Internet chat "back channel" where conferencees supplied snarky commentary on the speakers. Stone nailed the behaviour so precisely that some audience members actually raised their faces and started listening intently.
— Steven Levy, "(Some) Attention Must Be Paid!," Newsweek, March 27, 2006
Continuous partial attention is that state most of us enter when we're in front of a computer screen, or trying to check out at the grocery store with a cellphone pressed to an ear — or blogging the proceedings of a conference while it's underway. We're aware of several things at once, shifting our attention to whatever's most urgent — perhaps the chime of incoming e-mail, or the beep that indicates the cellphone is low on juice. It's not a reflective state.
— Scott Kirsner, "Are your feeds turning into too many long tails? Filter!." The Boston Globe, June 27, 2005
Earliest Citation:
The Davos World Economic Forum is always useful for gauging global trends. ... My favorite, though, was that we now live in an age of what a Microsoft researcher, Linda Stone, called continuous partial attention. I love that phrase. It means that while you are answering your e-mail and talking to your kid, your cell phone rings and you have a conversation. You are now involved in a continuous flow of interactions in which you can only partially concentrate on each.
— Thomas L. Friedman, "Cyber-Serfdom," The New York Times, January 30, 2001
Notes:
Linda Stone, a Microsoft executive, coined the phrase continuous partial attention in 1998.
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Thanks for this, I am currently busy writing an assignment for a University course, and a blog post on the topic. I found your post useful for providing a definition of what CPA stood for.
Ironic that most people confuse this with Multi Tasking :-)

New words. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Continuous partial attention — (CPA) is the process of paying simultaneous attention to a number of sources of incoming information, but at a superficial level. The term was coined by Linda Stone in 1998.[1][2] Author Steven Berlin Johnson describes this as a kind of… …   Wikipedia

  • continuous partial attention — noun a state of mind in which one s attention is frequently being interrupted, as by incoming email, instant messaging, mobile phones, etc. Abbrev.: CPA {phrase coined by US IT consultant Linda Stone in 1998} …   Australian English dictionary

  • attention — attentional, adj. n. /euh ten sheuhn/; interj. /euh ten shun /, n. 1. the act or faculty of attending, esp. by directing the mind to an object. 2. Psychol. a. a concentration of the mind on a single object or thought, esp. one preferentially… …   Universalium

  • Human multitasking — Human multi tasking or multitasking is the performance by an individual of appearing to handle more than one task at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking. An example of multitasking is listening to a radio interview while …   Wikipedia

  • Email Apnea — Holding one’s breath unconsciously while reading an email. Exploring the pitfalls of working online, Philip Delves Broughton noted in The Evening Standard: Many workers are said to suffer from continuous partial attention, a consequence of never… …   Dictionary of unconsidered lexicographical trifles

  • disattention — n. The deliberate refusal to pay attention to certain things. Example Citation: Or perhaps a marathon runner wants to learn to overcome the muscle fatigue she feels during a long run. Dr. Handel would teach this person disattention, which means… …   New words

  • attentional blink — n. The momentary lapse in awareness that occurs after a stimulus catches the brain s attention. Example Citations: Our love of our name even defeats attentional blink . This is temporary amnesia caused by the fact that human beings are not good… …   New words

  • background — v. To surreptitiously perform a task in the background while one s attention is supposed to be on another task. Example Citation: backgrounding verb The practice of not giving someone your full attention while multitasking. Tim Nelson, Millennium …   New words

  • CPA (disambiguation) — CPA is a three letter abbreviation with multiple meanings, as described below: General *Certified Public Accountants qualified accountant professionals in the United States and many other countries. *Certified Practising Accountants a member of… …   Wikipedia

  • Menschliches Multitasking — Unter Multitasking (seltener menschliches Multitasking) versteht man die Fähigkeit eines Menschen, mehrere Tätigkeiten zur gleichen Zeit oder abwechselnd in kurzen Zeitabschnitten durchzuführen, so z. B. eine E Mail zu verfassen und gleichzeitig… …   Deutsch Wikipedia