Jos de Mul. Multitasking. Keynote lecture at the International Conference on New Millennium Learners (OECD / Flemish Ministry of Education and Training). Brussels, September 22, 2009.
On the grand scale of worldwide changes that have occurred throughout the twentieth century the introduction and domestication of a range of new media is an important phenomenon. Telephone, radio, film, gramophone, television, walkman, audio and video recorders – all of these devices have come to be mundane elements of our everyday lifeworld. The advent of the personal computer can be labeled a new chapter in this history. The modern-day computer is an interactive multi-medium (also called a hyper-medium), which can simulate and merge each of the media mentioned before.
Nowadays, when we are on holiday we can call home from an internet café using Skype, simultaneously send a few digital holiday pictures, pass on some links with information on our holiday destination using the inbuilt chat box, and show in real-time the tan we’ve acquired via the web cam. All of this is aided by the fact that most personal computers and notebooks are now connected to the internet. Moreover, due to ongoing miniaturization the internet’s nodes become ever more mobile. Many vacationers don’t even have to go to an internet café anymore, since they can do all of the aforementioned things via their mobile phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs).
The development of mobile hypermedia has important social consequences. These days, users are connected to one another 24 hours a day. Now, a sense of sober-mindedness is never a bad thing in the world of new media. When we look at the data, for instance as regularly presented by the Dutch Social and Cultural Planning Bureau (the SCP), then on the surface things don’t appear to be all that bad in the Netherlands, compared to a country such as the United States – which always shows what’s in store for us, too. According to the SCP Dutch citizens spend an average of almost three hours on media use, which is slightly less than one third of their free time. Moreover, this number has stayed the almost same since 1975.