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ICA Top Paper Profile: Parry & Fisher

Paper authors Dr. Doug Parry (left) and Dr. Jacob Fisher (right)

In our lead up to #ICA24, we are providing information about papers that received Top Paper awards from the Communication Science and Biology (CSaB) Interest Group. Each paper received exceptionally high scores from reviewers. These papers reflect outstanding scholarship in CSaB. Today’s Top Paper features Dr. Doug Parry and Dr. Jacob Fisher. Be sure to check out their paper at #ICA24

CSaB: In a few short sentences, what is your study about?

Since 2009, the media multitasking index (MMI) has been the go-to tool for measuring media multitasking. Thousands of studies have used the measure to investigate the relationship between media multitasking and cognitive functioning, attentional performance, and related outcomes (e.g., advertising effectiveness, academic performance, work performance, etc.). In this paper we posed a simple question – is it time that we abandon the MMI as a valid measure of media multitasking?

To answer this question, we highlight a selection of practical, methodological, and theoretical concerns regarding the validity and usefulness of the MMI for indexing individual differences in media multitasking. After describing these concerns, we outline a research agenda to evaluate their veracity and to advance the development of new measures of media multitasking and the adoption of new research designs. Our goal is to bring together different viewpoints and encourage new, improved methods and theories in media multitasking research. You can read more about the paper here: 

CSaB: How did you come up with the idea for this line of research?

Over the past decade we’ve both worked on-and-off in the media multitasking space and almost all studies in this area either use the measure or base their hypotheses and theoretical background on findings reported in studies that use the measure. However, as we outline in our paper, it is relatively clear that there are some serious flaws in the measure. These flaws are often briefly acknowledged in the discussion sections of papers in this field, but with few exceptions, there has not been a systematic effort to outline these flaws and consider their implications for the current understanding of media multitasking effects. Both Jacob and I have a bit of a track record of focusing on the methods and measures used to make inferences about media effects and, at ICA’23 in Toronto, over a coffee we reflected on our shared concerns with some of the methods used in this area and with the problems that we perceived the MMI to embody. 

CSaB: Tell us more about the team!

This paper was written by Dr Doug Parry (U Stellenbosch in South Africa) and Dr Jacob Fisher (Michigan State U in the United States). We’ve only met once before (at ICA’23 in Toronto when the idea for this paper was first discussed) but we’ve worked together on and off over the last five years following some online meet-ups whilst both working on PhD projects focusing on various ways in which our cognitive control may be impacted by different patterns of media use. These days, Jacob uses functional neuroimaging, behavioral and “big data” measures, and computational modeling to explore how effort requirements, perceptual complexity, and motivational factors in digital contexts influence attention and goal pursuit. Doug continues to focus on media multitasking and attention, alongside newer work focusing on the role that social media play in mental health. He spends much of his time working to evaluate and improve the methods and measures that we use to study various media uses and effects. 

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