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Costly attentions: Governing the media multitasker

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While divided media attention predates our era, ‘multitasking’ arose only recently as a named behaviour within cultural consciousness. The growth in media multitasking – especially among adolescents and white-collar workers – runs parallel to intensified efforts by scientists, popular critics, and self-help gurus to dictate techniques of efficient media use. Drawing from Michel Foucault's writings on governmentality and lectures on neoliberalism, this paper investigates these attempts to govern multitasking habits as central to work and play in late capitalist society. Specifically, I examine how multitasking acts as self-work under neoliberalism, as more individuals draw from market logic to rationalize themselves as social beings. My goal is to alert scholars within media and cultural studies – who habitually theorize media attention as undivided – to the emergence and importance of ‘multitasking’ in understanding contemporary mediated subjectivity.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Communication Studies, University of MinnesotaMinneapolis, USA

Publication date: 2012-08-01

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