Thursday, September 7, 2017

'We interrupt this class for news of your ex-girlfriend'

As a professor, I often wonder what effect my class presentations are having on the minds of my students. Honestly, is it really possible for any human being to pay attention completely to a class for 45 minutes? Or does the mind wander?

While I am explaining the theory of market externalities, every media company in the world is fighting for the attention of those students. These companies are desperate to attract eyeballs for their content and their advertisers' messages.

They have developed ever more powerful tools to distract people from what they are doing and look at their smartphones. They use pings, vibrations, badges, flashing lights, lock-screen messages, and who knows what else.

What human being could pay attention to me when they receive a notification on their smartphone that their ex has commented on their new profile photo? Or that there is breaking news about the latest silly statements by a president? It's no contest.

Versión en español

The Notification Experiment

I wondered how this affected my students. So I did a simple survey in my Media Economics class at the University of Navarra. I asked the students to keep track of how many notifications they received from all of their apps and news sources during one 45-minute period.