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The Dark Side of Media and Technology

A 21st Century Guide to Media and Technological Literacy

Edited By Edward Downs

The Dark Side of Media and Technology: A 21st Century Guide to Media and Technological Literacy is Herculean in its effort to survey for landmines in a rapidly changing media landscape. The book identifies four dark outcomes related to media and technology use in the 21st century, and balances the dark side with four points of light that are the keys to taking ownership of a media- and technology-saturated world. The text contains an impressive list of multi-disciplinary experts and cutting-edge researchers who approach 25 separate dark side issues with concise, highly readable chapters, replete with unique recommendations for navigating our mediated present and future.

The Dark Side of Media and Technology is grounded in theory and current research, but possesses an appeal similar to a page-turning dystopian novel; as a result, this volume should be of interest to scholars, students, and curious lay-readers alike. It should be the "go-to" text for anyone who is interested in learning what the research says about how we use media and technology, as well as how media and technology use us.

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Chapter Twenty: Mobile Devices, Multitasking, Distraction, and Compulsive Tech Use (Edward Downs / Jacquelyn Harvey)


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Mobile Devices, Multitasking, Distraction, and Compulsive Tech Use


In 2012, a woman fell off the Navy Pier in Chicago and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. In 2014, a Philadelphia man was killed by a train while walking the tracks to meet a friend. In 2015, in Texas, a teenager was electrocuted while taking a shower. In 2016, in Bavaria, a commuter train derailed, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more. In 2017, a man in Oklahoma stepped on, and was bitten by a rattlesnake while walking through a hospital parking lot. Later that same year, a man walked off a cliff in California and fell six stories to his death. These incidents may seem random and unrelated, but they all have one thing in common. Mobile devices played a role in all of these accidents. Given the prevalence of these seemingly preventable incidents, it is small wonder that the city of Honolulu passed legislation to fine pedestrians for using their mobile devices when crossing the street (Osborne, 2017).

To be fair, mobile devices (cell phones, smart phones, tablets, etc.) aren’t the only technologies that distract people, but media convergence, the process whereby technologies, industries, markets, and audiences come together (Jenkins, 2004), has allowed them to become among the more prominent technological artifacts responsible for accidental death and injury. The problem is particularly acute when people are distracted...

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