Our brains go through phenomenal gyrations to follow a printed sentence on a page or screen. Our natural inclinations to scan the panorama get overridden by the need to focus our sight on the squiggles we're paying close attention to with effort. Our instinct to look that the sound we just heard or movement that caught our attention has to be suppressed. Then we're obligated to turn the squiggles of text into letters, words and sentences. Once we've figured out what it says, we work on what it means. Then there's another sentence after the one we've just devoted significant processing capacity to decoding.
Marshal McLuhan forewarned that our brains would alter how they process sensory data thanks to the hidden effects of electronics. A trend that started with the telegraph, phonograph and telephone is in full swing with ear buds and video screens on cellphones, PDA's, laptops and tablets. He suggested we would get a divorce after being wedded to mechanical technologies and remarry all things electrical. Our senses would return to immersive experiences of acoustic spaces and panoramic vision. We'd lose our isolated point of view and get back into oneness with what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch.
The word "multitasking" speaks in reference to factories, motors and mechanisms. It's a transition word like "horseless carriage" that clings to the past while describing the future. It imagines that multitaskers are getting jobs done, being productive and making progress by multitasking. It assumes that we are "human doings" that grow up to function like reliable printing presses, scheduled railroads and organized factories.
I've been wondering what word will replace the word "multitasking", like "automobile" replaced "horseless carriage". I've been toying with possibilities like "multi-queuing", "multi-attentions" or "multi-responsiveness". It's not that we're getting things done simultaneously when we "multitask". It's that we've got several windows open and several responses we're in the midst of formulating. We're paying attention to more than one follower from our network paying attention to us. We're immersed in the oneness of multiple streams of inputs. We're functioning just like our brains when were "letting it all in" from all five senses at once. We acting naturally once again. We're acting like human beings.