Melissa Mazmanian

Plugged In, Tuned Out

As evolving technology brings more connectivity to societies around the globe, people within those societies must learn to renegotiate their approach to work, family and personal relationships. Our increasing ability to stay in touch simultaneously opens up new opportunities and creates additional demands and responsibilities. Through her research, Professor Melissa Mazmanian explores the benefits of being connected and the challenges of being driven to distraction.

The Rise of Interaction Layering

It’s a familiar story: You’re sitting at the dinner table with family when a work email appears on your smart phone. You tap out a quick response without losing the thread of family conversation — only to have your attention drawn to a text message from a friend. This is interaction layering, the capacity to manage communications on multiple fronts at the same time. For Professor Mazmanian, it raises a critical question: “How,” she asks, “can we balance all of the things that constant connectivity allows and still do each of them well?”

Shifting the Conversation

Connectivity has revolutionized the way we work and live, Professor Mazmanian notes, “but what strikes me is the lack of reflection about what that means. As a company, family or culture, who do we want to be in terms of this potential for constant connectivity? How do we foster an expectation of behavior that is more sustainable in the long term?” By shifting the conversation from a celebration of what technology can do to a discussion of how it fits into a well-balanced existence, Professor Mazmanian is transforming our understanding of how evolving communication tools can impact — and improve — our lives.

Melissa Mazmanian - ICS faculty head shotsphoto: Jocelyn Lee/UC Irvine communications

“How can we balance all of the things that constant connectivity allows and still do each of them well?”

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