iTask: Linguistic and embodied features of interactional multitasking

This project is based in the English Philology Unit in the University of Oulu in Finland, within the COACT research group (“Complexity of (inter)action: Towards an understanding of skilled multimodal participation”). The project started in September, 1st 2015 and is funded by the Academy of Finland (1 September 2015 – 31 August 2019) and the Eudaimonia Institute (1 January 2018 – 31 August 2022).
The topic
Recently, “multitasking” has become a popular topic in public debate as one characteristic feature of our everyday lives. The spreading use of interactive communication technologies in particular has called attention to the fact that, to an increasing extent, people tend to, or try to, do several things at the same time. But how do we understand and conceive of “multitasking” in the first place?

“Multitasking” is often reduced to a form of engagement where someone is able to progress several tasks simultaneously. This view is anchored in, and results from, the dominant cognitive framework, in which all human phenomena are reduced to brain processes.

The aim of the project is to bring multitasking into a different realm, i.e. to face-to-face interactions: what happens between people rather than in their heads; what happens in interaction rather than in individual action. We explore the social and interactional side of multitasking, i.e. how people manage situations of co-presence where several simultaneous courses of action may be relevant. This is what we call multiactivity.

Last updated: 17.2.2020