Right now i'm using my computer and iPad at the same time, basically just jumping between screens. Is there a word for this "screen-hopping"?

4 Answers 4


Microsoft executive-turned-writer Linda Stone has worked mightily, I would say mostly unsuccessfully, to popularize the term continuous partial attention (CPA), which she carefully distinguishes from the more commonplace term multitasking, for example in a 2008 BusinessWeek column:

When we multi-task, we are motivated by a desire to be more productive and more efficient. Each activity has the same priority – we eat lunch AND file papers. We stir the soup AND talk on the phone. With multi-tasking, one or more activities is somewhat automatic, like eating lunch or stirring soup. …

In the case of continuous partial attention, we’re motivated by a desire not to miss anything. There’s a kind of vigilance that is not characteristic of multi-tasking. With CPA, we feel most alive when we’re connected, plugged in and in the know. We constantly scan for opportunities – activities or people – in any given moment.

So if, for example, you are writing emails on the computer and have a movie playing in the background on the iPad, Stone would agree that you are multitasking; if you are switching constantly between the two, say writing email on one device and sending Tweets on the other, she would argue that you are in a state of CPA. But a web search on this term mostly turns up Stone's writings, or interviews with her, or articles quoting her, and I do not think it has much currency.

The more generic term multitasking is older and more familiar; the Online Etymology Dictionary dates its origin to 1966 as a computing term. It sees a big surge in usage with the rise of microcomputing in the 1980s; I recall it being one of the little-understood buzzwords employed in the battle between Microsoft Windows and IBM OS/2 in the early 1990s (before multithreading became the rage).

Google Ngram comparing multitasking and other terms

Etymonline traces its use to describe human behavior to 1998, back when the future of human society was still doomed by media-obsessed "Gen-Xers" instead of by media-obsessed "Millenials."

Since then, this meaning has become prevalent, even displacing the computing sense in ODO and some other dictionaries. For the specific habit of consuming multiple media simultaneously— say, having a television show in in the background while reading a blog— the term media multitasking stands out, but this sense appears to be pushing out other types of human multitasking, of the "walking and chewing gum" variety. It is the term writers use to describe youth media consumption, warn and warn about distracted pedestrians, fret about the future of the culture and our brain health, and mark our psychological limitations.

  • CPA is apparently poplar enough to be on Wikipedia, and happens to be exactly what i'm looking for. Good point about the popularity of multitasking as well.
    – Scimonster
    Oct 6, 2014 at 20:40

Multitasking is the ability to do more than one thing at a time. I cannot think of something which applies specifically to technology.

  • Multitasking is good, but is there something specifically about technology?
    – Scimonster
    Oct 6, 2014 at 20:03
  • Multiteching? Multi-e-tasking?
    – bib
    Oct 6, 2014 at 20:26

You can consider multi-device usage or multi-device switching also.

I have found articles/studies about this topic with a quick search on Google. Below is a citation from one of the articles:

This comes from a new multi-device study, conducted by Facebook in collaboration with GfK, revealing people’s behaviour when it comes to moving across devices (smartphone, tablet and desktop) on a day-to-day basis.

It’s becoming increasingly common practice to switch to a different device, even though we may have started a task on a different one all together.


The article also mentions the stats from the study under multi-device switching title:

In the UK, more than 60% of online adults use at least two devices every day and nearly 25% use three devices.

  • 40% of all online adults start an activity on one device and finish it on another.
  • This number increases with the amount of devices owned: 54% of people who own two devices switch between them to complete tasks or activities and 73% of people who have three devices do the same.
  • Among those who switched devices in the study, 25% switched to a tablet and 60% switched to a laptop.


You have some good answers, but there is another term for the specific practice of simultaneously using multiple devices:


Most commonly used to describe tweeters watching TV and tweeting about it, though also applicable to other uses of multiple screens: using a smartphone while gaming, or watching Netflix on a tablet while doing work on a desktop, etc. It's a very popular term with marketing people, who see it as the next big thing.




  • That's a good option too.
    – Scimonster
    Oct 7, 2014 at 5:12

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