Understanding multi-digital device usage by using electronic experience sampling

Ease of setting up a project and coupling with smartphones.

Koti Ivaturi

At a Glance


  • Context: -
  • Number of participants: 6 (pilot study)
  • Number of days per participants: 7
  • Number of prompst per Day: 8
  • Number of Items: 10


The number of mobile devices has exceeded the number of people on the planet reflecting the trend of multi-device ownership (Boren 2014). The ubiquity of mobile devices has created a new phenomenon of multi-digital device usage, where people will employ multiple digital devices simultaneously.

Very little research has been conducted on multi-device usage. For example, it is not yet clear if multi-device usage is beneficial or detrimental to users’ productivity and well-being. We already know that humans are not generally good at multitasking (Atchley 2010). Modern day workspaces are full of interruptions that lead users to have fragmented attention. For example, on average, users spend about three minutes on a task before switching to another task (González et al. 2004). Accordingly, the use of multiple connected devices has the potential to significantly increase the number of interruptions. For example, every time a user gets a message, the number of notifications will multiply based on the number of devices used by the user. Conversely, a lot of multi-device use is not multitasking. As one example, we observe children using three devices simultaneously to write a report. An iPad is used to surf the web for materials, a Microsoft Surface tablet is used to write the report, and WeChat on an Android phone is used to converse with group mates.

Accordingly, this research attempts to explore the phenomenon of multi-device usage. We have no specific research question yet, and instead are seeking to understand a new emergent phenomenon. To understand the phenomenon, we use electronic experience sampling (Csikszentmihalyi et al. 1987).

Measures used in the questionnaire:

There are two main questionnaires that will be used in the study. The first questionnaire is a one-time pre-study questionnaire that is aimed at capturing the stable person and environment variables. Such variables include demographics and personality traits and other information about technology use. The second questionnaire is aimed at capturing within person variances in multi-device usage behavior. This data will be captured repeatedly throughout the duration of the study (7 days) as suggested in the sampling mechanism section. Questions were derived from the contextual influences mentioned in the practitioner literature (Google 2012). For example, we include (1) Location – Where the participant was located at the time of the signal, (2) Nature of tasks – Work or personal, (3) Types of devices used, and (4) Time of the day as our contextual factors. The questionnaire had an open question where the participant could comment in depth about the task the tasks they were performing.