There was a time not that long ago when people would use a single sense and carry out a single task in a single place. We now tend to use multiple senses and carry out multiple tasks while moving from place to place.
There are advantages and disadvantages of the technologies that make this possible. Fans of technology, like myself, tend to focus on the huge benefits of essentially doing more and having a wider sensory experience while doing it. Critics of technology focus on the negatives involving safety, health, and overall quality of work and life. The fans and critics are both right and we as users of technology (and some of us as designers of technology) should periodically take stock of whether the right balance has been struck given the particular context of use.
For example, I started writing this post on the treadmill while listening to a podcast. The ability to do three things at once when we all have so little time in a day is so tempting thanks to these technologies. I find that listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks while on the treadmill or driving is the perfect combination. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks while answering email or tweeting also works but I typically have to switch to instrumental music while writing something more substantial that requires more thought and attention. For certain types of work, I have to turn off all sound and instant messaging/texting clients and focus on a single-task. I got off the treadmill and switched to instrumental music to finish this post.
We all have different thresholds when it comes to what we desire as a minimum level of multi-sense and multi-tasking as well as what the maximum level of these that we can handle. In addition, certain situations and types of work should further determine the optimal level. I think we need to find those thresholds and consider contexts to determine the right level in a particular situation.
Of course, then we all also need to take the occasional sabbatical from technology entirely to think freely and fully experience the world and people around us. I worry that we don't do that enough with the ready availability of all this technology all the time.
As always, I'd greatly appreciate your thoughts on this via the commenting mechanism.