Before Everyone was on the Internet
Continuous Partial Attention (CPA) was coined by Linda Stone as early as 1998.
Continuous partial attention (CPA) is the process of paying simultaneous attention to a number of sources of incoming information, but at a superficial level. The term was coined by Linda Stone in 1998. Author Steven Berlin Johnson describes this as a kind of multitasking: “It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish.”
Stone has clarified that CPA is not the same as multi-tasking. Where multi-tasking is driven by a conscious desire to be productive and efficient, CPA is an automatic process, motivated only by “a desire to be a live node on the network”. Compared to multi-tasking, full attention is not required by CPA (hence the “partial”) and the process is ongoing rather than episodic (hence the “continuous”).