"Unctuous personalities squawk at us from flat-panel TVs on gas pumps. Billboard companies replace pasted paper with flashing digital screens. Screens pop up in airports, coffeehouses, banks, and grocery-store checkout lines, even in restrooms, above the urinal or mounted on hand dryers. On some airlines, advertising messages reach out to us from the seatback dining tables and motion-sickness bags. Disney advertises DVDs for preschoolers on the paper liners of examination tables in pediatricians' offices. Perhaps this is our punishment for using the DVR to skip the commercials. 'We never know where the consumer is going to be at any point in time, so we have to find a way to be everywhere,' Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive at the ad agency Kaplan Thaler Group, tells the New York Times. 'Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.'

"This info-blitzkrieg has spawned a new field called 'interruption science' and a newly minted condition: continuous partial attention.

"Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, reports that a distracted worker takes nearly a half hour to get back to and continue a task; 28 percent of a typical worker's day is taken up by interruptions and recovery time; constant electronic intrusions leave interrupted workers feeling frustrated, pressured and stressed, and less creative. We text more, communicate less. At the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives of Families, Elinor Ochs, a linguistic anthropologist, and a team of twenty-one researchers, have been using the tools of ethnography, ecology, archaeology, and primatology to videotape and study the routines of thirty-two families in the Los Angeles area. The team found that restless family members moved quickly, gathering in the same room only 16 percent of the time; they tended to grunt more than talk; they walked past one another without greeting, barely looking up from the video game, television, or computer. 'Returning home at the end of the day is one of the most delicate and vulnerable moments in life. Everywhere in the world, in all societies, there is some kind of greeting.' But not in these families."