This concept of plastic time seems to be a promising way to think about what happens in-between our directed computing tasks. But how to measure this? I started this exercise by just paying attention to the things I do when I (inevitably) get on the computer first thing in the morning. There is always a period of time, which changes duration every day, before I actually "start working" on things I need to do. Broadly, the tasks i "need" to do are usually contained in software like word and excel, and certain applications of the browser such as logging into my Illinois email account and accessing the library remotely. Other, more "plastic" tasks, are accessed via my RSS reader application, iTunes, and web apps such as my personal email and "surfing the web." The order in which I engage these various applications upon starting up my computer roughly gives a certain measure of the particular use of my "morning plastic time." So some measure of plastic time can be represented as follows:
- Email (personal)
- News item (link from email homepage)
- Youtube (from link in email message)
- Email (work)
2. RSS reader
-outline for reading
-Methods class blog site...
This measure of plastic time takes into account the order in which we approach tasks and the links between them. Within an office setting, the average worker likely has periods of plastic time throughout the day, but if we make the assumption (for purposes of measurement) that there are distinct phases of the day in which plastic time often occurs, we can use these periods as sites of experimentation. For example, we can say that plastic time at work often appears first thing in the morning, right before/after breaks, and perhaps at the end of the day. By looking at plastic time in these contexts we can examine how users interact with various applications shortly after or just prior to the user doing something away from the computer. So, a measure of plastic time, or undirected computing, can be taken by observing what non-work related applications are engaged (and in what order) when the user initially sits down at the computer. As in the example above, does the user open a web browser first and then her work-related Outlook account second? We can better understand plastic time (if it exists at all) by understanding the order in which tasks are approached, the time intervals between them, and the links from one task to another.