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Distracted by technology…reason 3 for incivility today

Rather than improve our work lives, technology has stripped us of support services, dehumanized the workplace, and plugged us in around the clock. Giovinella Gonthier, ‘Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace’

It is hard to escape the cell phones, the computers, the iPods. Often it means less direct human contact and certainly some people use technology to write what they would never say in person. At times bosses demand we are always accessible. Stress. And more stress comes because there’s always something new to learn about these devices.

We can’t lay all blame on the workplace.
We have an infinite appetite for distractions, says Michael Bugeja, Director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University.

Bugeja talked at the Iowa State presidential university lecture April 4. He defined consumer technology as that which entertains, distracts and makes someone a profit. It includes cell phones, computers, televisions and all the accouterments such as Web sites, games, podcasts, text messaging, instant messaging, ring tones, e-mail. “It is omnipresent and distracting”, said Bugeja.

Searching for community, again
His topic was the search for community in a technological age. Community—we were searching for that in reason 2 for incivility. (Many of the reasons for incivility are intertwined.) Technology was supposed to connect us but often ends up passive and inactive. Rather than being interactive, it often creates a social void.

Bugeja says technology has replaced relationships and thinking. This age of distraction undermines critical thinking which creates new knowledge. Without critical thinking, we have trendy knowledge. Technology homogenizes culture. We are on cell phones around the world. Farmers have cell phones in their tractor cabs. Facebook says it is a community. It is not a true community.

Consumer technology to a large degree is used for entertainment when that may not have been the intent of the device. Take news. What is news today? Is the entertainment stuff passed off as news more important than real journalism which seeks to inform the public so people can make their own decisions and conclusions?

‘interpersonal intelligence’
Bugeja talks about ‘interpersonal intelligence’—knowing when, where and for what purpose technology is appropriate. He says IF you understand when to use e-mail, when to use the phone, when to have a meeting in person—you will be successful. In other words, how savvy a communicator are you? Do you understand what effective communication is in today’s world? Control the technology and you will be empowered.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
- George Bernard Shaw, Irish literary critic, playwright and political activist (1856-1950)

P.S. It is very important to understand when to use e-mail, when to use the phone and when to meet in person. Important enough that I’ll work on that as a separate post. In the workshops I’ve led, that’s always a source of irritation and of confusion.

Comments

Even NPR is now picking up on the Kathy Sierra situation - I don't know if you have been following it at all, but I have an RSS feed in my reader for her excellent blog "Creating Passionate Users" - I think I found her thru Deb Coates - and I really miss her posts. Anyhoo - there's a new initiative by the O'Reilly books guy and ... dang... who did they say? to write and implement a code of conduct for internet sites. People, as you mentioned, will post/email things they would NEVER say in person and it is completely out of hand in some online communities. I know I am taking a detour here, but still somewhat related. You might find some of that work interesting.

I find myself thinking about your comments differently today than I would have last week. Virginia Tech incident demonstrated that technology does provide community.
... Wendell Berry also gave another view of community in his remarks Sunday night, linking it to knowing who lives around us and where our food comes from and being part of somthing larger

I will eagerly await your methods of communication post. Email loses a lot. Telephone adds information like intonation and pauses. Face-to-face adds an infinite amount of information in facial expressions, eye contact, body language, etc.

Lynette
I can say quite easily I'm a novice subscriber to blogs. But find yours frequent enough to keep up on, and many times more than just interesting...humbling, thought provoking, and idea-sparking...
I keep going back to the April 17th blog about technology and creating incivility searching for community.

I was at home and reading a magazine that apparently I received a free copy of called "Best life" It is geared towards a primary audience of men, however an article and subsequent mention of a study from Duke Univ. and Arizona within the article spoke to me, and I thought I would share the links.

I found them great, and only re-enforced the need to be able to 'disconnect' from technology sometimes and on a regular basis. Focus on traditional communication styles, and spend more face-to-face time with family and communities. Communities not consisting of news feeds, bulletins, and wall posts.
Best Life Article: http://www.bestlifeonline.com/cms/publish/sex-relationships/Where_have_all_the_men_gone.shtml

Excerpt: "Us? Lonely? With the wife and the kids and the parents and the jokesters at the office and the never having a moment to think? Well, yes.

That's what experts who study these matters say. In June 2006, sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona, for instance, provided the most recent statistical analysis of the problem. Their report, "Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades," announced, among other things, that the number of friends with whom Americans discuss important matters has shrunk as much as 33 percent over a span of nearly 20 years. This problem is particularly acute for young, educated men, who have lost an above-average number of "discussion partners"-down from 3.5 in 1985 to 2.0 in 2004-according to the study. Friendship, the report suggests, has taken a serious dive across the culture, and guys like us in particular are shedding companionship faster than anyone else."

Study from Duke/Arizona: “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades”:
www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/June06ASRFeature.pdf">http://www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/June06ASRFeature.pdf">www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/June06ASRFeature.pdf