“I’m sorry, would you say that again?”

A further thought on the impact of the BlackBerry, this time (and thanks again to a link in one of Nicholas Carr’s posts in Rough Type) from Christine Rosen’s article in The New Atlantis, The Myth of Multitasking

In the business world, where concerns about time-management are perennial, warnings about workplace distractions spawned by a multitasking culture are on the rise. In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that found, “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” The psychologist who led the study called this new “infomania” a serious threat to workplace productivity. One of the Harvard Business Review’s “Breakthrough Ideas” for 2007 was Linda Stone’s notion of “continuous partial attention,” which might be understood as a subspecies of multitasking: using mobile computing power and the Internet, we are “constantly scanning for opportunities and staying on top of contacts, events, and activities in an effort to miss nothing.”

How often have you been in a meeting, and suddenly realised that someone you thought was in the meeting was in fact temporarily “absent”, as he/she looks at her inbox (and not always with the BlackBerry under the table; sometimes it is quite open. What message does that send to everyone else in the room, aside from those doing the same thing?).

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