Saturday, December 6, 2008

Anyone For Tennis?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Tennis balls.
Michele Martin has recently coined a wonderful word: now-ness.

It means the burden of present day communications technology used by those who wish to communicate with you - all at once. Not unlike infowhelm, and very much in your face, it's amplified many-fold by present day communications tools.

I empathise with Michele, and others like her in this reasoned plight. Now-ness can be stressful. I sometimes find stress to be unpleasant and I have to find ways of controlling the stressors for myself. I left a comment on Michele’s great post, The Tyranny of Now. It went something like this:

I was discussing this idea in the workplace recently. Someone said glibly that it's just like playing tennis. “You return the ball from whichever direction it comes - that's the skill.”


But it's more than just that. It's like playing tennis with several players, all of them on the other side of the net. And all are serving with a different ball. Sometimes it seems as if there are several dozen balls coming towards you all at once. Which do you hit?

For a satisfactory return that leads to something useful, one has to simply ignore certain serves, and find ways of doing this. It's not easy. That way, however, you have prioritised your interactions. You are then in control. You can also have a win-win situation.

Use whatever means, when necessary, to freeze that incoming ball in mid-air, while you return the previous one, otherwise you end up missing both.

Who is serving?

Email, the phone, text-on-mobile and your RSS reader are your servants. You're certainly not theirs. You could treat them like that. But you may end up serving few and usually none.

I watch colleagues sprinting across the office to grab their ringing phones. Sometimes they make it, without a broken ankle. Other times they don’t make it before the ring-tone stops.

I have voicemail. I use it, but I also clear it regularly. I have seen other people ignoring the voicemail they receive. Later, they complain that it takes too long to clear it all. Hmmm.

Love all:

I let voicemail kick in, if I'm having a face-to-face conversation with a colleague and the phone rings. It's just common courtesy. It also saves stress. When it's convenient, and as soon as it's convenient, I check my voicemail.

I clear my email regularly too, but I don't use email alerts. They just distract me while I attend to other things - the phones are (bad) enough. Only family have my mobile number and they know to text me first - I've got my ring-tones on near silent, mainly out of courtesy to my work colleagues.

There are other measures I take. They are as simple.

When I discuss these things with work-colleagues, they throw their hands up in disgust. All I hear are excuses and complaints that they don't like leaving voicemail messages, so why should they expect others to. It’s then that I recall what they said about the time they took to clear their voicemail. I think of the people who took the time to leave them a message.

Slicing an ace:

My reaction is, get real! This is the twenty-first century. We built all this technology to help take the sweat out of life, not to get ourselves into a sweatball.

Technology is a tool. We invented it to assist us, not hinder us. We have to learn to use the technology at our disposal.

Otherwise, we invent a fine knife to cut our food, and end up slicing our fingers with it.

Your serve.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Ken Stewart said...

Ken, a very interesting notion I have been rolling around in my head is that technology, in point of fact, has created more work for everyone to do.

I'm the last person to say technology is a bad thing, but our moral compass hasn't kept up with Moore's Law.

I'm working on a foundational paradigm shift in this regards - and as you can tell I have yet to wrap my head around it... I was working on a thought behind information traction, but to be fair - that thought process wasn't ready for prime time just yet. The general concept is about how to get traction in a slippery torrent of information overload.

Paul C said...

Blogging has been both empowering and restricting. Perhaps in our dedication to get out a regular blog we are compromising the potential of nowness.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā kōrua!

Ken- I've had a look at what you've written about information traction. Much of what you say is what information management is about.

Information, poorly managed, has no traction for most people. Indeed, if it's really poorly managed, it has no traction for anyone.

A good example from history is the difference between the life works of Newton and Cavendish.

Both these scientists had their moments in life. But Newton was an advocate for what he believed and what he discovered. There is no doubt about the effectiveness of the traction his information had and still has in society today.

Cavendish, on the other hand, was equally as brilliant. Much of his life's work had no traction at all, and might otherwise have been lost. What he believed and discovered was later re-discovered by other brilliant scientists. They learnt of what Cavendish did by sheer chance and dilligence to seek traction through the historical works of others.

I believe that for traction, information has to be accessible in a way that permits one to use it. But it also has to be acceptable, and here's where tennis comes in.

If we are so caught up in the rush of the information shower, it's likely that most of what comes at us will wash off.

Paul- I think that how nowness affects us is a bit like how the weather bothers us.

How do you cope with the weather? You plan for rainy days. You don't plan on your hope of fine weather, if it's really important that it's fine. If you're a farmer, your plans accommodate the sun and the rain. Some are very successful with that planning.

Nowness is always there - and it could get worse. But being aware of it, and understanding how we can otherwise deal with it, gives us potential to use it's elements to our advantage and to the advantage of others too.

Ngā mihi nui