I was at the CILIP London Branch AGM tonight, and there was a talk from Professor David Nicholas on UCL’s “Google Generation” research project. Interesting stuff, will probably blog about it tomorrow, but I just wanted to write a quick post about something that happened right at the end of the evening.
I’d been tweeting snippets from Professor Nicholas’ talk throughout the evening. I like to do that at talks like this, it helps me to take in the salient points in the same way that old fashioned pen-and-paper note-taking does, with the added bonus of hopefully being of use to people in my Twitter network who might be interested in the topic, but weren’t at the talk. (Sidenote, but this tweet from Alan Fricker may provide some evidence in favour of this!)
There were a few other Tweeters there tonight, but I got the impression that a few people didn’t approve of all the tweeting going on. One person tweeted that she was “getting glared at by other folks for tapping away” and followed it up with “Guy across from me just got ticked off by another for tweeting. Def not a digital friendly audience!”. No one seemed to be openly glaring at me though, so I forgot about it and carried on listening to the talk.
At the end of the evening, I was heading over to the back of the room to put my wine glass back on the table when someone (I’m not sure who he was actually – think he’s on the CILIP London committee but I’m not great with names!) planted himself in front of me and informed me that the reflections from my “Blackberry” (it’s actually a G1 Android phone) had been making it impossible for anyone behind me to see the speaker. I found this surprising, as it was a well-lit room, my phone screen was set quite dim (low battery), and I was holding it in my lap for most of the talk, but I apologised if I’d caused any distraction. I explained that I’d wanted to tweet snippets from the talk for anyone online who was interested but hadn’t been able to come along. He seemed very surprised by that explanation (I don’t know what he thought I’d been doing – perhaps he thought I’d just been playing on my phone and not listening?), and, after thinking about it for a minute, said that he supposed it was a bit like sending scribes to a lecture, so the information could be disseminated more widely.
It is certainly important to make sure that, if you’re going to be tweeting etc during a talk, you do so without inconveniencing the people sat around you, and I am sorry if anyone was actually blinded by my phone. I just got the impression that this really came down to hostility towards those who didn’t appear to be paying attention. Perhaps there is a perception that if you are typing something into your phone, you are not paying attention to what is being said. In fact, David Nicholas said at one point in his talk that people don’t have the time to pay full attention – they’ll give you 20 minutes to talk to them and spend the whole time on their phones or laptops. I disagree with that assumption – how do you know that they’re doing anything different from what they would be doing with a pen and paper? I was surprised that, at a talk about the Google generation and how “they” learn, with, supposedly, an emphasis on how librarians can tailor their practices to how people use information in the digital age, there wasn’t more awareness of what those people in the audience “playing with their phones” were actually doing.
Unfortunately, that put a bit of a downer on the whole evening. In all honesty – and sorry if I’m over-reacting here – it’s slightly put me off going to other CILIP London events. I don’t expect everyone to be on Twitter, but as information professionals I really think we should have an understanding of how different people process information, and how some people like to use technology to facilitate that. I don’t think there was an understanding of that at the CILIP London branch tonight, so I don’t think I’d be anxious to spend much more time with them.