Archive | April, 2011

TECHGRUMPS: technology addictions & the rise of a new social (un)conscience

26 Apr

On Easter Sunday (24 April 2011), I was happy and honoured to take part in the live recording of the latest TECHGRUMPS podcast, Techgrumps 27: Non geeks go raw like sushi (sic!).  80 minutes of whinging about the latest technology trends, as well as the uses of said technology.

My contribution to the grump world is complaining about the social terror of checking your smartphone notifications every 5 minutes, whatever the (social) context, and the de facto new social media exhibitionism regarding all facets of your personal life through the various social media (a stark contrast to my earlier blog posts on the Social Media Scenes in Manchester and London!). Hear me from the 10th to the 32nd minute complain about:

  •  people spending more time updating their current location and taking photos and videos at a gig rather than dancing, singing and enjoying said gig (check the phone screens in the two photos below I took from a Jamiroquai gig earlier this month)

Jamiroquai at MEN Arena Manchester (19 Apr 2011)

Jamiroquai at MEN Arena Manchester (19 Apr 2011)

  • people checking their Facebook or Twitter notifications on their phone in the middle of a philosophical conversation (usually initiated by the person without a smartphone ;))
  • people checking their phone every 5 minutes in the middle of a film at the cinema, just in case someone has texted them or has posted a witticism on Twitter or Facebook (and that’s even when the film is NOT horrible)
  • people needing to offload very personal information and details on their daily routines every hour of the day on their wide social media audiences, which consist mainly of remote acquaintances rather than close friends (who are usually not remotely interested in said details either)

This excessive notification checking, irrespective of the current social situation, is of course partly due to the availability of the technology itself, i.e. integration of Facebook or Twitter on your phone, internet on-the-go, dedicated notification sounds for texts, Facebook, Twitter, chat etc. So, in all fairness, it is hard not to check your phone when you do get a notification (sound). For all you know, it could be a missed call from a loved one who has been in an accident, or an email confirming that new contract. Nevertheless, it seems that we are all sucked up in a world of instantly available information and an overflow of personal and less personal data that we don’t seem able to escape from. As a result, we are missing the NOW, the experience of the current moment and of the person(s) standing opposite us in real life. This obsessive behaviour can be construed as  rude and anti-social by the people in the immediate surroundings not checking their phones, but – more than anything – it indicates a shift in general social conscience and social mores, whereby the remote online acquaintance in the US you have never met in your life  is allocated by default the same or more (potential?) value than the close offline friend sitting next to you here and now. So new types of shallow relationships are cropping up. Whether someone has retweeted you is becoming more important than whether someone actually lends an open ear to you at a cafe to discuss your problems over a cup of  coffee.

This need to connect and be “approved” by as many people as possible, whether real close friends, Facebook “friends” or Twitter followers you are not even remotely interested in, must have its roots at the basic human need for love, approval and the sense of belonging (in the right groups). Still, it seems that our whole lives are run by this new need for exhibitionism and we are practically controlled indirectly by our ubiquitous and international audience who is or may be reading.

Having suffered the social media notification terror myself when sitting at my laptop, I refuse to use that functionality or indeed the internet on my (admittedly palaeolithic) phone.  Even the thought of getting a free smartphone scares me! My time when I’m away from my laptop is my treasured time OFFLINE and I want it to remain that way! I have already spent thousands of invaluable hours chained to my laptop obsessing over emails and notifications in the past 20 years, hours that have been sadly subtracted off MY LIFE! So this is not a rant about Social Media – which often really help in the democratisation of Governments, processes and opinion. This is a rant about Social Media abuse and their infliction onto others as well as onto ourselves.

It sounds very heavy but the whole podcast is actually full of witty jokes and hearty laughter! And there are several more techy topics covered, as you can see on the podcast page: from the “native” IE to Firebug, Wikimedia, LaTeX, and the latest iphone personal information storage scare.  Enjoy!

Techgrumps 27: Non geeks go raw like sushi

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Inspirational Manchester women

12 Apr

March was a very inspiring month!

Already on the 4th, I was most honoured and really proud to take part in the photoshoot marking the 100th anniversary of  International Women’s Day (IWD) (@IWDphotoshoot and @ManchesterIWD on Twitter). The event was organised by Emma Beck of Lollipop PR (@lollipopprlady) and Naomi Timperley (@naomitimperley) of Social Media Boom and Baby Loves Disco with the aim to “bring together a group of ‘Women Who Impact’ from all walks of life, to launch the IWD programme with a group photograph at Manchester Town Hall.

On that freezing cold but gloriously sunny Friday, I stood on the steps of Manchester Town Hall for a non-glamorous but still exciting and exhilarating photoshoot. There were a few famous women among us, as it has been reported in the print and online media (such as Manchester Evening News and Inside the M60), but most of us were less-known business women, Academics or Creatives who keep on keeping on! So I felt incredibly honoured to have been invited in the first place and of course to be photographed next to some of the “City’s Top Women”, “inspirational” “luminaries” who “impact”! I guess my long association with automatic speech recognition and voice-enabled IVRs can get me anywhere 🙂 And having my own consultancy nowadays also got me the baptism of fire in the Business world.

Here is a representative photo of all 50 of us (I’m in the front row, 5th from the right, the one with the beige coat on)

50 of Manchesters Top Women 🙂 (photo as appeared in “Inside the M60”)

Some of the inspiring women I personally met there were:

  • Dr Marieke Navin (@lisamarieke), Particle physicist turned science communicator at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) here in Manchester (seen here in the 2nd row, 3rd from the right)
  • Dr Manjir Samanta-Laughton (@drmanjir), medical doctor turned author of “Punk Science” (seen at the back next to the woman with the white hat)
  • and Gráinne McElroy (@DemWorkingMum), Technology Research Analyst and self-professed geek, who got me in touch with the organisers of the photoshoot (Thank you!) (seen here in the 2nd row, 4th from the right, just behind me and to my left)

Despite the still lingering euphoria however, I agree with Coun Suzanne Richards, Manchester Council’s lead member for women (quoted from M.E.N.):

“We still need more women politicians, we still need more women in the board rooms.

In fact, I suspect that having more women politicians could be the solution to many of this and other countries’ socio-economic problems!!