Friday, March 13, 2009

Can we ever go paperless? Mobile devices and the perception of attention

The goal to go paperless, in this -day and age- still eludes many, including myself. It's not for lack of technology however, because the means exist at our fingertips whether it's a laptop or handheld device.
Some recent encounters, and my acquisition of an iPhone have led me to believe that unless you're busy scribbling musings down on honest-to-goodness-paper... there is the perception that one's attention is divided in things like seminars, lectures, etc. This is not to say that one could not be doodling or writing down ultra-deviant thoughts on said paper, but the cultural norm still seems to be (at least in more intimate settings) that paper = politeness.
Example: Because I was on the go that day all I had to take notes with at a talk was my iPhone. So, I was taking notes (really!) the entire time with the device. While it isn't my first choice for data entry, my fingers are small enough that it wasn't a terrible thing to do so. After the talk, my good friend (the person giving the talk) said he noticed I had a 'relationship' with my phone during his talk...
I then realized that the talk was intimate enough for him to notice my medium for notetaking--only he perceived that my attention was divided between him and my -TEXTING-.
I was mortified--that probably he and everyone else in the room thought that I could be so inconsiderate as to text the WHOLE TIME throughout his talk. Totally not the case.
This is a widespread thing that I am bringing up here: people tweeting during class, laptop usage for taking notes (but actually playing WoW) in lectures... is it any wonder why no one would believe I was actually ONLY taking notes?
So, this brings me to the question--can we ever go paperless, when we have these multitasking devices that make one's direction of attention ambiguous? Must it continue to be the domain of pen and paper to send the message of "yes, you and this discussion have my undivided attention"?
Can we (should we) get past this technocultural perception?

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