I thought IM was hip

This week at work I sent an email announcing that I was stepping down from the intranet governing body.  It was a big deal (at least for me) as I have been working in that space since early 2004.  But it was really time for something new, and I am looking forward to the change.  The main thing it’s doing for me at the moment is that it’s allowing me to step away from all the standard corporate technologies (the portal, enterprise content management) and really start figuring out what’s going on in the high-tech industry.  I have been out of touch, people!  And it’s not just because of the baby, because it’s been years.

I am relishing it!  I am able to focus more deeply on the areas I’m still responsible for, and I am learning and thinking more than I have in years.  Bringing social media to business is a big part of my job, now, and it’s making my hyper aware of how out of touch I’ve been with the industry.  I’ve upgraded my version of Photoshop CS, I’ve been learning about Dreamweaver.  The last time I made web pages myself, CSS didn’t even exist yet.   I have been putting all of my bookmarks into del.ico.us/ndhanthro, and then also putting all my blog links into an aggregator (I chose Netvibes, but more on that another time).  In the course of this tedious exercise, I have come to realize that there are three kinds of RSS feeds.  OMG, I am so far out of touch.  I mean, I haven’t even got my first feed set up and we’re already on third-generation technology!  What’s the difference between them?  And, just because I have a blog on WordPress, does that mean I have to have a feed?  I am not sure I really want to be that exposed …  Really, the questions are endless. 

One of the other things that’s really important for me right now is to get back to my anthropology, and to try to think about what’s going on around me with that perspective.  It is very hard when I am largely surrounded by business people and technologists, but I am trying.  One of the things that I’m doing is treating my technology re-immersion as fieldwork, and trying to capture some of my experiences.  So here is Part 2 of The Plunge, in which I reflect on what I’ve experienced so far.

I remember how unhappy I was when I worked in IT and had to carry a pager, and when the Palm and first Blackberries came out, I gave them away to other people in my area.  I just didn’t want to be that connected.  But when we were preparing for the go-live from the intranet to the corporate portal, I really had to be available, so I succumbed.  For the most part I’m pretty good about not getting sucked in to email on the weekend, though when the phone rings it’s hard not to notice how many unread messages are sitting in my inbox.  

I also resisted Instant Messenger (IM) when it first came out.  I felt that I already had so much going on at work – reading emails or other things while on conference calls, etc.  I just didn’t see the need to add another channel.  But one of my bosses required it so that she could get quick answers if she needed them, and so we could essentially ‘pass notes’ during conference calls when we weren’t together.   I configured iChat on my Powerbook at home, too – I was HOOKED!  I have at least one IM client open all the time at work now, and I can’t imagine doing without it.  Given that I spend a large portion of my work day in back-to-back meetings, it enables me to support my team even on days when I’m essentially unavailable.  I would probably SMS all the time, too, except the way my Blackberry is configured, all the SMS messages come into my work email inbox and get lost.

While I really like the ability to do many things at once, I am also finding that (for the most part) when I’m called to a meeting these days, I should be paying attention.  So I am trying to be cognizant of that, and I rarely bring my computer to meetings any more.  People that urgently need to a hold of me will call my cell.  Besides, I’m starting to be aware of how annoying it is to be in a meeting where no-one is really paying attention.   Because let’s face it – you’re getting a lot done, but in the end it’s rude.  In the multicultural training my team took, they learned that multi-tasking is considered rude in Germany.  One of the women that works for me (Kirsten) said that it’s rude here too, but the difference is that people do it anyways – d*mn Americans!

Ok, I have a lot more to say on this, but this post is getting waaay too long.  Watch for more ramblings on social media, coming soon to a theater near you.

1 Comments on “I thought IM was hip”

  1. Great post, Natalie! I love the idea of treating your re-immersion in emerging technologies as anthropological fieldwork.

    Interesting comments on IM, meetings and multi-tasking. Personally, I think I (and a few others you may know) have gone over the multi-tasking brink into a state of continuous partial attention. Linda Stone describes the phenomenon on her wiki. And Kathy Sierra extended and illustrated the idea in this brilliant post on The Asymptotic Twitter Curve. Both discuss enabling technologies and user motivations.

    I’ll look forward to reading more from the front lines of digital immigration. 😉

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