“JSB and I have been exposed to the dark side of … new technology. JSB has even coined a name for it â he calls it âBerrybiteâ, merging Blackberry with soundbite.
Both JSB and I have had experiences where documents we sent were read by people on a Blackberry or Treo. They werenât long documents â basically the equivalent of two or three pages of text. The recipients were initially highly critical of the material. But, when we pressed them to read the documents again, they came back after reading them more carefully on a PC or in print form and apologized for their initial reactions. They said the material was excellent and they didnât really understand why they had such a negative initial reaction.
Well, we think we know why initial reactions were so negative. The Blackberry or Treo is not conducive to a careful read â it encourages skimming. It also encourages people to find a quick way to capture what is in the document and then move on to the next message. As a result, people tend to try to fit these documents into familiar categories based on some key words rather than thinking deeply about the topic and absorbing new perspectives. It also doesnât help that documents on these devices are typically accessed in environments with lots of distractions â meeting rooms, airports, automobiles, etc. â making it difficult to concentrate on the message at hand.”
Both Foe and myself were discussing this a while ago – she had a client who’s organisation was addicted to their crackberries; and in Nokia a lot of the management use communicators more than laptops due to their schedules. We have both experienced firsthand exactly what John Hagel and JSB (John Seely-Brown?) describe above.
Aside from the oft-mentioned ‘Constant Partial Attention’ that the thumbwheel fruit-machine fosters – Blackberries and other mobile email systems (anecdotally at least) seem to encourage ‘Seagull’-style management, a display of communication and ‘progress’ where in reality there is little.
Berrybites aren’t confined to work or email either – I remember Michael Kieslinger and Molly Steenson’s presentation to Etech 2004 about a group of SMS users arranging a social occasion. A plan was mooted by an individual to the group – something like 120 texts and 2 hours later – nothing about that original plan had changed.
As a non-Blackberry/push email user I have a morbid fascination with what their usage does to people and projects. Has the organisational atom of thought in corporations shrunk from a Powerpoint bullet to Berrybite?
We have a long history of studying the effects our intertwined tools and media have on the way we act and interact, but perhaps because what we call ’email’ pours seamlessly from container to container we imagine we don’t have to modify anything about our behaviour – that nothing about our relationship with that media has changed other than we can receive it anywhere.
First to solve this might not get rich, but they might have a less stressful life.