Leave them to their own devices


“Two Christchurch city councillors who received a ticking off from the mayor have defended using cellphones and computers in the council chambers.”*

It must be local government election year (except at Ecan).  At the last Christchurch City Council meeting  Mayor Bob Parker told Cr Yani Johanson to stop using his cellphone and Cr Gail Sheriff  to switch off her laptop.

It appears that councillors informally agreed in 2007 to avoid using electronic devices during meetings, although this has been observed in the breach.  Parker said there were strict protocols for using communication devices in the council chambers.

Talking on cell phones or texting during proceedings is certainly not appropriate. An occasional short break would clear heads and allow addicted digerati to have a quick dip into the information flow.  But Cr Sheriff was apparently using her laptop as an electronic filing cabinet, a very sensible and tree-free approach which enables the accessing of historical files  as well anotated documents du jour. As it stands, if asked by the mayor the whereabouts of her prized laptop, she has to say: It’s in the Bag, sir.

Limited protocols are appropriate,  but electronic devices have more virtues than vices, especially their portability and versatility in managing information.

A lot has happened since 2007 to make mobile multimedia devices more powerful, portable and useful.  For example, the iPhone was introduced that same year. With more than 100,000 approved applications improving Apple turnover, iPhones are great for almost everything except  phone communication, where they display some disconcerting quirks.

iPhones are  useful for a range of  non-phone touchscreen tasks,  including accessing digital archives, note-making via a virtual keyboard and connecting via wi fi  or 3G networks to easy email and web browsing on the hoof.

Media people would attest that as an electronic prompter  laptops, notebooks, PDAs and iPads can be used, with or without a data show, to improve coherence in oral contributions via slide shows and cue notes. (For  a prompt reminder  look no further than George Bush Jr. and imagine what he would have been like without a teleprompter).

Built-in applications like the compass and weather forecasts could also help keep councillors stay properly oriented and be more attuned to changes in the political climate. More council decisions seem to be held in camera and smartphones could also help there.

Protocols need to be adjusted to changing times. Switched on cell phones at funerals are definitely a no no. But it is less clear, for example, whether a partner should surreptitiously text at a function while, next to her, her partner is giving a speech in an official civic capacity. (I think it is only fair but others may disagree).

But at working meetings small devices are clearly useful if used silently and unobtrusively. As Samuel Johnson said in 1775  “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”  Anything which improves access to the collective memory and the quality of discussion has to be positive.

When proceedings get too heated or turgid and electronic games begin to pall, the subtle self-insertion of earpieces by overheated or bored councillors, with or without connection to personal music, would soothe savage civic breasts and induce harmony. However, a too open display of electronica could lead to cyber jealousy of the worst kind, especially if it is aligned to party lines.  [See Cellphone reunion video*]

I’m not sure about their plans as far out as 2021 but the big Apple’s iHoloPhone 2012 model (see sneak  preview*) could really liven up  proceedings holographically, assuming the CCC still has elected representatives in two years.

Luckily for the mayor of the day, the council chamber will, by then, be much nearer the Police Station. That should help if digital devices really get out of hand.  The threat of an overnight sojourn in the cells, sans cellphones or other devices, will really put the fear of Our Lady Gaga up our civic fathers and mothers.

In the meantime perhaps councillors should be left to their own devices.

Footnote: In a turning of the admonitory tables, North Shore councillors are keen to confiscate Mayor Andrew Williams’ cellphone after his late-night texts for the day which, in a chilling demonstration of the power of the pernicious technology, have reached as far as Christchurch’s mayor, with complaints about the city’s nightlife and “Third World” service. The  answer is a lemon.

#Lyall Lukey  2 May 2010

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz


Electronic shutdown ordered | Stuff.co.nz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n83XjFSSvM&feature=related  Apple’s iHoloPhone 2012 

http://www.nelsonguirado.com/index.php/comiendo/iphone+jokes:   Cell Phone Reunion  CLASSSIC!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64hftH6YNjM&feature=player_embedded  Also for i-Phone haters



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