iPad and Social Cues

No news that the Apple iPad came out on Saturday. What is news, and will be news, is how people come to understand and use tablet computing in different situations. I've written about the norms of technology use in meetings and classrooms -- and about being chastised by a colleague for "texting" on my phone when I was, in fact, taking notes. We have a chance to watch whether and how tablet computing will drive new norms with the iPad bringing tablet computing into the mainstream. photo Steve Rubel is blogging about The Tablet-Only Challenge, his "week-long challenge to use a tablet computer, in this case the iPad, as [his] primary content creation and consumption device." In his post he mentions how the iPad seemed to better fit organizational norms:
In some corporate cultures, it's more than OK to bring a laptop to a meeting for note taking. However, I often find that it puts a barrier between you and others. If you're taking notes on a smart phone, people just think you're checking your email. A tablet computer changes the dynamic because everyone can tell you are taking notes. I used the iPad to take notes throughout the day, which was terrific since I have terrible handwriting.
Observation: People drawing on their systems savvy (the ability to see the opportunities and challenges in both our technology tools and organizational practices, and how these might work in concert) will see that there are two different issues playing out in the norms Steve Rubal accurately describes. The first is how we individually hold and engage with information (e.g., the best way for him to take notes). The second is whether multitasking is appropriate for the situation (e.g., people's concern with email checking). These are separate issues with separate design considerations. While I am a strong believer in groups setting their own norms for multitasking, I am also a strong believer in individuals making personal decisions about how they hold and engage with information for the task at hand. The design choices need to be made at the appropriate level: group decisions for group's needs, individual decisions for individual's needs. Here's hoping that the iPad hoopla energizes discussions of new norms in conference rooms and coffee shops around the world. Steve, thanks for sharing your experience. I'm following your week with great interest.

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