From backbenches to the bedroom, the BlackBerry is taking over

According to the emerging etiquette of the online era, it’s the height of rudeness to take out your handheld device and check your emails while friends or colleagues are talking. But what if they’ve been talking for seven hours?”If you’re a new MP, and you want to make a speech in a debate, you just know you’re going to get called last, so we’re not talking about waiting around in the chamber for just half an hour here,” said Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat member for East Dunbartonshire, who at 27 is the youngest person in parliament. “And when someone’s saying over and over again what they could have said in five minutes … well, multi-tasking really becomes very important then.”

Research commissioned by RIM suggests that using a BlackBerry turns an hour of “downtime” into working time each day, increasing some users’ efficiency by 38% as they manage to cram in extra work on the train, at home, or in the debating chamber. But research on the broader topic of electronic workplace interruptions offers an alarming alternative possibility: that connectedness is rendering us less effective. One landmark study, based on observations of workers at two American technology firms, found that people interrupted in the middle of a task took an average of 25 minutes to return to it – if, indeed, they returned to it at all. Edward Hallowell, a US psychiatrist, has identified a condition in some frequently interrupted workers which he labels “attention deficit trait”.,,2109457,00.html

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