Janni Aragon, writing from Victoria, British Columbia in Canada
I have prided myself on the early adoption of new technologies in my work and personal life. A good majority of my research has examined women and technology. From a practical point of view technology allows me to connect almost immediately with friends, colleagues, family, and students. This is a mixed blessing. I know that we all lament how, thanks to email, we have expanded this notion of work and working hours. I thought about managing technology when I read Liana Silva’s blog post about work and guilt. I looked in the mirror and thought that her thoughtful commentary was about me, too. Managing time and technology surely adds to the guilt discussion. Is technology making me a workaholic? I managing technology or is it managing me? Am I saving time by my use of my smart phone and my tablet?
I certainly use my host of technology in the classroom, for office hours, and beyond. But, the weight of this electronic umbilicus is at times more of an electronic manacle. I have taken to scheduling writing or grading time in my Outlook calendar, as this allows me work time, and I manage getting scheduled into meetings. The good news is that I love my job and my career, but I know that it is not everything. I’ve been thinking a lot about Heather Menzies and Janice Newson’s article “No Time to Think” and No Time by Heather Menzies. I know that we have all heard about how academics’ work practices have changed a lot, thanks to technology. The Menzies and Newson article speaks to this and made me uncomfortable as I read it. They were definitely talking about my work life. I have also heard a colleague or two refer to smart phones as the tool of neoliberalism rebranding the university landscape. Academics are prone to wax poetic, no?
I read work-related emails during the evenings and weekends. I do not want to walk into work to a hundred or more emails. This might surprise many, but I do think it works for me. One issue though, in this smart phone world is that students have gotten to expect this. It is not uncommon for me to get emails an hour or two apart with a student inquiring if I got the previous email. They might know my schedule and assume that since I’m not teaching I can effortlessly reply to their important query immediately. This last holiday I noted that I was getting more advising emails from students on Christmas Eve. I made a point of not responding for a few days—as it was a statutory holiday that I was celebrating.
And, yes, I am known for often responding to emails within minutes or hours. But, it does not always happen. Have I unleashed a beast? Perhaps this explains why my partner is asking me to unplug more. One thing that I started last Fall was not working late on campus 2-3 days, instead I do this 1-2 days a week. The upshot is that I’m home more this school year. This means more family dinners together, which is a great end to the day with my family. The cost is that I often work for a few hours in the evening and like most academics, I still work for a few hours during the weekend.
Gen X scholars remember the good old days of doing research in the library and scouring for books in the stacks, and feeling a sense of discovery when you found a really good book next to the book that you were really looking for initially. What were the good old days of technology? Have we increased the work day with our efficient smart phones? I ask this as my smart phone plays music and my tablet is open with Twitter streaming. I rely too much on either to get rid of them, but maybe I need to willingly unplug more.
Menzies, Heather and Janice Newson. “No Time to Think.” Our Schools, Our Selves, v16, n3 Spring 2007: 99-104.
Menzies, Heather. 2005. No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life. Toronto, Douglas & McIntyre.
This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.