Digital sneeze

fractal to represent a digital sneeze

This morning I was involved in the digital documentation of a conference about creative, connected learning. It was a fairly complex set up with multiple cameras, live mixed with audio from atmos and radio microphones. We were also tasked with interviewing guest in the intervals about their experiences at the conference and what they hoping to gain from attending. Everything was going so smoothly until one of the guest speakers became more enthusiastic about the subject matter than we had prepared for. The speaker stepped out of camera view to physically direct the audience to sections of their presentation. I decided it was better to be safe than sorry so I dived out of my seat and started to man the main camera. No Major issue I thought to myself and carried on attentively following the speakers movements. 10 minutes into the new arrangements, just as I got settled into my new role as camera handler, the conference was interrupted abruptly by the discordant sounds of a obviously un-smart phone ringing loudly. What techno-dope leaves their phone on ring throughout a conference?

Unfortunately, the phone belonged to…ME!

In front of colleagues, peers, friends and students I had to sheepishly dive back to where I had been sitting and fumble clumsily, bashing the screen trying to stop this siren of shame from continuing its torture. Of all the people for this to happen to I believe the Technical instructor for new media should probably know better. Needless to say, red faced and embarrassed, I slump back behind the camera.

Apart from the short but sharp lesson in conference etiquette this temporary discomfort also got me thinking about the similarities between the humble sneeze and a ringing mobile and the affects these actions have in situations such as conferences, seminars and the classroom. A piercing sneeze or the shrill tones of a mobile desperate for attention can both wreak havoc on the flow of even the most inspirational of talks. I remember watching a Ted talk by Amber Case a while ago about cyborg anthropology, where she argued that we are all fast becoming cyborgs thanks to ubiquitous, pervasive, “Mary Poppins” technology. The definition Case gave for the word cyborg was:

“an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments”

With this in mind, it would be easy to presume that the majority todays attendees could be considered cyborgs. So how do we get from this presumption to the notion of a digital sneeze. The next step is to consider the definition of a sneeze:

“A sudden involuntary expulsion of air from the nose and mouth due to irritation of one’s nostrils.”

When the incriminating piece of technology started causing a scene in todays conference I definitely considered this to be involuntary. No where in the back of my mind was I thinking… Oh goody, there goes my phone, everyone is looking at me, this is awesome. If we go along with Case’s persuasive argument then the mobile is an extension of the self, its actions at the conference were involuntary and due to irritation (in the form of the caller), thus could be considered a digital sneeze.

Definition of sneeze

Ted talk for Amber Case