Technology can’t replace being there

I attend a lot of meetings, and have done so for over three decades. Some people tolerate them, most people won’t.

I attend most of them because my job requires it, but for some of them I am a volunteer. I see meetings – especially of public boards and associations – as a democratic way of decision-making.

You present your view on an issue, listen to other views around the table, and together you come to a conclusion on how to proceed.

Not attending a meeting excludes us from this decision making.

People are different, but I favour face to face communication for this type of team work over any other method. I’ll use the telephone if I have to, but I find the limitations to technology very annoying and therefore disruptive to the whole process of communication.

Body language is also a very important part of communication. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we all use it. Using a telephone, email or other means of impersonal communication eliminates a very important part of communication.

I agree with Cache Creek Councillor Ida Makaro, who is opposed to the frequent and casual use of electronic attendance at Council meetings. As someone sitting in the public gallery and trying to follow the debate, I find the use of laptop computers and/or telephones to be very distracting.

Have you ever been at a demonstration of new teleconferencing equipment where most of the hour is spent trying to get an image or sound? Forget about the demo.

As an observer of electronic attendance, and a participant of the occasional conference call, I can also say that those participating electronically participate less.

Sound gets garbled, visual cues are missed, out of sight is out of mind. Those in the same room interact in a way that cannot be extended to those hooked up over a phone line.

If you want to participate in the meeting, be AT the meeting.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal.