I’m often trying to do several things at once. I do a great deal of my work via email, keeping contact with students, mentors and colleagues. At the same time I follow several online discussion groups through SCoPE and KnowSchools, ETUG, VSS and so on, yet I seldom feel that I’m on top of everything. Last week, listening to several voice threads posted on a forum about managing online environments, I related to one fellow who described the constant push to get to “inbox zero.” While secretly congratulating myself on actually having a strategy that is considered viable by someone else, I questioned the wisdom of engaging in the process itself, probably because it is one in which I seldom achieve success. These days “inbox 99” usually feels pretty good, which means I never really get there. I’m never caught up. And that is only with my online work.
Last week I finally got to reading a couple of chapters from Heather Menzies book “No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life.” After carting it about for several months hoping for a brief interlude in the demands on my time, it was oddly symbolic to find that Menzies is actually criticizing the online world of abstract communication for changing the pace of life and thus leaving us with no time. Tom Synder in his online review of Menzie’s book states it as the following:
A result of increasingly abstract communication, Menzies argues, is that the value of particular locations in time and space (a “space of places”) has been replaced by a “space of flows”, with data and symbols achieving primacy over lived experience.
To be honest, Menzies argument caught me off guard. Am I sacrificing quality for quantity through my participation online? Why am I so drawn to this venue for communicating and connecting with others? In education we argue that online environments open up new avenues for students to get real life, real time contact with experts. But is that all really just data and symbols? Are the real connections lost because it is online? How can we ensure that there is a quality and a reality, that time isn’t sped up through the whizzing of 1’s and 0’s through virtual space? How can we not be overwhelmed? These are good questions worth pondering. So now, rather than just making sure I am effectively “managing” my online environments, I’m slowing down and making sure that I am managing to have my online environments be effective in really contributing to my life, my time and the quality of both.