A colleague asked me if I had any thoughts about the distracting use of PDAs (eg iPhones, iPads, Droids etc) during scholarly presentations. I must admit I hadn't given it a lot of thought myself, but she had a recent experience in a small group presentation of her work where the entire front row appeared to be tweeting, checking email, blogging, gaming or whatever and she found it distracting and disrespectful to the speaker. She wondered if it would be appropriate to ask participants at such presentations to avoid using these devices so obviously during a talk.
This is related to our discussions about uses of computers in classes, but it's somewhat different because audience members at talks are obviously a different group of people to students in class and are there for different reasons. For example, it may be that someone going to a CLE presentation doesn't really want to be there so is happy to be distracted by other matters during the presentation. However, if the attempt at being distracted is distracting to others (including the speaker), that could be a problem.
Has anyone ever asked people in this setting to put away their PDAs or to avoid conspicuously texting, emailing etc during a presentation? [And I must admit just last week I was guilty of fidgeting with my Droid during a small committee meeting much to the chagrin of the committee chair. I was in fact trying to pull up the committee agenda on my handheld device because I had forgotten to bring a hard copy - but it looked to the chair like I was just rudely ignoring her and checking email or something. I apologized later, but she still found it as distracting as if I had been texting or checking out my recent baby photos - which, of course, I offered to show her by way of apology at the end of the meeting!]