The rise of blackberries, iphones, and ipads has assuredly changed the face of conferences and faculty meetings. Many of us make rules about these devices or others for our students, but there are, of course, no rules for people attending meetings or conferences.
During my brief stint as a biglaw attorney, it was expected that you would be checking your blackberry during meetings. In fact, failure to bring your blackberry with you to a meeting may have been perceived as someone shirking work (or not busy/good enough to merit more work coming your way). As more junior faculty come from law firms, I am sure this habit moves increasingly into conferences and faculty meetings. And with Ipads this habitat becomes a bit more distracting because the screens are bigger (Warning: if you sit in front of me at a meeting with an Ipad, I will be reading what you are somehow whether I want to or not). Now, I am definitely guilty of periodicially checking my blackberry, but try to only glance to see if it is something urgent and not actually read or reply to my messages. And I got an Ipad last week, so I may be joining those ranks as well. I don't actually have a problem with people on their phones, tablets, or laptops. Sometimes those people helpfully look things up for us all.
But here is where I confess that I do something that others sometimes perceive as rude. I knit. A lot. I knit at meetings. I knit at conferences. I knit during conference calls. I knit on planes, while waiting in line, and sometimes even in the theatre. As a pre-tenured person, I briefly thought about refraining from the practice. That resolve ended after my first faculty meeting where my itchy hands just started drawing pictures of sweaters. Thus, I wonder what level of craft is acceptable at such venues. Few object to doodling. I have one colleague who has a little sketchpad and makes quite skilled drawing. I have seen several other knitters, crocheters, and other crafts (like cross-stitch). What do you all think when you see crafters/artists at meetings and conferences? Does it send a message that the person isn't paying attention? I am a decent knitter, meaning I can knit without looking down at my hands most of the time. If the crafter makes eye contact does that make it better? I actually gave one of my students permission to knit in class when it was clear to me that she could do so while paying attention.