Man­ners first, IT sec­ond

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Porirua City coun­cil­lors are cur­rently tri­alling ipads as a way to cut down on the money and waste used in print­ing coun­cil agen­das and re­ports. Coun­cil­lors who find the $700 tablet com­put­ers use­ful will need to buy their own af­ter the trial fin­ishes on July 1.

While the ben­e­fits of tablets are clear, coun­cil­lors should also re­mem­ber the draw­backs of such tech­nol­ogy – namely that smart­phones and tablets tend to turn their users into dis­tracted slaves to the screen.

Just last month it was re­ported cafe work­ers in Welling­ton City were re­fus­ing to serve cus­tomers who or­dered food and cof­fees while en­gaged in a con­ver­sa­tion on their phones. Eti­quette con­sul­tant Ana Maria Moore was quoted in the ar­ti­cle say­ing peo­ple were be­com­ing de­sen­si­tised to tech­nol­ogy but man­ners never went out of fash­ion.

Man­ners are ar­guably more im­por­tant in the coun­cil de­bat­ing cham­ber than a cafe. While coun­cil­lors will nat­u­rally use their ipads to con­sult agen­das dur­ing Te Komiti (com­mit­tee) and full coun­cil meet­ings, too much at­ten­tion paid to phones and tablets gives rise to a sus­pi­cion that the ipads are be­ing used to text, email, or even play An­gry Birds – for all ob­servers know.

Agen­das are pro­vided be­fore coun­cil meet­ings to al­low the at­tend­ing meet­ings to pre­pare thor­oughly. It is no­tice­able that coun­cil of­fi­cers present at meet­ings are rarely seen con­sult­ing pa­per doc­u­ments, let alone elec­tronic ones.

It is known for coun­cil­lors to text each other dur­ing meet­ings to con­fer and gauge opin­ions be­fore a vote. Among other prob­lems with this tac­tic, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of­ten hap­pens while sub­mit­ters are still pre­sent­ing their views. It would take a skilled multi-tasker to hear ev­ery word while tap­ping mes­sages.

Coun­cil­lors owe res­i­dents the re­spect of their at­ten­tion at meet­ings. Pre­sent­ing to a room­ful of elected of­fi­cials and bu­reau­crats is clearly an in­tim­i­dat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for many sub­mit­ters.

Of course, it doesn’t take a fancy gad­get for ci­vil­ity to be aban­doned in the de­bat­ing cham­ber.

An ugly scuf­fle be­tween coun­cil­lor Litea Ah Hoi and Vik­ings rugby league club chair­man Bernie Wood af­ter a March meet­ing about As­cot Park’s ar­ti­fi­cial turf was an ex­treme ex­am­ple.

But whis­per­ing and eye rolls also grate. Coun­cil­lors might not agree with or like sub­mit­ters, but they owe them good man­ners.

I am sure coun­cil­lors are se­ri­ous and earnest in their civic du­ties and most poor be­hav­iour is un­in­ten­tional or sim­ply force of habit. But as Welling­ton’s baris­tas re­mind us, it doesn’t hurt to be re­minded that man­ners never go out of fash­ion.

An­drea O’neil, re­porter.

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