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Should Laptops be Banned in Conferences?

We are at the 4th International Conference on e-Social Science listening to a talk by Alex Voss entitled 'Widening Uptake of e-Infrastructure Services'. The worrying thing is that the majority of the people in the room are using their laptops to check email/surf the web/write blog posts (like us) rather than listen to the presentation.

This poses the questions whether laptops should be banned from such conferences during presentations? It would mean less blog posts but as a presenter myself it can be disheartening to look up only to view a sea of laptops and people typing.

Ok time to stop typing and to listen....


  1. Anonymous12:16 PM

    Maybe, maybe not, currently I am sitting at a conference, when I here something interesting I can search for it. If I am bored, I can catch up on emails and read your blog.

  2. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Yep i agree it is great to be able to look up links/info from a talk and i guess if a talk is boring people will turn to their laptops.

    Perhaps the key is to make sure your talk is so good people wouldn't want to check their email...

    We always run our talks as 'movies' nowadays as it creates a much higher level of interest from the audience. Its much more compelling than powerpoint..

  3. Or perhaps the conference should be banned and the talks should be delivered via the laptops. It'd probably save a lot of expense and energy. I say this only half tongue in cheek.

  4. Anonymous9:32 PM

    What about phones? If my iPhone and other similar devices are indicators of a future direction of technology, then phones would need to be banned, too.

    Annnnnd that probably wouldn't go over well.

  5. Anonymous11:45 PM

    It's the presenter's job to be more entertaining than my email. I don't _have_ to be there. I'm there because I choose to be. Accordingly, whether or not I choose to use my laptop is _my_ decision, not yours.

  6. If your attitude is that "it's the presenter's job to be more entertaining than my email," then, honestly, why bother coming to a conference at all? Why not play video games or watch TV? I didn't realize that people went to conference solely to be entertained.

  7. What if the conference organizers, moderaters and even the presenters asked for people nicely to refrain from using computers, just like they do cell phones, during the presentations? That way, even if some people did start pulling out laptops they'd be pounced upon by the rest of the group and never heard from again.

  8. If I was presenting and lots of people pulled out their laptops and were obviously not paying attention, I'd do the same. When they finally started to notice, I'd ask them if they liked it - and if not, would they either like to stop or leave.

  9. People come to a conference to be informed and if you can 'entertain' then that helps the communication process.. So i dont quite agree with the 'you might as well watch tv'comment.

    Perhaps its the line of work - we are digital urban based so its a lot of movies, city flythoughs and second life etc - ie its visually demanding.

    Right got to stop commenting - in a conference using my laptop and a talk on facebook network visualisation coming up..

  10. Anonymous12:04 PM

    I wonder how bad it's going to be in 10 years or so. My generation graduated with the internet, I wonder about what impact the prevolance of the attitude that a presenter's job is to be more entertaining than reading email or browsing youtube will have on a generation who will probably be even more addicted to the net than our generation. Mentally dipping in and out of talks to check train times, email, restaurants or (as I saw a lot of at all hands, second life)reduces concentration and the ability to take anything other than one or two keywords from a presentation, surely? I wonder how many of the lecturers in this room would be happy with people sending texts or whatever in their tutorials?

  11. For the time being, let's just not provide WiFi at conference facilities.

    I also find it obnoxious to say 'I don't have to be there, so entertain me'. Well if the talk is that dull then you can just leave instead of distracting everyone else.

  12. Anonymous9:26 PM

    Oh fer cryin out loud... Turn off the computer and just listen for a minute. Isn't that what adults are supposed to be able to do? The problem with the "You must entertain me" attitude (aside from the fact that it is the preferred psychological stance of 9-year-olds) is that "boring" is often just a code word for challenging or difficult. These demanding moments tend to be precisely the moments that require greatest attention and from which the greatest breakthroughs in understanding often emerge. That is, if you're willing to turn off the computer and work at listening.

    On the other hand, sometimes speakers really are just boring, or not your cup of tea. Fine. Vote with your feet: stand up, walk out, and let others who want to hear the speaker listen in peace.

  13. Anonymous3:26 PM

    i don't know if you're still in Manchester or not. But if you are, you may be interested in trying this:曼彻斯特,虬江路/

    (un)familiar territories at the chinese arts centre. A series of walks around the city replacing the ambient sound with corresponding sound from chinese cities.
    Changing the experience altogether.

  14. latop without any network connections will be fine for the meeting. else it is hard for ppl to concentrate in the meeting agenda.

  15. No! Laptops are an unobtrusive call to information outside the room and a means of communicating withing the room. I left a comment with details on Kenny's Blog.

    Whether something is rude all depends on circumstance. Getting up and leaving a talk can be just as bad as sitting and quitely working.

    Giving a lecture would be annoying if someone was not looking up information about the topic, but we should appreciate that it is often possible to multi-task and we need people to learn this skill.

    If paying no attention and taking up space that others want then it is probably rude to stay...