The Weekly Round-Up: Email Addicts Anonymous, CIO stars and mind-altering tech

Top UK CIO crowned, tech that teaches the violin and time to go cold turkey on email?
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor

Top UK CIO crowned, tech that teaches the violin and time to go cold turkey on email?

The Round-Up has a problem and needs help.

Actually, the Round-Up has a whole host of problems, but few appropriate for a family column like this.

And it turns out the problem the Round-Up is actually willing to tell you about is one that many of you share.

Look around you, in your office: neurotic staff, pecking at keyboards? They've probably got it too.

Him, yes, the smug-looking one who just walked into a door while reading something on his iPad - he's almost certainly got it.

What are the symptoms? The Round-Up will tell you, right after it checks the email that just pinged into its inbox. Hang on...

Bah, the Round-Up has no need for natural remedies for 'that'. Anyway, what were we talking about?

Ah, yes, the perils of email addiction - for that is the Round-Up's affliction.

The symptoms of email addiction include: constantly checking your inbox, impatience over sluggish replies and firing off pointless messages rather than simply talking to colleagues, a story on silicon.com this week reveals.

There are those who check their emails every few minutes - in meetings and even on holiday - and do not feel they can live without checking.

Over half of business users check their email when away from the office. When probed, 20 per cent said it was self-inflicted as they perceived it was expected of them. Some execs are driven to checking their emails in the bathroom and at intimate moments, which must be pleasant for all concerned.

This is hardly surprising given how prevalent email has become in our working and personal lives. It's the first thing you get when you start a new job, unless you work in the civil service, in which case you get it several weeks after you start.

So, how to fix this addiction? First you need to acknowledge and assess how bad your problem is.

Next you need to deal with the problem by introducing a few email behaviour changes. Ready?

No you can't check your email first, please concentrate.

Firstly, determine the underlying cause of the addiction. For example, is it job insecurity or a lack of trust in team members?

Secondly, develop a culture where people know it's OK to switch from email, even encouraging them to make a conventional phone call or at the very least switch off the email component of their mobile device. Weird but true.

Finally, teach people about the value and use of alternative media. For example, some companies have email-free periods during which people are encouraged to talk first and email later where necessary. Talk? To people? With your actual voice? How incredibly human 1.0!

Replacing humanity with technology?

Elsewhere on silicon.com, Sherry Turkle, professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT warns how our office habits are taking over our lives. She says technology is making us treat human relationships like work.

So let's start that revolution: put the 'I' back into email. We need to break the mental bonds and think and work with a clear mind. Ignore the detail that even as you read this your inbox is filling up with email after precious email, your unread count heading for, whisper it, double figures.

Still, if you think email addiction is bad, wait until you try giving up Facebook.

CIO stars

Earlier this week, silicon.com hosted its fifth annual CIO50 event, where the top CIOs in the UK gathered to find out who was on this year's list. Want to know who topped the list this year?

Check out our photos from the event. Take a look at our And the winner is... story, or even investigate the full list. And if that's not enough, why not find out what CIOs get up to when they're not in the office, with cycling, swimming and skydiving CIOs on this year's list.

Mind-altering tech

Finally this week, we've already talked about how technology can shape human behaviour negatively - how about a bit of balance? Let's take a look at how technology can improve us.

This week, silicon.com sent a reporter to Milton Keynes. It was nothing she'd done - it was a fact-finding mission to the Jennie Lee Research Laboratories at the Open University's Milton Keynes campus.

The rather clever boffins there have discovered another fun use for Microsoft's Surface technology. Remember it? It's like the offspring of a drunken coupling between an iPad and a dining table.

One researcher has designed a collaborative tour guide application, letting up to four people stand around the table together and build an itinerary for tourists visiting the city of Cambridge.

Another device aims to change shopping behaviour by encouraging people to choose what to buy based on how many air-freight miles are needed to deliver it to the shop.

Shoppers scan items on their trolleys and a traffic light system warns them how many air miles their can of beans has clocked up. Remember kids, the further it's travelled, the tastier it is, right?

The Round-Up's favourite is this rather splendid contraption that teaches budding violin players all about proper posture.

The project, called MusicJacket, uses a jacket containing a variety of motion-capture sensors to track the position of the violin and the bow trajectory. Data is transferred wirelessly to a laptop for processing. The jacket then gives its wearer feedback in the form of vibrations to indicate when they need to adjust their position.

There's more.

You can learn how coloured balls can influence your decision to take the stairs rather than jump in the lift and even how sparkling lights bouncing off the floor can persuade you to make more environmentally sound decisions.

So from dehumanised technology workers and email addiction to greener living through gadgets and tech-influenced music, the Round-Up comes full circle and bids you all a rather splendid weekend...

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