12th Assembly 2009

How tweet it is!

The 12th Assembly is the first to feature wireless internet access for delegates’ use. Does this enhance the quality of participants’ Assembly experience or is it a distraction from what is going on at the meeting? Jonathan Foye caught up with some of the Assembly delegates to find out.

Typing and texting are activities that use the same side of the brain as listening.

Despite this, the General Secretary of the Assembly, Rev. Terence Corkin, said he had no issues with Assembly members using laptops for internet use during the meeting.

Mr Corkin was not concerned about potential distraction.

“They haven’t caused me any problems and we made provision for them to be here,” he said.

“Given that people can be distracted in any number of ways, I trust their commitment and adult behaviour.”

Clare Ligtermoet from Western Australia said that using the internet during the meeting helped, rather than hindered, her concentration.

“When there is a long discussion, (looking at a laptop) helps give you a break,” she said. “You might otherwise be staring into space.”

It is easy to imagine that the ready availability of information from the outside world would prevent attendees from paying attention to a long, drawn out meeting like the triennial Assembly.

Yet Assembly members argued that they benefited from the ability to gain more information as digital versions of Assembly documents were available.

According to New South Wales Synod representative Christine Bayliss Kelly, that feature was useful for it cut down on paper usage.

“I’m pleased that people are doing it because it means less paper in preparation for the meeting,” Mr Corkin said.

While some people have used their laptops for slightly less relevant tasks, such as to “tweet” or update their Facebook, Ms Bayliss Kelly said even that had been a positive contribution.

“I’ve been Facebooking but it’s been good, because we Facebook (chat) to each other about Assembly.”

Whether distracting or useful, internet access has significantly changed members’ Assembly experience. While many were happy that they were able to access Assembly documents using their laptops, some felt that there were still improvements to be made.

“The frustration has been that, while everything written in the lead up to the Assembly is available in digital form, everything written since then is only on paper,” Ms Bayliss Kelly said.

“If we were able to download new papers and items of agenda, it would be helpful.”