04 March, 2007

The Rise of Skiing Addiction

Why is everything an addiction these days? I ask having just read a ludicrous piece on the BBC news site claiming we’re all becoming addicted to ‘portable technology’. (No, they don’t mean pruning shears and bicycles, dear, they mean PDAs and iPods.) The Beeb interviewed some idiot (Nada Kakabadse, a Professor at the Northampton Business School) who claimed that, “The symptoms are, like with any other addiction, that people spend more time using their technology than spending it in socialising or in family time.” But that is not a symptom of addiction. If it was, going to work would be an addiction – and so would sleeping. In fact some people – men in particular but, increasingly, women – spend so little time with their families it can be measured in minutes per day. It isn’t hard then to be addicted if this is your standard.

And who is Nada Kakabadse anyway to be making such pronouncements? She’s a Professor of Management. Yes, management. It seems she has a BSc in Mathematics and Computing, a Graduate Diploma in Management Sciences, a Masters Degree in Public Administration and a PhD in Management. Strangely enough, I don’t see any medical degrees in her résumé, not even a degree in psychology. So why on earth would the BBC roll this person out as an expert on addiction?

It may be because she lists one of her research interests as “addictive effect of ICT” (never mind the grammar, she’s only educated to PhD level and can’t be expected to write proper English) so maybe the Beeb found her on a fishing expedition with Google. I looked at her published research and all I could find of relevance on the Northampton Business School site was this:

Korac-Kakabadse, N., (2003a), An Addictive Perspective on Technology and Work, Seventh International Human Resource Management (IHRM) Conference, Limerick, Ireland, 3-4th June 2003.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the text for this online. However, it is telling that there are no co-authors listed, so Professor Kakabadse didn’t collaborate with anyone – like a doctor, for instance, or an addiction expert. The rest of her research is about management stuff – boards, governance, leadership, outsourcing, that kind of thing – so I wonder where she gets her data for the statement that “people spend more time using their technology than spending it in socialising or in family time”? People spend an awful lot of time socialising, even at work – a point she and Andrew Kakabadse make in their book ‘Intimacy’ (sub-titled; ‘International Survey of the Sex Lives of People at Work’.) Does she have figures to show they spend even more time emailing on their Blackberries? I somehow doubt it.

So what is the BBC up to, writing such a silly article and quoting such an irrelevant source? Well, it seems this drivel comes out of a conference in Geneva, Switzerland called ‘the LIFT 07 technology conference’. Could it be that a BBC journalist wanted a free trip to the ski slopes and used this as an excuse? Or is it that journalists really can’t tell the wheat from the chaff when it comes to science reporting?


decatzniplz said...

Your comments are valid. It is a shame that there is so much rolling out of spineless 'gurus' by the media. As to the comments of this 'expert' - this is more about the miasmatic whiff of fame and fortune calling. Anything said is not challenged in real time and so anything can be said so long as there is a sound byte. Thankfully, there are a few people like yourself that are prepared to cut through the bilge spouted by fame-seekers.

graywave said...

Thank you, Mr Niplz. Of course, since my childhood hero was Mighty Mouse (see Waving Not Drowning, 16th December 2006)I see my role in life as defending the world from bilge spouters everywhere. (I also take your point that some people will say anything to get their names in print!)


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