Stroking the screen of his smartphone, he scrolled past tweets that succinctly summarized the words of the man on the podium. The speaker’s unfunny jokes made even less amusing when amplified by a stream of identical tweets and retweets. The core of the message – if there was one – lost in a sea of digital chatter. The hashtag taken over by inside jokes and by spam from the exhibit floor. On the big screen, a red dot danced along the first few sentences of a text-heavy slide. The speaker, engrossed in his monotonous karaoke, had his back to the audience. It was time. Time to get up and find some free coffee before the next talk.
Besides the whirring of the fridges and the buzzing of the fume hood it was quiet in the lab. The radio was off. The centrifuge was silent. The only other sound was the ticking of a clock, very briefly and almost unnoticeably slowing down as the big hand pushed onto twelve and the little hand reached ten. Sunlight hit a pile of papers on a lab bench. A pipette waited to be picked up, but nobody was there. The last student had gone home almost three hours ago. The next one would arrive in a few minutes, take a last sip of her coffee before placing the cup on the table just outside the lab entrance, and flip through the notebook to recall which of yesterday’s inconclusive experiments would need to be done again today.
Paper_version_2_Final_Draft_v1_JS_PT_edits.doc took up most of the screen. A small corner was reserved for easy access to a web browser with three open tabs: a literature search, a music playlist, and a social media page on which nothing new had happened since she last refreshed the screen. Going back to the Word document, the colours started to grow on her. The red, blue, purple and green a nice touch on the otherwise monochrome pages. The cursor blinked expectantly. She accepted a fixed typo and a suggested alternative phrase. That’s two things done. Time for coffee.