Glowscarf: usage

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In an attempt to understand more fully cell phone behavior, and what our expressions our cell phones enable us to make, I’ve come across some interesting bits of research:

From this article, it seems Motorola commissioned a study called On the Mobile. One interesting (if obvious) finding:

Women see their cell phone as a means of expression and social communication, while males tend to use it as an interactive toy. Some men view the cell phone as a status symbol – competing with other males for the most high tech toy and even using the cell phone to seduce the opposite sex. The study found two types of cell phone users- “innies,” who use their phones discreetly, and “outies,” who are louder and less concerned with the people around them.

One thing I’ve noticed about cell phone conversations versus regular phone calls is that people are almost invariably louder when talking on cell phones. One reason for this: when you’re on a landline, the earpiece pipes out not only the voice from the other end of the line, but also your own; much like performers who use monitors to gauge how they sound, standard phones have a built-in feedback mechanism that allow you to gauge how loud and what quality your voice has, naturally.

Cell phones have no such feedback. (except for the oddly disconcerting times when you hear your own voice echo back at you with just enough lag to make you incredibly self conscious about your voice!) Combine this with the misconception that talking louder will somehow improve reception on the other end, as well as generally more environmental noise as the phone moves into new locations, and you’ve got a recipe for loud talkers.

These technical ‘features’ have created not only new, sometimes challenging behaviors in individuals, but entirely new ways of expressing one’s status in the world.

One bit of salient info comes from a rich article at The New Atlantis called Our Cell Phones, Ourselves:

Researchers found that “men are using their mobile phones as peacocks use their immobilizing feathers and male bullfrogs use their immoderate croaks: To advertise to females their worth, status, and desirability,” reported the New York Times.


We also use our cell phones to exert our status in social space, like the remnants of the entourage or train, which “led a worthy to demonstrate his status by the cluster of dependent supporters that accompanied him through a town or a house of parliament.” Modern celebrities still have such escorts (a new cable television series, Entourage, tracks a fictional celebrity posse). But cell phones give all of us the unusual ability to simulate an entourage.

Of course with this desire to express our worthiness, comes the inevitable stepping-upon of toes. Witness the countless tales of cell phones ringing in the live theater. One’s level of self-import must be pretty high to allow it, or worse to answer it. Which is why so many actors have lambasted cellularly-inclined audience members. After all, they’re the ones on stage, they’re clearly the most important people in the room, right?

Other links of interest:

Let’s Talk cell phone etiquette page

textually’s cell phone etiquette archive

the context-aware cell phone project (MIT media lab)

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