mobile call manners

being in a country where i am sufficiently fluent with the local language, i get to overhear conversations regardless of my intention. my everyday 30-min bus ride in london always bring such an opportunity: unfortunately it is not possible to drop out of it. some people do force others to get to know bits of their daily life details whether they want it or not. the benefit of anonymity in a big city? perhaps. i wonder how they perceive privacy in the internet.

one useful tactic to talk on the phone in public is to use your free hand to cover your mouth and possibly the microphone on the mobile phone. benefits are clear for those who consider them as benefits:

– reducing the noise from your surroundings thus more pleasant for your calling partner and clearer hearing for you
– preventing others from overhearing your conversation

it is quite common to spot people doing this in japan and south korea but less as you move to west from there. one speculation is that certain cultures enforce the notion of desirable behaviors more clearly than others.

an indonesian-german girl living in tokyo who quickly adopted the locals’ norm to take a call at a dinner table so that her call does not disturb others.

a korean girl blocking the noise from the street for a conference call

an argentinian gentleman who believes that he can hear the voice from the caller better by blocking the microphone on the mobile phone

7 thoughts on “mobile call manners

  1. Eida Marquez

    Hola, me gustaria invitare a participar como ponente de las XXII Jornadas Infociencias UCLA 2008, me gustaria que me enviaras tu correo electronico para contactarte. Espero tu pronta respuesta

    Eida Márquez – Miembro de la comision de ponencias de las XXII Jornadas Infociencias UCLA 2008

  2. Fumiko

    I had the exact same experience and interestingly, wrote a blog entry recently as well. When you become accustomed to the foreign language environment where you can choose to ignore others, understanding every bit becomes both a privilege and a annoyance. In fact, I still suffer from this after being back to my home country for two years.

    I personally feel that the topic of the discussion affects the perceived annoyance more than the visibility of the other end; It would be nice to see another fascinating paper with conversation topics taken into account.

  3. Mikael

    Unfortunately the main reason for holding a hand in front of mouth is the microphone performance. I don´t know anyone who wouldn´t need to do it in a noisy environment, the mics capture so much external noise that the conversation just doesn´t proceed. The amount of noise is commensurate to the type of conversation, intimacy, importance, accuracy of information and such.

    There was a time when audio design had a high priority in mobile phone design. Today a lot of the “rest” catches all the attention. Still, voice is the base of all human communication, which is why it´s always delightful to see progress in that particular field. It´s about Communication Experience, the most important part of UX for mobile device companies.

  4. Rich H

    A lot of thit is I feel is around the context. On busy comuter trains I hear a lot of business conversations. This doesn’t annoy me per se as it’s just the sort of thing I hear in an open plan environment. What I would say though, is how much ‘intelligence’ they are giving out on their own and others companies. This again though is the same as people who have confidential papers in view as hard copy, or on a laptop.

    Then often in social environments, I hear a lot more socially related calls, and it too is no more than you hear in passing within a group chatting.

    The mobile is merely connecting us to people not physically present.

    However the one thing I do object to is people making / taking calls, sending / reading messages on phones whilst in a meeting!

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