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Re: Annoyance of cell phone use in public spaces

Taking point a) first, - it seems to me that this is explicable in terms of
'territorial instincts" (however you might define them), and "status
Normally, people who 'enter our space' engage with us in one of a variety of
ways, but all according to implicit 'rules' about territory. A 'low status'
invader will be overly conciliatory, a high status invader will deliberately
ignore our territorial rights in favour of his(/her) own; he/she will move
swiftly and unambigouously to consolidate 'ownership' of the territory with
minimum bloodshed, so to speak.
The most complex and time consuming transactions occur where all
participants are of a similar status (most obviously so where the
participants are young males!).
The point of this is that mobile phone users often unwittingly trample all
over this 'territorial ettiquette', because they are actually deeply
involved in a territory not physically present to others in the same
physical 'place'. The effect is one of being 'actively ignored', which is
quite different to the 'passive ignoring' which occurs in crowded public
places. (A similar effect can be had when trying to conduct a conversation
with a receptionist [or whatever] who is simultaneously gazing at a computer
One effect of these situations is that the person speaking on the mobile
will be speaking in an active and outgoing way (whilst ignoring those
physically present) and will therefore seem to be talking louder than they
actually are.
Combine this with the situation where the phone user will be attempting to
understand a 'place' which is impoverished in signal terms and in
information terms, as it is in competition with the characteristics of the
physical location of the speaker (which may well be downright noisy), and
the impression is of a poor signal-to-noise ratio, so of course they may
tend to shout. A similar effect can be observed when a sound engineer works
with a group of vocalists in a band: the engineer can manipulate the quieter
members into singing louder by lowering their 'foldback', and the same
principle can work (in reverse, as it were) with the louder members.
I've a hunch that delaying the speaker's own voice slightly before feeding
it back to them through the earpiece might have the effect of it being more
perceptible and therefore the phone user would tend to speak quieter (bit
like in a museum).

Incidentally, I've noticed on several trips to Finland that people there
speak very quietly on the mobile! - are Nokia phones better? is Finland
generally quieter? or are Finns more self-concious? - to be fair, I have no
experience with 2nd-hand car dealers in Finland, so this isn't a conclusive
----- Original Message -----
From: "Hannes Muesch" <hmuesch@HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: 06 August 2001 22:32
Subject: Annoyance of cell phone use in public spaces

> Dear List
> I am afraid I am not the only one who is at times annoyed by having to
> overhear mobile phone users ranting in public spaces. Strangely enough, it
> seems to me that overhearing a face-to-face conversation happens much less
> frequently and when it does it seems much less annoying. I wonder whether
> there is a consensus that
> (a) Overhearing phone users is more annoying than overhearing plain old
> face-to-face talk, and
> (b) Assuming (a) is true, WHY that is.
> Signs at stores and restaurants barring cell phones, or New York's "quiet
> cars" in commuter trains seem to support point (a); after all, these signs
> are not accompanied by "Quite please" or "No laughing at all times" signs.
> As for point (b):
> Do people talk louder on the phone than in ordinary conversation? If so,
> WHY?
> Is it the mic sensitivity? If the sound pickup were rather insensitive, I
> would have though that someone had already done something about it. So
> is probably not the issue.
> Is it the SNR? On the sender's side the pickup is close to the mouth and
> the receiving end the transducer is close to the ear, so one would think
> that the SNR tends to be better than in "real life". On the other hand, in
> phone link there are potentially two interfering background sound scapes
> (one at the sending end transmitted to the receiving end and one at the
> receiving end proper) whereas in the face-to-face conversation there is
> one (shared) background sound scape. Also, the binaural cues are missing,
> perceptual jammer suppression is harder to do and a larger SNR is
> Visual cues (lip reading) are also unavailable, requiring a larger SNR.
> Still, is that really it?
> Does it have to do with the dynamic range of the channel?
> Or is it perceptual, some sort of Lombard reflex, not caused by noise but
> simply a reaction to the fact that the little voice on the other end
> so far away or the hope that I can reduce long-distance charges if I yell
> loud enough.
> Does it have to do with the perception of my own voice through the
> circuit?
> Does it have to do with the content of the conversation? (less inhibited
> the phone)
> I wonder whether anyone ever studied this with a reasonable amount of
> Seems like its our social responsibility ;-)
> -- Hannes
> PS: News stories on the topic:
> http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2777310,00.html
> http://press.nokia.com/PR/200007/785437_5.html
> _________________________________________________________________
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