Friday, July 23, 2004

Mobile phones across cultures

It's always interesting to see comparative cross-cultural research on mobile phone use:

In Paris and Madrid users are happy to stand in the street and talk. But Londoners prefer to create a temporary phone zone where several users, unaware of each other, stop to speak in the same place. Both Londoners and Parisians tend to be more reluctant to use their mobile phone if they are in company. But in Madrid, the priority is to be always available and users attempt to include their companions in any mobile phone conversation they have. "The Spanish don't tend to use voice mail," said Dr Lasen. "They feel it is impolite and will answer the phone, even if they are in a meeting, and tell people to call back later," she said. In Paris, mobile users are more concerned about the idea of having a private conversation in a public place than their peers in London and Madrid. Parisians prefer to be private when chatting and while Londoners maintain typical British reserve when someone nearby is having a mobile conversation, Parisians have no such scruples. They will openly complain when phone users are annoying them.

The story also touches on the material or tactile aspects of mobile phones:

"People have a physical relationship with their phone and more and more people are keeping their phones in their hand when they aren't using them. Like a rosary, the mobile has this function of keeping the mind busy. People are cuddling their phones because it promotes well-being from touching a familiar object."

I'm rather curious to know how the researcher came to her conclusions on people's motivations - something that is notoriously difficult to get at - and if these interpretations are the same across the cultures studied.

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