19.349 contemplation and computing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 07:41:30 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 349.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 07:36:32 +0100
         From: James Cummings <James.Cummings_at_oucs.ox.ac.uk>
         Subject: Re: 19.337 contemplation and computing

<willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>) wrote:
> While I do appreciate Bob Amsler's annoyance at being subjected to
> mobile phone conversations in public spaces -- dull conversations are
> worst of all -- my experiences on trains and tubes presents a more
> complex situation. In this country, apparently, people are somewhat
> more circumspect.

Sidestepping the cultural differences in (cell/mobile) phone use,
what intrigues
me is why this annoys us so much? When a group of people are talking
loudly, it
also irritates me, but nowhere near so much as when a single person is talking
equally loudly on a mobile phone. This annoyance seems understandable when one
is being subjected to overhearing the intimate details of gynaecological
complaints or the complex financial details of some client's accounts. (Both
crossing taboos about what one should talk about publicly.) I once read someone
theorising that our annoyance at such conversations was because we found it
awkward hearing only one side of the conversation. However, everyone I have
asked that about has always said that it is just the person talking
loudly. One
acquaintance from Leeds routinely and loudly provides the missing half of such

Phoning Person: I'm on a train
Her: Really! So am I.
Phoning Person: I don't know when I'll get in.
Her: Well the schedule says 18:58, but we are already 10 minutes late.
Phoning Person: No, I don't know what I want for supper.
Her: How about aubergine, cheese and leek bake?

Strangely, instead of comforting the surrounding passengers as they
can now hear
both parts of the conversation (or at least a fictitious version of the other
side), this tends to make them *more* agitated and nervous about their
travelling companions.


Dr James Cummings, Oxford Text Archive, University of Oxford
James dot Cummings at oucs dot ox dot ac dot uk
Received on Wed Oct 19 2005 - 02:51:08 EDT

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