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Cell Phones In Public: Social Interactions In A Wireless Era Add in library

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Part A

Locate the following article using the library’s electronic journal collection:

Humphreys, Lee. 2005. ‘Cellphones in Public: Social Interactions in a Wireless Era’ New Media & Society 17(6): 810-833

The article describes and analyzes how people use and respond to cellphones in public spaces, more specifically, it is concerned with the question of how social norms of interactions in public spaces are mediated by cellphone behavior. Once the article is read, the following questions must be answered in the introduction of your study:

What are the basic differences between a ‘single’ and a ‘with’?

How does the author define ‘cross talk’? What sort of examples are provided by the author?

Identify and briefly describe the different stages or scenarios in which cellphone ‘cross talk’ can occur.

Part B

Select and identify a public area on the university campus where you can observe cellphone behavior during three separate sessions of 30 minutes each. You may choose the same setting and time OR for variety, may decide on a different setting or time for each of the three 30 minute observations. Remember to include your justification for choosing the times & locations of your observations in your essay. Arrive at the setting and choose a place where you can comfortably observe what people are doing. Bring a notepad for recording observations.

As you design your study, briefly describe the question that was the focus of your research. Note that you can choose either to observe cellphone voice calling or texting or other cellphone activities but you must differentiate and choose one of them only to study. Whatever the objective, your research should consider the concept of ‘cross talk’ and ideas presented by the author of the above article.

Part C

Take fields notes of your observations. Be as detailed as possible when describing the setting, and especially, the kinds of behaviors about cellphone use in public spaces you are witnessing. Use the following template for each of your three observations;

Observation Number:____


Description of the social environment:___________

Dates of observations:_____________ Time begun:__________           Time concluded:___________

Field Notes:____________________________________________________________________

Upon completions, you will have several pages, and these are to be handed in along with your study results.

Part D

Once you have completed your three observations, use your field notes to answer the following questions, which will be incorporated into your results/discussion section of your paper.

Does your study confirm any of the different stages or scenarios of cross talk identified by Humphreys? Which ones?

What are two or three major insights or questions that emerge from your observations?

What did you learn about conducting observations?

What additional features would you add to this study in order to make it more comprehensive (further work)?




The article on the social affect of cell phone technology on the social behavior f the individual by Lee Humphrey shows the experiments and the observations of the author about the changes in the individual behavior. The observation part in the article shows that if an individual is engaged in a phone call then the partner shows expressions of anxiety and annoyance and tries to be engaged in some other activities. Further, the article also determines the use of cell phones in public space to better understand the power dynamics of social relations (Hammersley, 2013).

Part A

The basic difference between a “single” and a “with” as mentioned in the article shows that a person is considered to be single by the society if the person does not have any company (Humphreys, 2005). Compared to the “with” person the single is considered to be potentially undesirable and is in a vulnerable mental condition. “With” on the contrary are the individuals showcasing huge accompaniment from different individuals showing a state of social desirability.

Cross talk refers to the conversation between one of the partners of “with” with some other individual over the telecommunication channels like cell phone. Some of the instances of cross talk are seen in cases of cell phone conversations, and outsider disruption in between a conversation (Humphreys, 2005).

The first stage of cross talk occurs when the cell phone rings and the person has to decide on how to handle it.  The third stage of the cross talk is encountered when a third party interrupts the two parties having face-to-face conversation. The fourth stage of the cross talk occurs when the person interacts with the third party and simultaneously with the partner. The fifth and the rare stage is encountered when the individual interacts with the physical partner and the person over the phone at equal time (Konijn, 2008).


Part B


For observing, the social issues relating to cell phones in public spaces the researcher chose the canteen café within the university campus. The justification behind the choice of canteen cafes being the large number of social conversations are initiated in these areas and the probability of receiving phone calls are also high in canteens and cafes. The choice of this location helped the researcher to have effective observations. The researcher will take the middle seat in the canteen so that the researcher will have a full view of the overall social environment of the canteen (Weisskirch, 2011).

Time setting

The researcher conducted the survey twice a week for 30 minutes each allocated for three types of observations. The researcher maintained a gap of one week was in between the observation. The researcher did this alteration to get diverse range of target representatives (DE LAME, 2010).

Research question

The researcher focused on three types of observations namely observation on social effect of cell phone voice calling, observation on effect of cell phone texting and observation of generation of cross talk in cell phone activities (Salkind, 2010).


The researcher selected the cell phone voice calling observation in order to analyze the occurrence of cross talk and the social effect of the same. The observation shows that cross talk occurs when an individual accepts the phone call irrespective of being in middle of a face-to-face conversation. In the first observation it is seen that the since the partner is engaged in phone call hence the single partner tries to occupy himself with activities like reading of the menu card in canteen, focusing on visitors of canteen. The observation shows that because of cross talk the individuals adopt various defense mechanisms. In the second observation, the single person is seen to be engaged in a phone call to avoid the apprehension and annoyance. This keeps the single person engaged in social behavior and is not left alone. In the third observation, the individuals eavesdrop on the cross talk between the partner and the third party. The action is not intentional however, it is a structured action of the single partner in order to avoid (Shaw & Allen, 2012).

Part D

Results and discussions

From the observations, it is clear that the stages of cross talk as discovered by Humphrey in the article are relevantly seen in the study. However, the observations do not confirm with the fourth stage of cross talk (Lin, 2010). The other stages of cross talk are present within the observations. The observations made here are in accordance to the cross talk emergence due to phone calls. However, there was no instance of third party cross talk. The first observation confirms with the first stage of cross talk. The third and the fourth stage of cross talk occurs when a third party interrupts a face-to-face conversation and the individual decides to interact with the third party.  In the research study since no third party observation is seen hence the third and te fourth stage of cross talk cannot be noticed (Tufford & Newman, 2010).

From the observation it can be derived that cross talk can be avoided in certain stages by the third party as well as by the individual. The use of the cell phone shows the social behavior of the person and the social obligation of the individual.

The research project helped the researcher in understanding the directness of field observation (Baym, 2010). However, the observation process lacks practicability and the researcher had to abide by the social ethics and avoid eavesdropping on the private conversations of the participants. Observer effect is another limitation that occurs in case of observational studies (Miller, 2012).

As a future prospect, the researcher can make observational analysis of the other aspects of cell phone behavior. Moreover, the researcher can also conduct a primary data analysis on a selected sample group in order to record their behavior in accordance to use of cell phone in public space. This will further help the researcher to get accurate responses from the participants about their emotions of being single. Moreover, to extend the research the research in future can adopt a study of the new and emerging technologies and explore the social, economical, political and cultural context of the technology (Thyer, 2012).


Reference list

Baym, N. (2010). Personal connections in the digital age. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

DE LAME, D. (2010). The cell phone. An anthropology of communication by Horst, Heather A. and Daniel Miller. Social Anthropology18(2), 234-235.

Hammersley, M. (2013). What is qualitative research?. London: Bloomsbury.

Humphreys, L. (2005). ‘Cell phones in Public: Social Interactions in a Wireless Era’ New Media & Society 17(6): 810-833

Konijn, E. (2008). Mediated interpersonal communication. New York: Routledge.

Lin, J. (2010). Acquired Cognitive Behavior Changes in Children from Cell-Phone Use [Health Effects. IEEE Microwave11(4), 112-114. doi:10.1109/mmm.2010.936483

Miller, T. (2012). Ethics in qualitative research. London: SAGE.

Salkind, N. (2010). Encyclopedia of research design. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

Shaw, D., & Allen, T. (2012). A Systematic Consideration of Observational Design Decisions in the Theory Construction Process. Syst. Res.29(5), 484-498. doi:10.1002/sres.2157

Thyer, B. (2012). The scientific value of qualitative research for social work. Qualitative Social Work. doi:10.1177/1473325011433928

Tufford, L., & Newman, P. (2010). Bracketing in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Social Work,11(1), 80-96. doi:10.1177/1473325010368316

Weisskirch, R. (2011). No Crossed Wires: Cell Phone Communication in Parent-Adolescent Relationships. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking14(7-8), 447-451. doi:10.1089/cyber.2009.0455


Part C: Observations

Observation Number: one

Location:  University Canteen

Description of the social environment: Social conversation between two male friends

Dates of observations:  Day 1 of week 1

Time begun: 11 in the morning

Time concluded: 11.30 in the morning

Field Notes: One of the partners receives a phone call.  He decides to take the call. While he is busy over the call, the other partner distracts himself by staring at the canteen menu. As the call extends the single partner shows actions of annoyance.

Observation Number: two

Location:  University Canteen

Description of the social environment: An ongoing social conversation is noted between a male and a female participant

Dates of observations:  Day 4 of week 2

Time begun: 4 O’ clock in the evening

Time concluded: 4.30 in the evening

Field Notes:  The male participant receives a phone call and decides to attend the call. The female partner being left single decides to make a phone call to a certain person as a form of defense mechanism in order to avoid being single.

Observation Number: Three

Location:  University Café

Description of the social environment: Two female participants are engaged in a deep conversation

Dates of observations:  Day 15 of week 9

Time begun:  2.30 in the afternoon

Time concluded: 3.00 in the afternoon

Field Notes:  one of the female participants receives a phone call in between the deep conversation and decides to attend it. Initially the partners shows annoyance and as the phone conversation proceeds the other female partner unintentionally eavesdrop on the private conversation of her partner.


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