New Telecommunications Technologies And Emergent Norms
Published in G. Platt and C. Gordon, Self, Collective Behavior and Society: Essays in Honor of Ralph Turner, JAI, 1994

This draws on a paper delivered at the 1993 Conference on Computers, Privacy and Civil Liberties, San Francisco. In different form it will appear in G. T. Marx, Windows into the Soul: Surveillance and Society in an Age of High Technology, the American Sociological Association-Duke University Jensen lectures, forthcoming. I am grateful to the Rockefeller center in Bellagio where work on the paper was begun and to Rolf Kjolseth, Richard Leo, Adam Seligman and Jeff Smith for comments.

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Gary T. Marx

In time the radio, and the telephone, and the movies that we know, may just be passing fancies, and in time may go ...

George and Ira Gershwin.

Academic researchers are nourished by a rich network of inherited ideas. As John Donne, and even cinematic character ET, remind us—we are not alone. In a culture as individualistic and psychologistic as ours this is often hard to remember. Our indebtedness rarely receives its due. The culture of science rewards originality and breaking with the past. However, archaeological remnants of this debt remain within our teachers. In that regard, I am very grateful that I happened into Ralph Turner's undergraduate class on collective behavior in 1959. Ralph introduced me to a disciplined stance toward social inquiry; a way of viewing the world; and a specific subject matter.

In his systematic approach to understanding collective behavior Ralph Turner's work demon-strated not only the patterning of social life, but also the promise that with hard work and careful observation, one could make sense out of it. Prior to his class, I took the social world as given, much as one unreflectively accepts the backdrop of a stage set.1

As a carefree college student one sun-drenched day in Southern California, I remember going to Ralph's office on the second floor of Heynes Hall to discuss my term paper. I was stunned by the staggering array of neatly arranged 5 x 7 index cards he had created for cataloging instances of collective behavior.2 His pioneering book with Lewis Killian was rich in description of intriguing events and offered concepts and ideas for ordering this material.

Underlying this discipline was a perspective on group life that Ralph had learned from his mentors at the University of Chicago. This told one how and where to look. It stressed the facts on the ground or, in Robert Park's words, "getting the big story." It also stressed the importance of interaction and process. This did not mean that structures were irrelevant. But within the broad parameters they established, social life was dynamic and fluid. Meaning was not a given, but needed to be searched out by staying close to one's subject and observing, asking questions, and trying to imagine what the other experienced. In applying this perspective to the subject matter of collective behavior and social movements, Ralph raised issues that helped form my research and teaching interests.3

With his balanced, soft-spoken, inquiring manner Ralph served as a role model. While having a point of view, he was open to other approaches and ecumenical in his work for the discipline. He is a sociological statesman in an age of centrifugal specialization that is all too often debilitating. He is above all civil, and was gracious under pressure (especially during the challenges he faced as president of the American Sociological Association). It seems fitting that a paper on manners is in a volume honoring such a gentle and fair-minded person.

This paper on how new telecommunications technologies are leading to new forms of behavior relates to Ralph's work in several ways. It is consistent with the emergent norm tradition. Emergent norms can be categorized in a number of ways. Thus, Weller and Quarantelli (1973) differentiate new ways of behaving from new groups. Marx and McAdam (1993) consider emergence versus cultural specificity with respect to factors such as location and timing, beginnings and endings, membership, leadership, resources, and expected behavior, attitudes and emotions.

Such efforts to differentiate among types of emergence are generally applied to face-to-face behavior and to what is often a one-time only solution. But in this paper we deal with electronically mediated interaction and to the emergence of more enduring norms. The processes of interest here do not occur at one point in time or place, nor is there pressure to solve the problem immediately. The collective problem solving is much slower than with instances of crowd behavior. Yet viewed more abstractly, it shares with collective behavior new definitions and negotiations over meaning in the face of novel circumstances. Noting these parallels between collective and what would generally be thought of as noncollective behavior is consistent with Turner's (1984, p. 384) observation that research may eventually suggest "no special set of principles is required to deal with the subject matter" of the former.

This paper is concerned with the need for and appearance of new social practices that will maintain the dignity of the person in the face of technologies that offer possibilities for undermining it. As such it is both normative and scientific. It seeks to contribute to our understanding of what is happening and to offer guidance about what type of norms should emerge.

In his 1969 paper on the theme of contemporary social movements, Turner argues that the quest for dignity and a positive self-image is a central theme of many contemporary social movements. While Turner did not have threats from technology as such in mind when he wrote that paper, it clearly applies. Quasi-social movements concerned with the new technologies such as Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, the program on Technology and Privacy of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have this as a major theme.

In what follows I discuss an area where new norms and meanings are emerging. I offer examples of situations which require new telecommunications manners, briefly discuss the nature of manners, indicate what it is that has changed to require a collective search for new ways of behaving, indicate some forms that are, or will likely emerge and identify some principles which are likely to underlie the standards that will appear.

What’s wrong with this behavior?

Consider the following examples:

These diverse examples vary from serious harm to minor inconveniences. In some cases the harm is to a person's dignity or psychological well-being, and in others to their material or strategic interests. The more serious violations certainly call for legal remedies. But here I wish to note that common to all of them is the need for new ways of behaving in the face of a lack of regard for the other.

These examples make it clear that recent changes in communications technology require new etiquettes. Technologies such as the above, along with others such as computer bulletin boards, computer monitoring, room monitors, speaker phones, scanners, and perhaps soon video-phones and video-mail, are, and will be, subject to new judicial interpretations, legislation, regulation and bureaucratic policies. But that is not enough. We also need, and are seeing, new communications manners—ways of behaving that go beyond the purely legal and merely formal. It is not possible to legislate everything. Much social order is left to voluntary compliance with informal understandings.4

We need to better specify the conditions under which new communications technologies are appropriately used and the criteria for defining transgressions. This involves cultural definitions and expectations. While there are entire academic industries devoted to charting the appearance of new laws, there is little academic attention to the appearance of new manners. Unlike revolutions, manners are not much studied. They are part of the commonplace, taken-for-granted world and have no easily identifiable time-place origin. The development of manners is a mass phenomenon (though persons concerned with it may become part of a public, for example, by calling into radio talk shows about it or communicating through an electronic bulletin board and e-mail). This development has an ad hoc quality and is dispersed across billions of interactions.5 Yet, in spite of the initial anarchy, a degree of agreement will eventually appear. The largely informal processes by which this diffuses are related to the diffusion of some forms of collective behavior.

New technologies eventually become fixed in normative grids that serve to channel behavior in ways that are consistent with broader societal values. But for this to happen, behavior must first be seen as abusive, or at least inappropriate, and a search for what is wrong and what can be done must occur. This involves a complex social definitional process. As with much collective behavior, things whose meaning is at first contested and negotiated come to be viewed through a common lens. In our age of continuous technical change, manners never fully catch up. In the same way, collective behavior is ubiquitous in a complex technological society because prior cultural solutions can never cover the richness of concrete situations and evolving conditions.

Manners and Social Solidarity

In the broadest sense, manners are about showing respect for the other's personhood. Demonstrating bad manners can communicate a view of the other person as an object to be manipulated and treated as a means to your end (however noble or ignoble).

Manners are a central factor in the production of social order. Yet because they are generally so effortlessly expressed and usually not codified (or the codification in etiquette books is not widely known), we tend to be aware of their significance only when they are breached or, in new situations, such as those described above, where they have not adequately developed. In the latter case individuals may feel wronged, but be unable to clearly say why. Like the judge's definition of pornography, they know bad telecommunications manners when they experience them, even if they cannot easily define just what the wrong consists of.

The assessment of manners depends on the context and on intentions, and not on the behavior or the technology as such. Misuses of communications technology are to be blamed not on the tools, but on their users. However, the opportunity for violations can sometimes be lessened by appropriate design.

The locus of manners is social interaction. Individuals can not show bad manners toward themselves. Manners require an audience and at least two participants. They characterize the behavior of individuals toward each other, rather than the interactions of organizations, or of organizations and individuals. In analyzing manners, we must look at mutual and often reciprocal obligations. In Erving Goffman's terms (1967) this involves the deference others show to us and the demeanor we show to them.6

Manners apply to all the participants in a communication. While there are general expectations of mannerly behavior that apply broadly to all the parties, for some purposes it may be useful to talk about the manners that are specific to the initiator or recipient of a communication or to the possessor of a new technology or service. When manners fail we may also be able to identify abused and abusing parties.

Codified rules usually come with formal sanctions. But with manners the sanction is informal and involves viewing the violator as rude or socially incompetent. Most conformity with manners is unreflective and seemingly natural. Yet to the extent that it involves calculation, what is at stake is the desire to create a good impression and to have others think well of us. To show good manners affirms social solidarity. It communicates something about how the person involved in the interaction views himself or herself, as well as the other person.

As with much collective behavior, manners do not have formal penalties attached to them and do not come from laws or formal organizations. Manners are a truly populist form of behavior in which individuals in theory have the discretion to behave as they choose. In choosing the right thing we affirm not only our respect for the other individual, but for the society of which we are a part. Durkheim of course stressed that it was the breaking of rules, rather than conformity to them, that affirmed group boundaries and created social solidarity for insiders. But I think manners affirm solitarily in their exercise, as well as in their breach.

This view of public manners contrasts with the view of manners as a form of class and status distinction developed by Elias (1978) in his analysis of the history of manners in the West. It is consistent with Goffman's view of some universal notions about what it means to behave as a responsible person in our society. In being potentially available to everyone, the kinds of manners considered here have an egalitarian and achieved quality.

What’s New?

Traditionally, telecommunications consisted of a transitory dialogue in realtime between two persons. When the telephone first appeared, the major issue of manners involved the conditions and ways in which it was appropriate for a caller to remotely intrude into another's life (Marvin 1988; Katz 1991; Fischer 1993). For example, was it appropriate to call someone you had not been formally introduced to? When the telephone came to be seen as an instrument for social in addition to business purposes, questions of manners included the proper way to begin a conversation (AT&T advised against the informal "hello"); whether it was appropriate to extend a social invitation by phone rather than by letter or messenger; whether it was appropriate to have a servant dial (thus requiring the called party to wait for the servant to bring the caller to the line); the importance of calling before a visit; limiting the duration of phone conversations and the importance of not using the phone for idle chatter.

The inequality in the relationship which permitted the caller to know what number he or she was calling and why, and to be able to chose the time of the call and the opening lines of the conversation led to a series of taken-for-granted conventions: "may I call you at home?" "is this a good time to talk?" "I'm sorry to bother you" or "Ill just take a few minutes." When a phone number was not known, a polite request for it (perhaps accompanied by giving up the requester's number as well) helped give the intrusion of a ringing phone the appearance of being consensual, or at least tolerated by the person called. Middle-class standards of speech involving quiet voices and clearly enunciated words were urged on telephone users. In a happy overlap of fashion and function, "sweet and low" tones were believed to be the most audible. Early telephone companies (with some judicial support) even cut off telephone service to those who used "improper or vulgar language" (Marvin 1988).

Before direct dialing emerged in the 1920s, when calls had to go through an operator, manners and company policies developed to restrict the telephone operator's use of her knowledge of who was talking to whom and what was said. Manners also emerged around party lines, such as limiting the duration of a call and not listening to other's conversations. One of the delights of childhood in the 1940s was being able to eavesdrop on the party line. Extension phones raise some of the same issues.

Several decades of research on telephone communication have identified other issues also enveloped in a normative web of etiquette such as interruptions, turn taking, topic changes and endings (Hopper 1992; Schegloff 1979).

Current and emerging technologies come with many rough edges in need of the sandpaper of manners. Electronically mediated communication eliminates conventional visual cues to meaning. In making it harder to express emotions in the accustomed way, it might be argued that the technology's blandness would support mannerly, or at least restrained behavior. Yet this is often not the case.

We are now facing a period equivalent in some ways to the introduction of the telephone. The manners that have emerged around telecommunications over the last century, for the most part, consisted of forms to facilitate interaction absent face-to-face cues. With the expansion in forms of electronic communication (many without even the nuances that a voice can communicate), such forms continue to be needed. But in addition, the new communications technologies appear to offer increased potentials for harming the other—whether materially or psychologically, absent appropriate standards.

New opportunities and temptations for deception and rudeness are provided by technologies that offer remote access and anonymity. The absence of visual or auditory cues makes it easier to conceal, deceive and manipulate. The mechanically-distanced nature of the communication (e.g., the isolated individual sending messages at a computer terminal or responding to the requests of an electronic voice) may make it hard to remember that there is (or will eventually be) a human being at the other end. The emotionless quality of the medium, the invisibility of the other, and the anonymity of the sender do not seem conducive to civility.

In limiting and channeling response possibilities, the format of the new technologies may alter communication patterns by lessening reciprocal social skills and weakening the ability to express nuance and complexity. This may be welcomed by shy or stigmatized persons uncomfortable with face-to-face and real time interaction. A recent cartoon by Piraro illustrates this in showing a man on the phone saying "Oh! Sheldon . . . I didn't know you were home, I was hoping to get your machine . . . I'll call back later." The presumed efficiency, the hope of outwitting the machine and less concern over losing face, may create a generation that prefers interacting with (and through) machines rather than face-to-face.

Emotional needs may go unfulfilled given the impersonality, standardization and automatization of the technology. This is suggested by a New Yorker cartoon showing two men having lunch. Reaching out touching the other's hand, one of the men says "trust me, Mort—no electronic communications superhighway, no matter how vast and sophisticated, will ever replace the art of the schmooze."

Of course the technology also offers new opportunities for sociability and integration, sometimes e-mail leads to phone conversation which in turn leads to what is called F2F (face-to-face) meetings and even occasionally to marriage. Yet the technology may also blur the line between genuine and faked intimacy. The immediacy of the new forms undercuts formalism. While its egalitarianism may be welcomed, if anyone can be reached in a seemingly personal way, then what is left to set off communications that in fact are personal? This pseudointimacy can debase communication.

There is a misguided academic debate about whether technology creates culture or culture creates technology. The fact that the technology was designed by historically located humans does not eliminate the fact that it has properties and creates contexts to which persons must subse-quently respond. Without denying the powerful role of culture in shaping the kinds of technologies that have appeared, we can identify characteristics of the new communications technologies which require new manners. A number of factors separate new forms of telecommunication from old fixed location telephone communications.

Telecommunications today often consist of monologues involving machine-to-person, person-to-machine, or machine-to-machine messages. They may involve computer-simulated voices and electronic freeze-dried messages to be drawn upon at the recipient's leisure. The ratio of immediate co-present communication declines relative to that which is machine mediated. A greater number of anonymous messages is possible. Talking out loud to another person who isn't there, which in the past might have been seen as a sign of mental illness, is gradually becoming an expected social grace. Yet it still remains one in which people have very different competences and feelings toward.

When real persons communicate, there can be multiple parties to the communication not just basic dyads. Conference calls and speaker phones for example complicate issues of interruptions, turn taking, and endings. The greater difficulty in knowing who said what increases the risk of misattributions, though also perhaps of anonymity.

There is increased communications inequality such that one party may have much more powerful tools than the other. The role of the telephone as an egalitarian device permitting anyone to communicate with anyone else, regardless of social location is changing. Traditionally a phone was a phone and that was that! To be sure there were choices—but these were largely symbolic involving matters of style or color. Whether. you had a basic black phone or a turquoise princess phone, the service remained the same. Ease of communications is highly valued in our society and is increasingly seen as something that everyone, regardless of circumstances, is entitled to (note government programs to subsidize telephone service for the poor). But the array of current options is changing this. Recent innovations offer clear advantages to the sophisticated user able to afford them. But with this comes increased inequality and risks of misuse. The playing field is less level. This provides new opportunities for the abuse of power, absent the self-restraint on the part of privileged telecommunicators that manners can provide.

In some ways there appears to be a decrease in communicative autonomy for the average person such that (absent the taking of special precautions): (a) it becomes more difficult to prevent communications from reaching us, (b) more difficult to protect the privacy and confidentiality of our communications, and (c) increases the ability to impose external costs upon parties to a communication without their direct permission (e.g., tying up a fax machine, capturing an unlisted number using Caller-ID, calling someone with a cellular phone who must pay for the call). However such generalizations must be approached cautiously since one person's autonomy may be another's restriction and we alternate in the roles we play as senders and receivers of communication.

Previously there were greater ecological limits on unwanted telecommunications. For example, it was necessary to individually dial a phone number. But with automated dialing machines, e-mail, and voice-mail, it becomes possible to reach an enormous number of persons with minimal effort and cost, and in ways that are more intrusive than mass mailings. The sender need not observe the resource limitations previously imposed. The increased ease of sending information creates new burdens of being flooded with unwanted information and this can only be known once it has been minimally attended to. That of course takes the recipient's time. For some persons it may also raise questions about when a response (even if only an expression of disinterest) is appropriate. As a colleague said "Am I really supposed to respond to 56 e-mail messages on Monday morning?"

There is increased use of communications devices which are vulnerable to interception by third parties (absent special protections such as encryption). These may be sent as radio transmis-sions via cordless and cellular phones or through archival medium such as e-mail and voice mail. The latter create a record which, without appropriate precautions, may make it possible for outsiders to intercept, whether directly, or by accessing the storage records kept by many e-mail systems. While not secret, many persons seem unaware of how vulnerable their communications are.

It is easier to secretly record communications. Consider for example miniature voice activated tape recorders, tiny radio-transmitters, video cameras hidden inside of everyday objects such as teddy bears and brief cases, or answering machines and phone attachments that permit silent recording.

There is greater ignorance about what technology the other party to the communication might be using and a lack of certainty even when assurances are given by that party, ("yes I have you on the speaker phone for convenience, but no one else is in the room"; "of course I am not recording this".3 But is that really the case? The new opportunities for bad manners offered by the technology may be compounded by lying.

There are increased possibilities to deceive. We can not be certain that individuals are being honest about what devices they are using. With call forwarding and conferencing we may not know where the other party to a conversation is, even if we initiated the call. Nor can we be sure that the signals and messages received are authentic and that persons are who they claim to be.' There are of course the symbolically interesting fake toy car phones and the conspicuous wearing of pagers that are inoperable. But beyond these, what should we make of devices for disguising identity—voice changing telephones which, to quote an ad, offer "a voice even your mother won't recognize." Using digital signal processing, a phone is available which offers 16 different voices permitting shifts such as from a female to male or an adult to a child's voice.

There are new possibilities for self-initiated interruptions. For $14.95 one can purchase a device called Gotta Go. It simulates the click of the call-waiting signal. A machine with 15 simulated sounds such as babies crying, sirens, a door bell ringing is also marketed as a way of permitting individuals to politely disengage from a telephone conversation. In a related example, if you have two telephones and call waiting, is it wrong to call yourself from the second phone in order to have an excuse to get off the first phone (the party spoken to being unaware that the call waiting is actually from you). Perhaps an element of good manners is present, since one doesn't want to risk hurting the other's feelings by saying "I don't want to talk to you." Yet this comes at a cost of lying, even if for a socially constructive purpose.

Answering Machines, Call-Waiting and Speaker Phones

Let us consider these issues in more detail by considering answering machines, call waiting and speaker phones. The ubiquitous answering machine nicely illustrates a number of issues involving telecommunications and manners. From one standpoint it prevents certain kinds of bad manners. Thus by its design you know when it is in use. You also can choose to ignore it by hanging up. Individuals are not forced to own one and if they do, they can turn it off. Yet other issues are present. The caller cannot be sure if the device is being used to screen calls, nor with a recording made of the message, who might hear it. Issues of manners apply to the person called, as well as the caller.

The answering machine offers a new currency of access with which to reward and punish. When leaving a message on a machine, is it disturbingly deceptive or honorably self-protective, to be interrupted by the person called who says "Hi, I'm here"? Should persons calling feel honored because they were deemed worthy of being spoken to (they passed the screening test), or should they be put off because they were led to believe no one was there? Is it better if the message says "we can't come to the phone right now," or "I can’t take your call right now" rather than the bold-faced lie involved in saying "no one is here to answer the phone now"? Of course there are graceful ways out such as by saying, "Wow! I'm glad I caught you, I just came in" or "Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to change the message."

If the caller doesn't believe the message this can lead to responses such as "I know you are there, come on pick up the phone." If this assumption is wrong (e.g., the called really wasn't home), the caller appears foolish and has wrongly impugned the motives of the person called.

If the caller is left only with the answering machine message, is it rude to hang up without leaving a message after listening to the recorded message! If so, is it sufficient to simply report the fact that you called, or should the purpose of the call be revealed as well? (With unprotected Caller-ID the question is moot since the time of the call and number of the caller are automatically recorded. So too with a service called "last call return" which permits you to automatically connect with the last person who called.) In such cases, is it presumptuous and intrusive, or expected and thoughtful for the person called to return your call on the assumption that you still wished to speak with them?

You are visiting with a friend who, out of courtesy or indifference, ignores a ringing phone. An answering machine with the volume on loud picks it up. Your conversation is not only interrupted, but you are embarrassed in hearing a personal message that the caller assumed would be private. Has the owner of the machine shown bad manners to both you and to the caller (who wrongly assumed that no one was home to hear the message)? It is prudent for callers with confidential (e.g., a doctor's diagnoses or advice) or personal messages not to leave the message unless they are absolutely certain no one but the intended party will hear it. Given the contingencies of interaction and the vulnerabilities of technology such certainty is hard to come by.

Some similar issues apply when, after being out with friends, you return to their house and in your presence, they immediately listen to their messages. Persons who remotely retrieve their answering machine messages via a cordless or cellular car phone, also broadcast the message in ways the person who called probably did not anticipate.

While of a different order, communications technologies which go beyond being user-friendly to being user-enticing offer new possibilities for mistakes and embarrassment for the naive or incompetent user. The abundant stories (only some of which are apocalyptic) of wrongly received e-mail, voice mail, and answering machine messages attest to this. The technology offers rich possibilities for megaphonic degradation. There even seem to be archtypical forms of this: the vitriolic complaint about the boss which is mistakenly sent to the boss; the negative confidential evaluation of an assistant professor that is erroneously sent to everyone on the university's e-mail system and the unintentionally amplified love message. The comic strip character "Cathy" nicely captures this in her recollection of a valentine's greeting gone awry "[remember] the year I called Irving's office and the sultry poem I thought I was leaving on his voice mail got broadcast through the entire building's speaker system???!"

Is it bad manners to call someone you don't know and have no desire to talk to, just to hear the great (and frequently changed) message on their machine? Even if one is able to disengage before it appears as a tape recorded hangup, the phone line is busy while the message is being heard. For some persons clever messages are a source-of self-expression and creativity. Are persons who offer clever messages creating an attractive nuisance, or can they legitimately take offense at the large number of hangups on their machines?

Have you ever called someone only to hear "sorry mail box is full"? Does the caller have an obligation not to use up all the space on an answering machine? Many machines are designed to cut the message off after several minutes (sometimes giving you a 15 second warning). But the machine doesn't control for persons who keep calling back in order to leave a longer message.

Is it rude to call back and do this (one friend missed some important calls because a caller redialed his voice mail line 5 times (at 2 minutes each) to leave a lengthy message. Should callers be informed of how much time they have? Should they limit messages to the time allotted? Or is it techno-coercion to limit callers to short messages, when there is the option for lengthier ones? Do owners of such machines have an obligation to purchase them with sufficient space, or to check them frequently so they do not get filled up?

If it is appropriate for person's with answering machines and faxes to be sure there is usable tape or paper in them, is it inconsiderate of them not to turn their machine on? Have you ever called someone to leave a message, only to get a message saying you can't leave them a message, but can write to them? What of those who choose not even to have the wonders of modern telecommunications? Do they have space and peace that the rest of us lack? In this day and age is it selfish and anti-social not to have a phone, answering machine, e-mail, or a pager, if one can afford it?

Given the public nature of a phone, care must be also given to the nature of the message inviting you to leave a message. It should be general and understandable by those who do not belong to your tribe. To offer too long a message tries the caller's patience, while to say nothing or to offer the cryptic "you know what to do" may appear brusk and may even be dysfunctional for those who need a directive about what to do. The fake gushy sentimentality of "we are really sorry we missed your call and are eager to talk to you" or "your call means a lot to us" do not ring true. What if its a bill collector or a wrong number? And in a multicultural environment should messages be in several languages or genres? If so which language should come first? Should this be regularly altered so as not to offend?

The length and probably the number of wrongly addressed messages has significantly increased with the spread of answering machines, voice mail and e-mail which permit one-way communications in frozen time. Using a traditional phone with a live person at the other end of the line, the caller can readily determine the error and politely disengage. But with an answering machine that gives neither a name or number, that screening does not occur. And when automated dialers are used, even the clues that a human caller would use to infer a wrong number are irrelevant and the machine cannot meaningfully apologize. Sometimes this results in absurd juxtapositions such as calls to a hospice to sell health insurance or to a prison to sell "get-a-way" vacations.

Automated bill collectors that reach the wrong number not only intrude into your home and use your technology, but they sometimes do damage to the privacy of the person they are seeking to reach. Consider a message such as the following left on an acquaintence's machine "Hello, I have an important message for xxxxxx [not my friend]. On June 2, 1991 Dr. xxxxx of Health Care Associates treated you for an infectious disease. The bill of $89 has not been paid." Perhaps the bill wasn't paid because the provider had the wrong address as well.

Some more sophisticated systems at least say, "if you are [name of person they seek] please press one now." The synthetic voice then warns you that listening to this message is an invasion of privacy and if you really aren't the person the message is intended for you will be in serious trouble. While good manners require not pressing one if you are not that person, the tone of such messages is a bit unsettling. After all it is your phone they have called. This is not unlike walking by an open window and seeing something of interest inside. the visual sight is in a sense thrust upon you, even if it is not intended for you. This is very different from using binoculars from far away to look in a window. Intermediate is the rationale used by those with scanners who would not wiretap because it is illegal, but who feel comfortable listening to radio transmitted conversations because they are also in a sense thrust into one's presence. But in this case special means are needed to access the communication and this sets it apart from looking in the window without binoculars.

E-mail with its ease of transmission and the likelihood that it will be stored until the addressee gets to it, is in some ways like an answering machine. The e-mail of a colleague who deals with sensitive personnel issues often goes to another person with the same name (although a different middle initial). The person receiving his mail has told him "I really think that this is material I should not be reading." But of course he paradoxically must first read the message to determine it isn't for him to read. At what point should he stop? After all he didn't request the messages, they simply appeared on his screen. Although good manners require that he not proceed, the temptation is there. But as with radio transmissions from cordless and cellular phones that can easily be received by those they are not intended for, just because they are accessible doesn't mean they should be used. The several hundred thousand persons who own scanners seek to intercept messages that are out there. These active measures intended to grab communication are more objectionable than in cases where it is just thrust upon one.

The mechanical distancing quality of answering machines and the fact that a full message can be left without being disconnected by a hang up, can be an invitation to harassing messages. For example, the Jewish Defense League, as part of its struggle with the KKK, put a recording on its New York answering machine giving names and phone numbers of reputed Klan members. The Klan mounted a counter-attack with its own message (New York Times 6/1/92). Among tactics adopted by some anti-abortion groups are picketing and jamming telephone lines of homes and workplaces. Like electronic battlefields it is possible to imagine a war (in this case of words) between machines, with people playing a more indirect role. The words may be secondary as in a filibuster, if the main purpose is an electronic blockade of the line. The telephone and answering machine messages offer public invitations to the most private of spaces.

Answering machine messages and responses have something in common with talking household appliances ("add the soap, dummy") and cars. Consider a voice alarm that permits car owners to record their own messages. What kinds of message are appropriate for it? Would it be thoughtful to alter the content of the message, tone of voice, slang, and even the language, as one parks in neighborhoods with different social characteristics? Is it acceptable for the voice to swear and threaten if the sensors indicate that the car is being stolen? Is a milder message appropriate for someone who is merely leaning on the car? What obligations does the owner of the car have to nearby residents whose tranquility is disturbed at 3 am. when the alarm is accidentally set off by vibrations from a passing truck?' A New Yorker cartoon captures one unintended consequence of automated responses in showing a couple in bed. One partner says "not tonight honey, I don't want to set off the motion detectors again."

Is it appropriate for the recipient of automated messages to respond with greater abandon and vulgarity than would be the case if the message was delivered by a real person with feelings? The limits on dumb machines that can never be programmed to capture reality's richness, or that must lead you through a lengthy switching process, means that frustration will often accompany the best efforts of voice messaging systems that never let you speak to a human ("enter your pin number now and then press the pound sign") when you are calling to tell them you lost the number. Your anonymity and the machine's inability to retaliate further support unmannerly responses from humans to machines.

Call Waiting

What etiquette should govern call-waiting, sometimes referred to as "callus-interruptus'? Is it always appropriate to leave the line to determine who a waiting call is from? Under what conditions would it be bad manners to interrupt a conversation? (A caller-id device could be helpful here). What message is symbolically communicated by interrupting a current call?

If one does not wish to ignore the call waiting signal what should be said to the party you are speaking with? It is best to apologize for the interruption and ask permission to leave—"I'm sorry, may I take this;" as against—"I'm sorry I have to take this" or worse "I have to take this." On exiting is it appropriate to say, "I am expecting an important (long distance?) call and if I don't come back on in 30 seconds please hang up?" Will the person's feelings be hurt? What if that isn't true and the person simply wishes to disengage from the current call? Should one always come back on the line, even if only to say you can't continue to talk? And what is a decent amount of time to stay away? How long can the other person be left dangling on the line?

What happens if the initial line is inadvertently disconnected, does the obligation to call back lie with the person who responded to the call waiting signal? Similarly if the called party chooses to continue with the call in progress, after informing the activator of call waiting, who has the obligation to call back—the person who placed the call, or the caller who chose not to be available to receive the call?

If rather than call waiting, an individual has two phone lines and one is in use and the other phone rings, the other party often says "do you want to get that " This seems less likely to happen than with one phone with call waiting. Why? First the individual with two lines may be showing respect for the other party by not suggesting an exit. They in turn may politely acknowledge your deference by giving you permission to answer it. Secondly, the ring of the phone is somehow more incessant and nagging than is the soft click.

Even if you ignore the call waiting signal is that then inconsiderate to the person trying to reach you? The person may be upset at your failure to respond because they know you have an answering machine and assume if the machine does not pick up, it is because your phone is in use and you are ignoring the second call.

Speaker Phones

What manners should govern the use of speaker phones? Should the other person always be informed that the broadcast device is in use? If so, is it enough just to say "I've got you on the speaker phone?" Should a further step be taken and the person's permission asked? And then does it matter if one says "may I use a speaker phone" as against saying "you don't mind if I switch to the speaker phone do you?" before the device is used?

Are there times when it would be inappropriate to use a speaker phone? The speaker phone may be more convenient, but is it also more impersonal than talking directly into the phone? Does the added physical distancing serve as a barrier or buffer that makes the conversation less intimate? Should the other person's needs be considered in realizing that the sound may not be as clear? Is something symbolic being communicated about how this conversation is viewed by the person using the speaker phone? Does the person using the speaker phone have an obligation to inform the other party whenever someone enters or leaves the room or what they are doing that requires two hands free? Does the user have the obligation to consider if there are others nearby (but not in the room) who will also hear the conversation? The issue here is not only the privacy of the communication, but thrusting it upon the solitude of others who have no interest in being disturbed.

Emergent Norms and Understandings

Having discussed the structural changes and some interaction contingencies and questions related to contemporary communications technologies, let us now briefly consider some forms that are emerging and will likely emerge.

A key to this is the norms and understandings that emerged in response to the telephone's initial appearance. That history suggests: (1) expectations that were functional in nature appeared, (2) a metaphorical transference process in which novel situations eventually become assimilated to familiar ones, and (3) a reservoir of shared values in the culture regarding interaction largely determined the behavioral forms that come to be expected. Each of these applies today as well.

One form of new understanding is highly utilitarian—it helps to get the job done. Functional expectations emerge, for example, someone has to talk first and in the United States this became the person telephoned (in Japan it is the opposite) and there must be means of terminating the conversation. New words appeared to describe new objects, behaviors and contexts. Among new terms today are cyberspace, netiquette, knowbots, flaming, compusex, infojunk, voice mail jail, and topic drift.

Contemporary communications media, such as e-mail and bulletin board chat lines, obviously do not permit the rich cues and meanings that come from face-to-face interaction such as body language, facial expressions, and intonation. It is of course possible to write emotions out with words, to indicate that one is "only kidding" or being sarcastic, but that is not only time consuming, it seems to undercut the directness and spontaneity of what is expressed. It is not surprising that functional equivalents to face-to-face cues in the form of acronyms such as (ROFL-rolling on the floor with laughter or (G) for grin) appear. But visual equivalents have also appeared.

New "faces" and abbreviations are constantly being created. Like the original Chinese calligraphy, these seek to be literally denotative of the idea they communicate. The following list is from a popular chat line called "People Connection." Turn the paper to the right and the meaning of many is self-evident.

:) = SMILE


;) = WINK



{ } = HUG

:( = FROWN

:'( = CRYING

0:) = ANGEL

}:> = DEVIL

The invention, diffusion, and change of such symbols offers a rich topic for social investigation. However these conventions do not carry any moral weight. They are not designed as social control mechanisms nor to protect others from embarrassment or exploitation. They are simply tools. They contrast with the emergence of conventions which carry a more evaluative tone.

Some of the debate over appropriate behavior and new technologies involves deciding what the new object is most similar to. For example, the privacy protections given to telephone conversations eventually came to be seen as equivalent to those given to a first class letter, in spite of those who claimed that it was more like a postcard. A more stringent claim that viewed the new electronic communication as equivalent to a confession to a priest or a revelation to a doctor did not take root.

But what of the new forms? Are e-mail, and cordless and cellular telephones like traditional phone conversations, or are they like conversations in a public square? Is a message posted on an electronic bulletin board like a copyrighted publication which can only be used and changed with the author's permission, or like a joke which can be embellished as the teller wishes? Is electronic communication best seen as the private property of the consensual communicators, or is it a public good like air which is available to anyone who can access it?9 Are files in a personal work computer like a notebook in one's pocketbook, or are they corporate property like accounting books which can be viewed at will by management?

A part of the development is also to show (or at least to argue) that new technologies that appear to be the same are different. In contrast to the appearance of one basic phone type a century ago we shouldn't assume that the variety of communication means relying on telephonic and computer principles are the same. For example, some argue that cellular versus cordless phones raise different issues because in eavesdropping on the first (which covers a much larger geographical range) one is unlikely to know who is being overheard while that is not the case for the cordless phone which will be in the immediate neighborhood of the secret listener.

Of course at a more general level, disagreements over what to compare new technology to may reflect conflicts over which values ought to be given priority. The long debate about whether the telephone should be restricted just to elites or be an egalitarian force was eventually resolved in favor of the latter. Today we value easy communication access, in spite of its potential to rupture traditional borders of class, status, gender, and family. Possession of a telephone is viewed as a basic right and a necessity to participate in society. The principle that anyone can attempt to communicate with anyone else is well established and not a cause for raising eyebrows. Yet other issues are not resolved: is information best viewed as property or as a public good? How to balance the right to be left alone or to be treated with dignity, with the right to freedom of expression and of the press and the right to know? how to balance the value of honesty with the social benefits of (at least modest) dishonesty? how to balance the conflicting social benefits of accountability with those of anonymity? whether different rules ought to govern face-to-face interaction versus that which is electronically mediated?'° Of course resolution need not be clearly in favor of one or the other but will vary with the context and setting. New hybrid definitions may also of course appear which then become a standard to which future innovations are assimilated.

 Cultural Values Shaping Expectations

In spite of the value conflicts noted above, it is possible to identify some core societal values that are defining communications etiquette for the new technologies. These can be stated as principles which affirm respect for the dignity of the other person and imply a golden rule reciprocity. They involve politeness, honesty, trust and the maximization of choice.

The principles are offered as empirical predictions and as normative directives. I think research would identify them as the background assumptions that inform how people respond to new communications technologies. In confronting the examples at the beginning of the paper, many persons experience consternation and even outrage. They feel something is not quite right, but just what it is, is difficult to define. I suggest that underlying such feelings is a violation of one or more of these principles. Even if they are not present, I think they should inform the evolution of manners.

Some Principles That Underlie The Emergence Of Telecommunications Manners

The following are some principles underlying the emergence of telecommunications manners. (1) Respect social boundaries and spaces (intrusions and invasions), (2) Inform people of the capabilities and risks involved in the communication technology being used (informed communication), (3) Do not impose costs on a party to a communication that they are unaware of or cannot control (externalities), (4) don't deceive (authenticity), (5) Respect confidentiality (discretion), (6) Use communication technologies in ways that respect the intentions of the communicator(s)—e.g., the only parties having access to a communication (absent informed consent) should be those directly engaged in it. Don't consume communications erroneously sent to you beyond what is required to identify the mistake (respect intentions), (7) Communications are jointly owned by those who are a party to them (joint ownership), (8) Communications should not be recorded without the knowledge and consent of the parties involved (reproductive rights), (9) If a consensual record is made it should be accurate (validity), (10) The recipient, possessing technologies such as a phone, fax or computer, invites communication but is under no obligation to sustain or respond to it, once it has been determined to be unwanted (receptivity), (11) The initiator of the communication must respect the recipient's desire not to sustain the communication (noncoercion), (12) An unsuccessful effort to reach another party carries no obligation to leave a record of the attempt (nonaccountability regarding attempts), (13) Request another co-present person's permission to engage in a conversation that they are not a direct party to (e.g., use of a car phone with a passenger present) (politeness), (14) Request permission (and offer an apology?) for interrupting (leaving) a communication (continuity), and (15) Communicate politely and in good taste (civility).

These principles are offered as guidelines intended to inform discussion, rather than as rigid rules. They may conflict and their meaning and applicability is of course subject to interpretation. Understanding how conflicts in these principles are resolved and how they come to be applied in different contexts is an important research task. Given the rapidity of change and the immense variability in communication's contexts, applying these is hardly automatic. There are no universal rules. Traditionally work contexts are different from those in the home.12

Criminal investigators will sometimes be permitted to eavesdrop in ways that ought to be prohibited to others. The conventions governing the communications activities of adults and friends may not apply to children and strangers. Different manners may apply depending on whether one is the initiator or recipient of a communication, the possessor of the new technology, or an intended direct party to the communication versus a third party able to access, or unwittingly exposed, to it. In a society that increasingly acknowledges and honors its heterogeneity, interesting questions for research and decent behavior are raised by the fact that one person's manners may be another's blunders. General rules across all situations would be unrealistic, silly and rigid.

Survival Tactics

Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool farewell! I took thee for thy better. —Hamlet (on stabbing Polonius for eavesdropping) Finally one need not (and indeed should not) be dependent only on others voluntarily showing good manners, nor can we wait for manners to evolve to protect us. A variety of self-protective actions are in order. As consumers we have choices! The first, although not without costs, is to reject a technology or service. Unless it clearly meets your needs, "Just say no!" Even if you say yes, it doesn't have to be used all the time. For example telephones don't have to be answered, nor do faxes or answering machines have to always be left on. With a little practice one can even learn to ignore the call-waiting click.

There is an unbecoming Pavlovian conditioning in the way humans so automatically respond to a ringing telephone, regardless of what they are doing. The bedroom scene in the film Mall with Woody Allen and Bette Midler's phone lines intermittently ringing wonderfully captures this.

Remembering to turn the volume down on a baby monitor in a living room or an answering machine can avoid embarrassment when guests are present (for example in the case of the former a guest may hear a private conversation between parents in the baby's room).

Conversational ploys such as asking a phone solicitor for their home phone number so you can call them back at a time that is more convenient for you can be used. This is more polite than using a device which emits a loud siren in their ear (it is also less cruel than Hamlet's action) It is also good for the soul and may even reduce call-backs. Another response is to take literally the telemarketer's psuedo-geminschaft ritual opening "how are you today?" by offering a catalogue of horrors, "I'm really terrible, I have the flu, I lost my job, my partner walked out on me, my, dog died. . . ."

One can also request that one's name and number be removed from direct marketer's lists.13 Being sure to give out and receive correct addresses and numbers, and care in accessing them can avoid the wrong numbers which are frustrating to both parties.

Save very personal and confidential exchanges for face-to-face or mailed exchanges. Don't say anything over the phone or in a fax that you wouldn't mind being overheard by others. Finally technologies can be developed that deny individuals the opportunity to show bad manners, just as they are now developed (although not necessarily intentionally) that do the opposite. Technologies should be designed to increase choice and to give recipients warnings. Enhancing the equity which already adheres in the idea of reciprocal communication ought to be taken as a design goal. The enhancement of control and expanded opportunities for all parties to a communication should be foremost.

A nice engineering effort devoted toward this end can be seen in the optical active badge, a location- communications system being tested by the Olivetti company. The system is egalitarian. Anyone on it can track anyone else. All users can know who is monitoring their whereabouts because such information is logged and recorded. Individuals can opt out of the system permanently or temporarily by putting it in a drawer or turning it upside down. The system's video capability is reciprocal. If a participant uses the video capability to surveil your office, an image of the surveyor appears on the screen. You cannot observe without being observed. 14

Mechanical censorship might give a boost to self-censorship through the development of software which emits warning sounds and lights (and could even shut down the system) when certain offensive words and phrases are used. More realistic are the variety of counter-technologies to screen calls and faxes. Encryption is a last resort. Cellular phones are increasingly using digital signals that are difficult to intercept. Some observers think it will not be long before we carry personal cryptocards which will be needed to unlock any electronic communication. In Europe some phones have a warning light that goes on if an extension phone is picked up and some simply go dead. Choosing the blocking option for Caller-Id where it is available, or a service that masks your number is another option. Some fax machines keep a record of messages even when the paper has run out. Centrally located, publicly accessible fax machines and printers that faithfully disgorge their products for anyone to see, can be designed to only generate documents when the addressee is at hand. Automated dialers can be programmed to ask for verification of the identity of the respondent before they proceed to communicate. If one is to believe the advertisements (which would be unwise!), it might even eventually be possible to deal with electronic deception by using a voice stress analyzer which claims to be able to tell if someone is telling the truth by remotely analyzing micro tremors in the voice.15 Some pagers vibrate when a message has been received, rather than emitting a sound for all to hear. Computer key boards to be used in public settings can be designed to operate more silently.

A combination of hardware, software and "humanware" (i.e., manners) must be evoked to balance the conflicting interests and values amidst the new electronic environment so as to responsibly minimize constraints and maximize freedoms.

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1. For example when I chanced to reflect on racial discrimination, this was viewed in moral terms as a question of bad people or a lack of education; poverty was a result of individual responsibility and collective behavior simply seemed chaotic and mysterious, beyond any possibility of scientific understanding. Prior to the course my interest in collective behavior had been entirely applied—giving rousing speeches as a student politician and debater, participating in panty raids and eagerly following fads and fashions that promised to define one as cool.

2. At the time I was a product of a 1950s Hollywood upbringing and the mass (mis?) education offered by UCLA. My preference was for easy classes that met at a reasonable hour, had multiple choice exams and an imbalanced gender redo. However a certain number of sociology courses were needed to graduate and hence I found myself in Turner's demanding course with essay exams, only the gender ratio was ideal.

I was in college because it was expected and in prolonging the youth culture, it seemed better than working or military service. Most teachers appeared as wardens with a touch of the sacred, who, with the power to grade, tried to coerce you into hard work and responsible adult behavior, when what you really wanted to do was be at the beach, or be driving around in a convertible with the radio blaring rhythm and blues.

3. For example, a master's degree on the 1930s radio priest Father Coughlin, a PhD. thesis on black response to the civil rights movement, and work on racial conflict, civil disorders, issueless riots, agent provocateurs, majority involvement in minority movements, mass media and manipulation, and conceptual problems in the field.

4. Whether and when legislation and tough sanctions are to be preferred is an important issue. Hard-headed social analysts with a cynical view of human nature, generally disparage moral appeals and calls forgood manners, absent strong sanctions for violations. But for a large proportion of the population such moral education is very significant. Virtue is often its own reward, particularly when the temptations toward its opposite are minimal.

5. Of course manners may be created or codified by etiquette books and entrepreneurs play a role here. Organizations may create task forces to define standards of proper behavior.

6. Goffman's examples from a mental hospital involve ritual profanations such as sticking out of the tongue. In contrast the examples in this paper primarily involve the selfish instrumental pursuit of advantages offered by the technology and thoughtlessness.

7. The possibilities for deception in a computer-dominated environment are rich and in some cases a testimony to the enduring power of the human spirit in the face of the machine, unfortunately in many cases the testimony is to cleverness in the service of immorality (Marx 1990)

8. This is the classic threshold issue for automated alarms that must rely on indirect measures (rather than the direct measures humans use). To set the standard too low will mean violations and to set it too high will mean false alarms.

9. Consider the position of a scanning enthusiast who, in being told that he had no right to easvedrop on private communications responded, "telling citizens not to listen to something that's right in the middle of the frequencies is like walking around naked in your living room with the drapes open and telling people not to look in the window." However looking in the window is done with the unaided senses and scanning is not (San Francisco Examiner Nov. 1, 1992).

10. An "on-line Lothario" who was caught and electronically "outed" for carrying on several e-mail romances simultaneously reports a change of heart about this, "I was experimenting....I didn't think that the same concerns about fidelity I apply reflexively in physical relationships applied here in cyberspace. I was wrong. The cyberworld is the same as the real world...the exact same standards should have applied" (Washington Post July 11, 1993).

11. This is reminiscent of a Groucho Marx joke in which he asks if his half-Jewish child could go swimming in a discriminatory country club --but only up to the child's waist, one might argue that you are entitled to record and sell your part of the transaction (assuming you have a video and audio machine that only records you or edits the other out). Yet because even your behavior is likely to be in response to the other persons, this analogy doesn't hold any better here than when Marx used it.

12. However in practice these distinctions are often difficult to draw. Thus some modern organizations that require fast track employees to always be reachable --whether by fax, phone, modem or pager, breakdown the traditional boundary between work and home. In the same way boundaries become muddled in the case of work associates who are also friends. The technology effectively colonizes places, times and relationships that previously were beyond the reach of the formal organization.

13. This can be done by writing to the Direct Marketing Association, 6 West 43rd St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

14. While it is not considered bad manners to opt out, it is seen as rude to take the badge off and to leave it face up on a desk. A person seeking the individual may then walk a distance to converse with them only to find the badge not the person.

15. A recent cartoon captures this by showing a couple watching a politician on television say "I will not raise taxes" and the voice stress analyzer responds "he's lying."

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Elias, N. 1978. The History of Manners. New York: Pantheon.

Fischer, C. 1993. America Calling. Berkeley: University of California Press

Goffman, E. 1956, "On the Nature of Deference and Demeanor." American Anthropologist 58 (June).

Hopper, R. 1992. Telephone Conversation. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

Marx, G. 1990. "Fraudulent Identification and Biography." In New Directions in the Study of law and Social Control, edited by D. Altheide. New York: Plenum.

Marx, G. and D. McAdam. 1993. Collective Behavior and Social Movements. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Schegloff, E.A. 1979. "Identification and Recognition in Telephone Conversation Openings." In Everyday Language, edited by G. Psathas. New York: Irvington.

Turner, R.T. 1964, "Collective Behavior." Pp. 382-425 in Handbook of Modern Sociology, edited by R.E.L. Faris. Chicago: Rand McNally.

—.1969. "The Theme of Contemporary Social Movements." British Journal of Sociology 20:815-831.

Weller, J.E. and E.L. Quarantelli. 1973. "Neglected Characteristics of Collective Behavior." American Journal of Sociology 79(November).

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