Why do people say where they are during mobile phone calls? (Laurier #1 of 4)

These clips by UK comedian / journalist Dominic John Romulus ‘Dom’ Joly might suggest, to some, the question : “Why do people say where they are during mobile phone calls?” For answers, or at least steps towards answers, see a key paper in Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, volume 19(4) pages 485-504, by Dr. Eric Laurier who is a Senior Lecturer in Geography & Interaction, Institute of Geography & the Lived Environment, University of Edinburgh, Scotland : ‘Why people say where they are during mobile phone calls’, Dr. Laurier sets the scene thus :

“You’re sitting on a train, you’re tired and irritable after a long journey. Someone else’s mobile phone rings. You hear it get louder as they fish it out of their bag. ‘Hi’ they say. There’s a pause. ‘I’m on the train. About half an hour away from London.’ Why, you sigh, why do they always do that?”

The author spent a week travelling with six people whose everyday business it was to organise their lives while being mobile, and who made frequent use of their phones. Various ethnomethodological conclusions were then drawn from the data collected. But ultimately the paper ends without firmly pinning down the “locational formulations“ of the phenomenon.

“Although I seemingly promised an explanation as to why people say where they are during mobile phone calls I hope it has become apparent that there is not one answer and there are good reasons for being wary of social and cultural theories that claim to provide themselves as an explanation.”

Further reading :

For more detailed thoughts on ‘answering the phone’ you can do no better that read professor Emanuel A. Schegloff’s 46 page essay in Conversation Analysis :Studies from the first generation 2004 (edited by Gene H. Lerner) entitled : Answering the phone*[Note: Improbable has not been able to determine the exact meaning of the asterisk.]

Or for a newer perspective, see a current paper from State and University Library, Denmark and Xerox Innovation Group, USA, in Mobile Media & Communication, September 2013, vol. 1, no. 3 pp. 314-334 ‘Where are you? Location talk in mobile phone conversations.’

“When referring to location, speakers predominately use two variations: inquiries (where are you), and reports of their whereabouts (I just got home).”

COMING SOON: More ethnomethodological explorations from Dr. Laurier






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