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Ethnography in Public Space:

Competence, Communication and the Research Process

Ged Murtagh

To behave as a speaker or as a hearer devices in public places. These


when the other is not observably patterns of social interaction depend on
available is to subject oneself to a a mutual intelligibility that is
review of ones competence and produced, accomplished and
normality Speakers without hearers displayed between participants within
can be seen to be talking to themselves.
(Schegloff 1986, pp. 346-80)
the setting. It is submitted that these
factors are central to understanding
In conversations it is usually the how the rules of mobile phone use
something called content of talk that is are constituted as an ongoing practical
treated in this way, not the manner of concern. Moreover, the discussion will
talk, and certainly not the bodily aim to highlight these non-verbal
stagings and ecological arrangements aspects of interaction as invariantly
within which the talk is carried on. relevant features of interactional
However, it is not as if these other settings (Sudnow 1972, p. 263) where
aspects of the situation play no role in mobile phones are in use.
the structuring of the interaction. Far The discussion will begin by
from it. Their role is crucial to the whole detailing the methodology involved in
way in which the event is organised.
(Kendon 1988, pp. 14-40)
the research. It will then discuss the
issue of the rules of mobile phone use
The purpose of this discussion is to as an unwritten feature of patterns of
consider specific analytical approaches usability. Following on from this the
to the study of how gaze, bodily, and discussion will outline an analysis of
spatial orientation is implicated in the the findings of phone use as it relates
organisation of social interaction. The to non-verbal interaction. This will be
paper discusses some of the findings directed toward some preliminary
from a three-month period of conclusions concerning the mutual
ethnographic research investigating the intelligibility that is produced,
use of mobile phones (and other accomplished and displayed through
mobile devices) on train carriages. 1 unfolding sequences of interaction.
The purpose behind the research was The final part of the paper will
to attain a sense of the level of social consider some of the
acceptability of mobile phone use ethnomethodologically informed
within these settings. It is proposed concerns of the practical
that assessing the level of social accomplishment of applied
acceptability of mobile phone use in sociological research of this kind.
public can be informed by analysing
patterns of social interaction with these Methodology

The research is based primarily on


1
The findings are based on 32 hours of observational work with the aim of
travelling time on trains. Overall 109 instances maintaining a minimalist approach to
of phone use were observed. From this total the ethnographic method. An
there were 45 observed instances of calls
ethnomethodological perspective
initiated on the carriage and 37 instances of
calls received. informs the analytical orientation. As a

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consequence this paper will discuss this is achieved through an immense
how ordinary members of society amount of seen but unnoticed non-
produce and manage settings of vocal activity that is engaged in as a
organised everyday affairs (Garfinkel matter of routine. The discussion with
1967, p. 1) amid mobile phone use focus on three aspects of this non-
within the spatial setting of the train vocal activity i.e. gaze, bodily
carriage. In other words it will focus orientation and spatial orientation and
on the common sense reasoning it will consider their relationship to
procedures available to members to mobile phone use within these
render behaviour with mobile phones settings.
within these settings intelligible and
accountable. The Naturalistic Study of Non-vocal
Action/Interaction: Gaze as a
The Rules of Mobile Phone Use Particular Type of Social Interaction

To date it is not yet clear what It was Simmel who argued that our
constitutes the rules of appropriate use involvement in social interaction is
of mobile phones in particular settings. dependent on the sensory effect that
Apart from some settings where people we have on one another. 3 Of the
are requested to switch their phones sensory channels that we as humans
off, there are no explicit rules defining possess the eye, he argues, is perhaps
appropriate use. 2 These concerns the most significant. The reason for
withstanding, the focus of this this, according to Simmel, is that the
discussion is on the situated look from one eye to another is the
accomplishment of rules as integral to most direct and purest interaction that
the setting or context in which the exists. (Frisby and Featherstone, 1997,
action occurs. In this respect, p. 111). As early as 1910 Simmel
determining a rule and the action that made an observation that can still be
falls under it, is (in the classic found as the analytical baseline of
ethnomethodological sense) a matter much of the contemporary work into
that has to be decided, judged and the study of gaze in interaction.
determined on occasions of its Namely, that the eyes serve as
application. information channels where in the act
The ambiguity surrounding the of looking one reveals information to
rules of mobile phone use on train and receives information about the
carriages is particularly pertinent. other.
Within this setting a considerable
amount of phone use takes place on a The look into the eyes of the other
daily basis. Moreover, at particular person not only helps me to know him
times of the day people are situated or her, but also him or her to know me:
within close proximity of one another. along the line which connects both sets
Normally, people disattend the of eyes, ones own personality, mood
and impulse is carried to the other. (ibid,
activities of others as they are 1997: 112)
preoccupied with their own concerns
on which they focus their attention. Elaborating on Simmels sociological
Nevertheless, it is not long before the investigation of the senses and space,
ethnographer begins to appreciate that
2 3
With some of the main UK train operators See David Frisby and Mike Featherstone
one can now book quiet carriages where (1997), (ed.), Simmel on Culture, Part III,
mobile phone use is prohibited. Sage, London.

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Goffman (1961) examines how (for throughout the fieldwork the moment a
example through eye contact) one mobile phone came into use. The
manages interaction with others. He ringing of a phone would often times
also notes how the level of eye contact generate a response from others, if
is variable depending on the setting or only a glance, but afterwards the
the occasion. Utilising this approach, conversation is disattended to much
the research setting of the train like a face to face conversation
carriage can be described as what between two fellow passengers.
Goffman (1961), in his discussion of Nevertheless, if a Goffmanesque
social gatherings, refers to as an description is adopted phone use can
unfocussed occasion. For Goffman, be seen to initiate a shift from the
unfocussed occasions are where people unfocussed occasion to the focussed
gather together in a setting where a occasion of interaction. 4 When
state of joint attention or focus is somebody makes or receives a call,
avoided as people pursue their own those co-present immediately become
activities. In other words, the occasion party to the behaviour and
itself points to the kind of interaction conversation that follows. This shift
deemed appropriate, in this case from an unfocussed occasion to a
unfocussed. In relation to this Goffman focussed one also marks a shift in the
refers to what he calls civil social rules that come into play. How
inattention, i.e. the practice of those rules are constituted is dependent
averting the gaze from others present on the situated responses made by
so as not to draw particular attention to mobile users and others co-present.
oneself. He identifies this as one of the There were instances, however,
rules that govern our behaviour in where the initiated glance toward the
public places in the on going concern ringing phone would turn to a gaze or a
with the observance of social stare. Throughout the fieldwork a
propriety (Burns 1992). In public number of instances were observed
settings, Goffman argues, a state of where the ringing of the phone
mutual gaze is avoided. continued for a long period. This
By contrast, however, Goffman also would generate two responses. Either
observes what he refers to as focussed those co-present would stare in the
interaction or focussed occasions. direction of the ringing, or they would
These are evidenced, he argues, when check to see if it was their phone that
participants intentionally organise they had left unattended. Whichever
themselves so as to display attention to way, those co-present would respond.
one another, e.g. a conversation with Their response is suggestive of a
another, or a meeting. For Goffman, normal expectation or shared common
establishing mutual gaze is one of the understanding with regard to the
principal ways with which to initiate ringing of the phone when others are in
focussed interaction or display close proximity.
interactional availability. Thus, it is not Schegloff has noted that the ringing
just the outcome of interaction that is of the phone can be seen as the
of interest to Goffman but how it gets summons part of a summons answer
done, how it is organised, how it is sequence (Schegloff, 1979). In this
possible at all. way adjacently paired utterances act as
an interactional form of social control
Gaze and Co-Present Others
4
Eye contact was regularly initiated I am very grateful to Rod Watson for
drawing my attention to this.

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and serve to solicit an expected rings only carries so much
response from another. On this view, it interpretational weight. The mobile
is suggested that the unanswered phone is a device that can be switched
mobile phone is, by analogy, the on or off. The staring of others in the
summons part of a summons-answer direction of the unanswered phone can
sequence. That is to say, the ringing also be seen as display of unease with
phone has sequential implications for the fact that someone has not shown
the receiver to perform a next action, the courtesy of switching their phone
i.e. answer. The absence of that next off in public where others are in close
action is an infraction of the proximity. In this way mobile phone
conditional relevance of the initial use is re-constituted from an absence
summons through the ringing phone. of a conditional relevance to a matter
A mobile phone that goes of social etiquette. Ultimately,
unanswered in the train carriage is however, the unanswered phone may
treated as what conversation analysts generate no response whatsoever.
have referred to as noticeable absence.
Throughout the fieldwork a number of Gaze and Mobile Phone Use
instances were observed where the
ringing of the phone continued for a Nevertheless, all of the instances
long period. This would generate two observed throughout the research
responses. Either those co-present evidenced use of the eyes to
would stare in the direction of the accomplish phone use where others
ringing, or they would check to see if it were in close proximity. Typically
was their phone that they had left phone users would avert their eyes
unattended. Whichever way, those co- from the immediate surrounding
present would respond. Their response environment to a neutral space or
is suggestive of a normal expectation display a middle distance orientation
or shared common understanding with (Heath, 1986, p. 110). Non users on
regard to the ringing of the phone the other hand would typically display
when others are in close proximity. the civil inattention that Goffman
The consequences of this absence describes, that is of course until a
are evidenced by the bodily orientation phone remained unanswered. The
and the directions of gaze of others co- following instance has been selected
present. Further to this, Schegloff has for discussion primarily because it
observed that the ringing of the typifies the kind of behaviour phone
telephone is a socially and users would engage in whilst on the
interactionally shaped product (1986, phone.
p. 118). He suggests that multiple rings On one occasion a woman boarded
are a source of inferential a train carriage that was almost full,
topicalisation as are very few rings. whilst talking on the phone. She made
More importantly, he argues, members no eye contact with others whilst
orient to a proper number of rings boarding and once she sat down she
not too few, not too many (1986: directed her eyes downward towards
120). Thus when co-present others the floor. The seat she took was the
stared in the direction of the only one available, it was an aisle seat.
unanswered phone, they can be seen to Shortly afterwards her call finished,
be orienting to the proper number of she raised her head and looked straight
rings not too few, not too many. ahead. She then looked down and
However, treating this finding as an began to dial with the phone in her
orientation to a proper number of right hand. As soon as she lifted the

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phone to her ear she assumed a an interactional boundary between
downward directional gaze veering herself and the nearest person.
slightly toward the right into the aisle. In relation to the actual activity of
Of particular interest is that whilst managing co-presence whilst
boarding the train she was holding the interacting with another on the phone
phone to her right ear. She was now Goodwin (1981) provides a useful
holding the phone in her left hand up analytical point of departure. He
to her left ear. To her left side at the examines how gaze is implicated to
window seat was another passenger. display speaker and hearer status in a
As a typical example of phone use conversation. He proposes a gaze-
within close spatial proximity of others related rule that A speaker should
it is worth examining in closer detail. obtain the gaze of his recipient during
As mentioned earlier, Goffman has the course of a turn at talk (ibid. 57).
noted how eye contact or the This emerges from his investigations
establishment of mutual gaze is one of where, he suggests, there appears to be
the ways in which one can initiate a preference for securing the recipients
openness to anothers communication. gaze, as against not securing it when
For the woman in the example, speech exchange occurs. More
initiating communication with another importantly, Goodwin argues, this
is not an option because she is on the preference is consequential for the talk
phone. Nevertheless by averting her that is subsequently produced. His
gaze, the woman in the example can, it concern is with how gaze and bodily
could be argued, be seen to display this gesture enable participants to make
fact to others. Kendon (1967) in his visible the relevant statuses of speaker
pioneering study of gaze in social and hearer. Similarly to Goffman,
interaction identifies two functional Goodwins concern is with the
aspects of gaze. Firstly, he suggests, systematic procedures available to
gaze serves as a monitoring function participants to order their interaction.
where parties in interaction through Returning to the example, the
gaze can monitor one anothers woman can be seen to determine the
behaviour. Indeed by looking or not relevant status of the hearer within the
looking one can control the degree of carriage. She does this by averting her
monitoring. Secondly, gaze serves a eyes away from those co-present to
regulatory function enabling persons in display the fact that the relevant hearer
interaction to regulate each others is not within the immediate spatial
behaviour. Analysis of gaze in surrounds. Through her gaze direction
interaction must, he argues, identify she can be seen to display a distinction
the distinction between these two between those physically present and
functions when gaze is analysed in those relevantly present (Goodwin
social interaction. 1981).
On this account the woman in
the example (by averting her eyes) can Bodily and Spatial Orientation
be seen to regulate her openness to
interaction with others. In this instance, This next instance exemplified an
it could be argued, the use of gaze acts ongoing concern for phone users i.e.
as a control or check mechanism to the co ordination of phone use, bodily
forestall any potential interaction with movement and eye contact, particularly
others whilst engaging with phone use. when engaged in conversation with co-
In addition to the direction of gaze, her present others. A group of three men
bodily orientation can be seen to mark were observed reading their papers and

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talking among themselves. One man other words the rejection of the
sat in the middle seat opposite the openness to communication is
other two who sat at a window seat and signalled not just by the aversion of
an aisle seat respectively. The man gaze but also by the turning of the head
opposite started to make a call. As he and body away from the other.
did this the other two men gradually Smith (1997, p. 3) points to the
turned toward each other to continue concept of body techniques as it is
the conversation. The man on the described in the writings of the French
phone turned away and directed his anthropologist Marcel Mauss. For
gaze out of the window. When he Mauss, bodily actions are historically
finished the call he turned his head and culturally variable, acquired
toward the other two (still engaged in capacities that speak to culturally
conversation) and resumed eye contact. specific memberships. (cited in
Then in turn the other two slowly Smith, 1997, p. 3) In this way Mauss
started to turn toward the third man departs from the idea of a universal
and resume eye contact with him as patterning of bodily technique and
they continued their conversation. emphasises the cultural specificity of
Towards the end of the journey the this form of social interaction. 5
man on the aisle seat made a call. As Similarly, Goffman (1963) has
he held the phone to his head, he pointed out the importance of what he
looked toward the inside window (right calls body idiom. He uses this term
side). The man on his right side asked to describe:
him a question. He responded but does
not make eye contact. He then turned dress, bearing, movements and position,
his head and upper body and directed sound level, physical gestures such as
his gaze away from the other two waving or saluting, facial decorations and
toward the window on the other side. broad emotional expressions (1963, p.
In this example there are many non- 33)
vocal activities (gaze, head and upper
body movement) designed to account Goffman explains that gestures such as
for the use of the phone. In particular, these are important in that they display
the men in the example display an to others the parameters of social
awareness of bodily and spatial encounters. They broadcast the
orientation within the setting of the message that the individual wants to
train carriage. In the first instance both send. He (1971) further elaborates the
phone user and non users almost concept of body idiom with the
simultaneously, through gaze and concept of body gloss. He explains
bodily movement, display a closing of that appearance and gestures are
the triadic interaction to allow for the presented as a gloss to describe
call receivers engagement with ones situation. A body gloss is
someone else. In the second instance as something like a non-verbal
the caller holds the phone to his head, explanation that is offered, by the
he is seen to be retaining an openness individual, to account for his/her
to communication. When an other interactional positioning vis a vis
party initiates communication, a others. Scheflen (1964) has argued that
response is given but no eye contact is a change in the mode of participation
made. More importantly, for present
purposes, the movement of the body 5
The cultural specificity of non-vocal
can be seen as integral to the way in communication has also been reiterated by one
which the interaction is ordered. In of the leading contemporary writers on the
subject. (See Kendon, 1996, 1997)

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status is usually accompanied by a speakers verbal utterance through
change in posture to mark the gaze and bodily gesture. Heath makes
boundary of this change (Reported in a distinction between displays of
Kendon 1990). Head and upper body availability and displays of recipiency.
movements are routinely employed to A display of availability, he argues,
organise social interaction. creates an environment of
Goodwin (1981) elaborates on this undifferentiated opportunity (Heath
theme to examine how engagement/ 1986: 33) in which action can be
disengagement (or to use Goffmans initiated. By contrast, a display of
terms focussed and unfocussed recipiency specifies an interest in the
interaction) are organised and the receipt of a response and displays
consequences of this for the location for the receipt of its
organisation of the participants talk. occurrence (ibid. 33).
Goodwin argues that the way in which Thus it might be argued that the
we orient to or away from co-present participants in the given examples
others can be seen as, what he calls, display an acute awareness of body
engagement displays. Thus the way gloss techniques (Goffman 1963) or
in which participants display engagement displays (Goodwin
engagement is suggestive of the 1981) to mark out boundaries
participation status (Goodwin 81: (Scheflen 1964) or change the mode
96) of others co-present. Like gaze, of participation status (Scheflen
engagement displays enable 1964). These techniques are employed,
participants to mark boundaries it could be argued, to account for and
between those physically present and manage phone use in co-presence with
those relevantly present. In other others. The examples discussed
words co-participation in talk is demonstrate how the participants
continually subject to ongoing display participation/non-participation
negotiation by participants as to the status through bodily and spatial
type of co participation the interaction orientation. Moreover, they are
event demands. In this way, he argues, indicative of how the rules of mobile
mutual engagement/ disengagement phone use on train carriages are
are collaboratively achieved through constituted as moment by moment
bodily movement and the ongoing emergent phenomenon.
monitoring of others actions.
Subsequent investigators have Preliminary Conclusions
continued this theme examining other
aspects of gaze, bodily gesture and This investigation started out as part of
talk. Frankel (1983) suggests that other a research project examining the level
aspects of communication, such as of social acceptability of mobile phone
gaze, will vary between different social use in public spaces, in particular train
contexts. Thus, the meaning of non- carriages. The rationale was that
vocal interaction (e.g. gaze) is research setting itself, presented
contingent upon background participants with particular spatial and
understandings that furnish both a ecological confines when using a
texture and rules for deciding the mobile phone.
appropriateness of an action in any In just over 50 hours of
given situation (Frankel 1983, p. 45). ethnographic observation there were
Heath (1986) has examined how two instances of verbal responses to
members determine the obligations co- mobile phones. However, in both
interactants have with regard to a instances these responses were directed

66
to others, not the person using the utility of studies of non-vocal
phone. Given the evident absence of interaction when applied to the context
written rules of appropriate use, in of mobile phone use on train carriages.
these settings, the focus of The remainder of the discussion will
investigation shifted toward the attempt to delineate some ethno-
unwritten rules of phone use. The methodologically informed reflections
paper suggests that the unwritten on the research process itself. In so
rules manifest themselves through doing the attempt is made to bring to
conventional patterns of non-vocal the fore the kinds of shared
communication sensitive to these understandings necessary for the
spatial surroundings. purposes of completing the
Thus phone users on train carriages ethnographic project. The aim is to
employed different types of non-vocal highlight some of what Garfinkel
activities to disengage themselves from (1967) refers to as the reflexive and
co-present others. By the same token, incarnate character of accounting
co-present others employed the same practices. In other words I want to shift
non-vocal activities to display, the analysis toward a consideration of
indifference, disapproval the very same practices this study so
In/appropriate use etc. These far has claimed to have captured
conventional patterns of non-vocal (Goodwin, 1994).
communication depended on a mutual
intelligibility that is produced, Gaze
accomplished and displayed through
unfolding sequences of interaction. It It was previously suggested that
is submitted that these are central to patterns of non-vocal communication
understanding how the rules of were practically accomplished by those
mobile phone use are constituted as a present on train carriages. It goes
moment by moment emergent social without saying that this practical
phenomena. accomplishment necessitates a
practical skill, i.e. knowledge of how
Ethnomethodologically Informed to behave and interact in these settings.
Reflections: Doing Applied Research More importantly, these skills need to
accommodate various disruptions to
The exercise that has elicited the greatest the ordered interaction e.g. phone use.
response and produced the most This skill and knowledge (evident
interesting results has been the Walk in the responses made by the train
Exercise. Basically it consists in taking a passengers) was also a necessary
walk with the continuity and perceptions requirement for doing the research
you encounter. The original version of the
exercise was taught me by an old Mafia
itself and it is this feature that I wish to
Don in Columbus, Ohio: seeing everyone emphasise. One faced the practical
on the street before he sees you if you problem of capturing the responses of
see other people before they see you, they others whilst simultaneously refraining
wont see youSooner or later, however, from being seen as engaged in such an
someone will see you. Try to guess why activity. The participants in the setting
he saw you what you were thinking naturally deployed the patterns of gaze
when he saw your face. (Hobbs and May, behaviour described above. Actually
1993, p. 45) doing the research demanded that those
same gaze patterns be seen to be
The preceding discussion has naturally deployed. This was a
attempted to highlight the analytical practical concern on each an every

67
occasion within the research setting. to. They are integral to the social
For the purposes of the research I set organisation of interaction in the train
myself the task of orienting to certain carriage. Nevertheless, doing the
kinds of behaviour that would be seen research necessitated that I be seen as
but remain unnoticed blending in with knowing what everyone else knows in
the ordinary routine activities one can these settings, under these kinds of
observe on train carriages. I was circumstances, at these particular times
concerned to conceal my instantaneous with these kinds of contingent factors
recording of patterns of non-vocal etc. The research demanded passing
behaviour. I relied heavily on management devices as attempts to
culturally sanctioned knowledge of come to terms with practical
levels of gaze/mutual gaze when one circumstances as a texture of
is, for example: relevances over the continuing
occasions of interpersonal
* Making a to do list transactions. (Garfinkel, 1967, p. 175)
* Writing down points to raise at a
meeting Spatial Orientation
* Revising an academic paper
* Making calculations Spatial orientation on train carriages is
* Doing the Times crossword an interesting topic. People are
* Reading the newspaper particularly sensitive toward their use
of space and seating arrangements.
This list goes on and is contingent on Where a situation choice presents itself
other factors that do not include it is rare to find strangers sitting next to
the resources at hand, the ecological one another. 7 By contrast, in a full
arrangement and the physical carriage one can observe people
proximity with others. Anything out of moving from a seat also occupied by
the ordinary, the mundane, the routine others to a seat that becomes vacant.
would be immediately available to Within the context of the research,
other passengers and could present a one had to reflect on the routine
potential detriment to the process of mundane patterns of spatial orientation
information capture. 6 that one can regularly observe. The
Civil inattention, participation most problematic issue was movement
status, engagement displays, the gaze through the train. If situated in a
and distance are features of public carriage for 10-15 minutes and there
settings that members naturally orient were no research relevant
activities, one considered moving on.
6
My intention is not to make any specific On entry into another carriage one
analytical distinctions as to what constitutes a faced all the kinds of considerations
glance, a gaze or a stare. I am relying on ordinary members face when boarding
common understandings of the differences
a train, but with very different
between these three non-verbal activities.
David Sudnows remarks on the glance are relevances and different purposes. My
particularly pertinent. Rather it is, for purpose was to situate myself in such a
members of this society at least, a natural, non- way as to attain a good line of sight for
incomplete, normatively governed unit of observations. 8 I had to make that
observation, often a maximally appropriate
instantaneous decision that members
monitoring procedure known and known in
advance to be sufficient and sufficient for
7
anyman for furnishing interactionally This may, however, be culturally specific
relevant information. The unit glance then, is phenomenon.
8
not an analytic unit but a members one" This had a lot to do with the ecological
(Sudnow, D. 1972, p. 261). contingencies of various train carriages.

68
routinely make and be seen to do it as question it translated into the practical
it is regularly routinely done. concern of identifying mobile
Knowledge of these settings and the technology users, as they are
interactional behaviour that they experienced in everyday encounters.
demand was crucial. One useful way in This demanded a heavy reliance on the
which this was overcome was to shared common understandings of
remain standing in the middle of the particular social types, in the first
aisle where one could view the whole instance, mobile professionals. What
carriage. However, this could only be do they look like? How can they be
achieved on a full or almost full recognised? Where do they situate
carriage. Standing up in a carriage that themselves on train carriages? At
isnt full may be called into question which train destinations are the
particularly if one doesnt alight majority of them likely to be found
shortly after boarding. Nevertheless disembarking? One proceeded with the
one always faced the problem of the inferentially, publicly and culturally
possibility of the simultaneous available answers to these questions
occurrence of analytically interesting that Schutz refers to as a network of
events in separate carriages. typifications (Schutz 1970, p. 119).
In his studies of death and dying in Doing the research meant that the
hospitals, Strauss conveys some question regarding the identity of the
similar practical concerns of field mobile user becomes a redundant one,
research. 9 He talks about developing until of course (as Schutz quite rightly
relationships with staff on two or three points out) further notice.
wards. This allowed a research
backdrop if nothing interesting was Thus typifications on the common sense
going on in the other wards. However, level in contradistinction to typifications
the priority decision of where to made by the scientist emerge in the
observe next pervaded the research. everyday experience of the world as taken
Moreover, the problem of analytically for granted without any formulation of
judgements of or neat propositions with
interesting events occurring logical subjects and predicates (Schutz
simultaneously was something that 1970, p. 120).
frequently confronted the
fieldworker (Strauss 1968, p. 263). The mobile user in the abstract sense
is (to borrow from Schutz) experienced
Who is the Mobile User? in the research process in entirely
different terms. The mobile user is
This is one of the questions that experienced as different social types.
currently pervades much of the Those types serve as a frame of
sociological literature on the reference to interpret the social world.
emergence of mobile technologies Doing the research and all it
particularly as it concerns social status entailed necessitated, as Anderson and
and identity. 10 Yet as a research Lee (1982) point out a reliance on
9
ordinary categorisation practices to
Many thanks to Andrew Carlin for pointing
identify and analyse the subjects of the
this out to me.
10
See for example, Frissen (1995) and research. It is in this sense that the
Silverstone and Haddon (1996). These writers entire study itself was premised, in the
address the issue of diffusion of mobile classic ethnomethodological sense, on
technologies into the domestic sphere what everybody knows in relation to
underlining the gendered uses of mobile
the setting, social behaviour and social
communications and computing technologies.
types.

69
Concluding Remarks References

The conclusion is short but I hope, Argyle, M. (1988). Communication,


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constituted the real sociological Argyle, M. (1994). The Psychology
research. Instead I have tried to convey of Interpersonal Behaviour, Fifth
a particularly striking feature of the Edition. London: Penguin.
research that constitutes a sociological Argyle. M., & Cook, M. (1976).
irony in the classic Gaze and Mutual Gaze.
ethnomethodological sense. That is to Cambridge University Press,
say, the research set out to capture Cambridge.
information on patterns of non-vocal Burns, T. (1992). Erving Goffman.
communication. These patterns are Routledge: London.
engaged with each and everyday by Creider, C.A. (1978). Intonation
members often quite unreflectively. tone groups and body motion in
Ultimately the research demanded an Luo conversation Anthropol.
understanding of the shared knowledge Linguist 20: 327-39.
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