New Telecommunications Technologies Require New Manners
This paper considers a number of examples of unmannerly telecommunications behavior. Eight factors differentiating new from traditional forms of telecommunication are identified which are conducive to bad manners. Answering machines, call waiting and speaker phones are considered in greater detail. Fifteen principles are discussed which should inform telecommunications manners for the new technologies. These affirm respect for the dignity of the other person and involve reciprocity, honesty, trust and choice.
Much of the discussion of telecommunications as a social issue involves the behavior of large organizations - whether governmental or private toward individuals. The telecommunications behavior of individuals relative to each other receives far less attention. Yet the proliferation of new telecommunications devices (from cellular telephones to videophones and voice mail to faxes) raises novel issues for personal interaction.
How can the dignity of the individual be maintained in the face of communications technologies that have the potential to undermine this? Legislation, judicial interpretations, regulation and bureaucratic policies are needed, but are not sufficient. 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 informai understandings, and this is particularly the case with individual interactions .
In what follows I offèr examples of situations which require new telecommunications manners, indicate what it is that has changed to require this, and identify some principles which are likely to underlie the standards that will appear. The paper is both scientific and normative. It seeks to contribute to our understanding of what is happening and to offer guidance about what type of norms should emerge.