5Across: Smartphone Etiquette, and Our Lack of Civility

    by Mark Glaser
    March 4, 2010
    A sign in the Taipei metro station asks people not to talk loudly on trains. Photo by "Seb Chan":http://www.flickr.com/people/sebchan/ via Flickr.

    This episode of 5Across is brought to you by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

    Back in 2006 on MediaShift, I asked an innocent question to readers: In what social situations should you NOT use a cell phone? The response was overwhelming, with dozens of people upset by the lack of etiquette shown by people talking on cell phones in restaurants, theaters and even in public restrooms. We eventually came up with a definitive guide for cell phone no-no’s.

    "The idea is you turn off your phone, you put it on vibrate, you enjoy your meal, then you get back to stuff when you're done." - Dan Scherotter, chef

    Now, with smartphones becoming popular, the problem has become even worse. We have people texting while walking across the street, checking scores while out on a date, or using GPS when they could simply ask someone nearby. What’s the story with smartphone etiquette? For this episode of 5Across, we convened a group of people to discuss various situations when smartphone use can be tricky — in restaurants, with friends, in the car — and considered an opposing view: when the phone call might be more important than the company with us in person. The result is a fascinating discussion about our transitional time, as we figure out (quite clumsily) when it’s OK to chat on our smartphone and when it’s not.


    5Across: Smartphone Etiquette

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    Guest Biographies

    W. Kamau Bell is a comedian that told the very first joke about Barack Obama on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend waaaaaaaay back in 2005. Unfortunately, the joke predicted that Barack would never be President. (Oops!) Comedy Central also invited Kamau to perform his critically acclaimed solo show, “The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour,” at their theater in Hollywood. “The Curve” enjoyed a long run in San Francisco, had continued success in Oakland and Berkeley, and played to full houses in 2009 at the New York International Fringe Festival. His new CD, Face Full of Flour is now out on iTunes.

    Fernando Castrillon earned a masters in sociology from the University of California and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). He currently serves as core faculty in the Community Mental Health Department at CIIS and is the director of CIIS’s “Clinic without Walls.” His clinical, teaching, and research interests include, among other things, the impact of hypervelocity technological change on human psychology and intersubjectivity. Currently he is working on a book based on his dissertation research, in which he examines the cultural, psychological and intersubjective consequences of the hyper-digitization of contemporary Western culture.

    Nicole Lee is an associate editor for CNET.com. She reviews all manner of mobile devices, from cell phones to Bluetooth headsets. She is a co-host on Dialed In, CNET’s cell phone podcast, and she also writes a bi-weekly Q&A column on CNET about cell phones called The 411. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Wired Magazine, and TechTV (now-defunct cable network about technology).

    Daniel Scherotter is executive chef and owner of Palio d’Asti, an Italian restaurant in downtown San Francisco. Scherotter brought with him not only an appreciation for the lavish table of Emilia Romagna, where he worked for two years, but also an affinity for the exotic fusion of Sicily, where in 2003 he married his wife, Nina. Now that he’s married, he’s started working on his first book, “The Bachelor’s Guide to Cooking,” and serves on the board of directors of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

    Syndi Seid is an authority on business protocol and etiquette and has appeared on “Good Morning America,” CBS’ “Eye on America,” Fox’s “Trading Spouses,” HGTV’s “Party At Home,” and Discovery Channel’s “Picture This.” Major companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Sprint, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and the Miss Universe Pageant trust her to train their employees to avoid social faux pas that could lead to major business and political blunders. She founded Advanced Etiquette worldwide to help executives and employees overcome their fears and insecurities to find poise, confidence, and authority in any social situation. Her own book, “Etiquette In Minutes is now available at EtiquetteInMinutes.com.

    If you’d prefer to watch sections of the show rather than the entire show, I’ve broken them down by topic below.

    Restaurant Etiquette

    Losing Our Humanity?

    An Opposing View

    The Worst Offenders

    Evolution of Etiquette

    Etiquette Tips


    Mark Glaser, executive producer and host
    Darcy Cohan, producer
    Charlotte Buchen, camera
    Julie Caine, audio
    Location: Vega Project & Kennerly Architecture office space in San Francisco
    Special thanks to: PBS, The Knight Foundation & GoDaddy
    Music by AJ the DJ



    Thanks to Vega Project for hosting 5Across

    What do you think? What kind of etiquette do you think we should have around our smartphone use? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

    This episode of 5Across is brought to you by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

    Tagged: cell phones distraction etiquette iphone smartphone social situations

    2 responses to “5Across: Smartphone Etiquette, and Our Lack of Civility”

    1. benben says:

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    2. Teresa Blankmeyer Burke says:

      I was excited to see these clips on YouTube, especially since PBS is one of the partners on the Google/YouTube Autocaption project, which makes content such as this accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people through text captions.

      I’m disappointed that this content somehow does not work with the YouTube/Google project, and I am hoping that you might be able to address this. The other issue is that the content may actually already BE captioned in the original show. As a hard of hearing scholar working in the area of new and social media ethics, I would be grateful for any efforts you could make to move this content toward accessibility, either by making sure that the YouTube content is uploaded with captions or by making sure that the Autocaption feature is available in PBS content on YouTube.

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