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Preface and acknowledgments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

James E. Katz
Affiliation:
Professor of Communication Rutgers University
Mark A. Aakhus
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Communication Rutgers University
James E. Katz
Affiliation:
Rutgers University, New Jersey
Mark Aakhus
Affiliation:
Rutgers University, New Jersey
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Summary

Stopping at a Princeton, New Jersey, construction site, we half-consciously summarized the communicational situation. Before quite realizing it, we found in that buzzing, blooming confusion we could readily spot the person in charge. He was a man in his late 40s nestling a mobile phone in his meaty fist. The mobile phone was not what tipped us off – most workers at the site had cell telephones or pagers dangling from their belts. The boss carried his in his hand, its stubby antenna poking forward like an extra digit.

What you wear, and how you wear it, is a powerful form of communication. In this case, the boss's unconscious positioning of his communication device relative to his body was wonderfully indicative of his status and power. By otherwise occupying his hand with a mobile phone, he showed he had no intention of picking up a tool or performing manual labor. He used the phone's abbreviated antenna to point and gesture, in the manner of a nineteenth-century English army officer using his riding crop to dictate who needed to go where and do what.

The boss was also presumably more likely than his workers to be receiving a phone call, and thus needed to have his phone at the ready; the others, requiring it less often, could make do with a fumbling recovery from their belts. By having his telephone so primed for action, the boss could summon whatever manpower, materiel or expertise the project might require.

Type
Chapter
Information
Perpetual Contact
Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance
, pp. xx - xxiv
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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