Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Bad Connections

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Bad Connections

Article excerpt

If the rudeness of cell phone users hasn't reached epidemic proportions, the lamentation of it surely has. In the Ethics and Public Policy Center's quarterly journal, The New Atlantis, Christine Rosen voices the hope that public cell phone use will go the way of public smoking. "It was not so long ago that cigarette smoking was something people did everywhere--in movie theaters, restaurants, trains, and airplanes," she writes. "Nonsmokers often had a hard time finding refuge from the clouds of nicotine, Today, we ban smoking in all but designated areas." Rosen notes a few signs of progress, such as cell phone bans in some libraries and on Amtrak's "quiet cars."

Complaints about disruptive technology are nothing new, of course. In fact, as Carolyn Marvin recounts in When Old Technologies Were New (1988), the original telephone bore its share of blame for corroding civic life. People in the 1880s complained about callers who shouted (some things haven't changed), vulgar language that offended the "refined ladies" working as operators, nerves jangled by the "constantly recurring sharp tinkle" of the bell, and, especially, the intrusiveness of unwanted calls. …

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