Posts Tagged ‘negotiation’

Asked about how mobile phones change everyday life, a planner compared his own Friday or Saturday nights with those of his sons. When I was young, he said, those nights sometimes could be disasters. You went to all the places where your friends used to go, and no one was there. You could walk around all night without meeting anyone you knew. With my sons it’s completely different! They always seem to know where to go. They keep in touch using their mobiles, and always find where their friends are and where the fun is.

Changes like the one described above, lived through by anyone over 30 but not necessarily comprehended by younger generations, do imply changes in publicness. People who grew up without access to mobile phones, have memories of relations to urban space that were based upon certain places, settings were stumbling upon friends (and others they hoped to make friends with) was probable. For some kinds of meetings within the public, such places were crucial.

A young woman, old enough though to have experienced everyday life without a mobile, told about how to find each other in downtown Karlstad. In the old days we said: Let’s meet in front of Vero Moda (the flashy shop defining the absolute city centre). Now it is just: Let’s call each other when we get downtown!

In the “old” days, cafés, bars, squares, certain streets (like Main Street) and many other places were the interfaces for certain kinds of socializing. They were not only settings for social interaction, but worked as media through which people could be contacted. To some degree, mobile connectivity replaces the role of such public places. Does that mean that there are places that lose their meaning? Obviously people are still getting together in the city. Are their new patterns of meeting developing, that direct people immediately to where things happen; now passing over places that had the function of rendezvous?

On my way to pick up my friend for a night downtown, I happen to hear a young woman, talking on her phone: So what are you guys up to tonight? The negotiations about where and when have apparently started. My friend and I, however, have made our appointment at the railway station at a set time. We go to have some beers and then to watch a movie. Later, we decide to call his woman friend, who is also downtown with a couple of her friends. No reply. We choose to have another beer and then slowly head for the station. Now she calls, a tiny bit worried that he will be late for the train back.

The moral of this story is that mobile coordination doesn’t always work. I don’t know why the woman partner of my friend didn’t answer his call. Maybe there was too much noise, maybe she had turned off her phone.  Had we not relied upon instant mobile connectivity, we would perhaps have decided to meet somewhere during the night. Of course, we had no problem getting together at the station. Railway platforms and timetables are not negotiable.


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