4970 telephone

used recorded telephone conversations to investi
gate the social organization of telephone talk,
mutual identification, turn taking, the achieve
ment of communicative context, and the nego
tiation of talk content. Of particular interest has
been the management of interaction given the
absence of physical context. A range of studies
have identified common features of telephone
interaction, one of the most important of which
is verbal exchanges that are paired in turn taking,
one statement or question requiring a matched
response. The opening sequences of telephone
conversations will conventionally consist of nor
mative telephone greetings, the identification of
the caller and recognition, the inquiry as to well
being, which all have their ritualized, common
paired responses, framed with respect to context
and the identity of the caller.
One important outcome of these studies was
the recognition that the micro coordination of
telephone talk and interactional norms differed
across cultural contexts. A third way of under
standing the sociological importance of the
telephone has therefore been to examine com
paratively the role, uses, and availability of the
telephone across cultures, regions, nations, and
internationally. Interactional studies have pointed
out that conventional norms in telephone talk
reflect deeper cultural differences in behavioral
norms, the conventional rules of politeness,
conversational norms in public spaces, turn
taking, and informational requirements for
mutual identification and recognition. Many of
these studies have, however, concentrated on
cultural differences within and between differ
ent nations and cultures in North America and
Europe. This in itself points to a wider socio
logical phenomenon that of globally unequal
availability of a telecommunications infrastruc
ture, and population access to associated technol
ogies. This inequality has historically reflected
the unequal division of resources between the
developed and developing worlds a number
of sociologists have pointed out that the deploy
ment and use of the landline telephone, espe
cially when positioned in a domestic context, is
a particularly western phenomenon. Despite its
ubiquity in western settings, it was estimated at
the turn of the millennium that around 70 per
cent of the worlds population had no direct
access to a landline telephone. By concentrating
on comparative research between western
nations, sociologists have sometimes neglected
alternative configurations of people, cultural
practices, and technologies that have evolved
around telephony in non western settings, par
ticularly community based and shared uses of
telephones, its role in ritual, religious, and kin
ship practices, and its uses in the processes of
both colonialism and development.
Access to telecommunications infrastructures
has itself, however, again been transformed with
further innovations in the configuration of tele
phony itself in the form of wireless, mobile, or
cellphone technology. Throughout the 1980s
and 1990s, cellular telephony emerged as a key
technological infrastructure in European and
North American societies. The transmission
of voice over distance no longer relied on
fixed line telephone wires, but rather employed
digital signals over radio waves. The devices to
send and receive telephony signals were no
longer bound to a single place such as the domes
tic household, and instead became the hand
set or cellphone. This entailed a significant
shift in telephone practices, as rather than being
attached to a fixed geographical space, telephone
devices instead became attached to particular
persons and bodies. Via such means, telephony
has become further individualized, and in the
process, the mobile devices themselves became
part of the consumption and commodity systems
to an extent not previously seen. Telephone
receivers could be highly personalized by, for
example, changing the appearance of the hand
set, and the devices not only carried voice calls,
but incorporated address books and answering
services more extensive than their fixed line
predecessors, and featured text messaging
the ability to send short written rather than oral
messages. More recently, mobile phones have
also incorporated digital cameras (and the abil
ity to exchange images), as well as hardware
and software to support polyphonic ringtones
and play digital audio files.
This mobilization of telephony has been
extensive, most notably in Western Europe,
where some countries mobile phone subscrip
tion rates exceed 90 percent of the population.
Because mobile telephony does not rely on a
wired infrastructure, it has also overtaken sub
scription to fixed line telephony in some
nations of the developing world. The extent of
this change in telephony has led sociologists to