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Last modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not now, cell phone -- I'm in a meeting

Bloomington Herald-Times

by Sarah Morin
January 25, 2007

They do it on the bus, they do it in the restaurant, and they do it in the church for heaven's sake.

Yep, everyone knows a cell phone Phil or Phyllis. Screaming, swearing, schmoozing and schmooping — they do it all into the phone and don't care.

Not the run of the mill talking-while-driving violators, but the most serious offenders of cell phone etiquette.

Kay Connelly wants to help them. Think of her as Emily Post for the digital generation gone wild.

And as that generation knows: Don't hate the player, hate the game.

It's the technology that needs to improve, not just the person addicted to it, according to Connelly, an assistant professor of computer science at Indiana University.

"I think the technology should fix the problem; it needs to advance to solve this problem," she said.

So she's researching ways to make cell phones smarter and more in tune with their users by adding automated responses. One idea is linking digital calendars such as Outlook to cell phones.

In a meeting with your boss? Your phone would automatically move to quiet — saving you the embarrassment of a telephonic "American Girl" playing in your purse when discussing pay raises.

"The cell phone itself can make that decision, not the human," Connelly said.

Some phones already offer an instant message service that notifies incoming callers that you're busy or unavailable.

Consumers need to demand more from the technology, Connelly said.

To eliminate ringing cell phones and rude users, places such as churches are blocking all incoming and outgoing calls with a new technique called "jamming."

Connelly would rather see a more flexible approach. For example, doctors with credentials could bring in their phones in case of an emergency.

Cell phone technology can also be used in ways to improve people's lives — beyond being plugged in.

Connelly is working with a program designed to increase physical activity among girls through a text messaging support system.

"You can use text message in a variety of ways to support each other in behavior modification," she said. The program will be used this year with 12 middle school girls in Bloomington.

Hey, you, listen up!

Here are some tips to make sure you're not "that person" on the cell phone:

Pipe down: "Volume is No. 1," said Shanna Dietz, an instructor in the Kelley School of Business and a political science graduate student.

Look around: Is this the appropriate place to have a play-by-play of last night at Nick's? You decide, but if it's the Big Three (church, classroom, confines of work) there is one answer: No.

Hang up, say hello: We've all seen them … people with the cell phone glued to the ear at the checkout counter and bank line, and their conversations don't miss a beat. "Virtually all conversations can be paused for that one or two minutes of the transaction," Dietz said.

So how about an old-fashioned face-to-face transaction with the teller today?