An influential article several years ago was by Rich Ling and Birgitte Yttri on “Nobody sits at home and waits for the telephone to ring: Micro and hyper-coordination through the use of the mobile telephone." Now, Lee Humphreys reports on her more recent research on "hypercoordination" in Out with my mobile - exploring social coordination in urban environments:
"I recently returned from a trip to Germany with twelve of my colleagues. Being Americans and therefore behind the mobile technology curve, I was the only one of the group who had a mobile phone which worked abroad. Therefore, we were forced to coordinate our gatherings and meetings sans mobile phones. Needless to say, life without the mobile makes you realize just how much you rely on it. There were missed meetings and dinners. Awkward interactions with acquaintances who just sort of showed up. And then there was the waiting. There was a lot of waiting. This waiting felt different than in the States without the ability to send a quick text message to say one would be 10 minutes late or the ability to call to double check the location. Am I in the right place? Did we really say 6:30? This place isn't cool, can we find a new place? And for someone who is accustomed to the hyper-coordination that Rich Ling & Birgitte Yttri suggest is associated with mobile phone use, this waiting felt not only highly constraining but was also anxiety inducing.
This waiting, however, also provided a moment to reflect on how mobile communication technology has become integrated into social interaction processes. Not only do we use mobile phones to say we're running late, but we also use them to coordinate ourselves in space and time. In order for my colleagues and me to have dinner together, we had to coordinate beforehand the when and the where to meet. In a densely populated urban environment, the chances of running into one another at the corner bar is not likely when there are so many venue options within a particular neighborhood. Therefore, communicating the where and the when of the meeting becomes an important factor in social coordination for urbanites. But mobile social interaction is not nearly so blunt as just when and where. Particularly for small groups of colleagues or friends, coordinating who will (and will not) be there can also become an important negotiation. Mobile technology is beginning to play an evermore important role in this social coordination."