Making up the rules as we go along

etiquette This week’s Economist has a thoughtful leader story on the etiquette of telecommunications.

The leader writer talks us through the evolving forms of communication since the 19th century as a parable of manners from Victorian dentists to modern airlines.

That last mention is all to do with US airline JetBlue trialling a limited service to enable passengers to use their mobile phones while in flight. Note it’s not for making voice calls, only data.

The airline is involving passengers in the planning by asking them for their opinions about such service.

What struck me most about the Economist’s leader was this simple fact mentioned about halfway through the piece:

[…] new communications technologies have been prompting questions about etiquette ever since the advent of the telegraph in the 19th century. The pattern is always the same: a new technology emerges on the scene, and nobody can be quite sure how it will be employed, or the appropriate etiquette for its use. So users have to make up the rules as they go along.

Mobile phones, instant messaging, blogging, social networks… figuring out where and how to use these communication tools isn’t easy for many people.

Mistakes are being made, which is an essential element in any learning (as long as you don’t make the same mistake again).

So will there eventually be a time when everyone knows all the answers? Unlikely, given the breadth and depth of differences between people and cultures in different parts of the world.

Looks like we’ll always be making up the rules as we go along.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.