Nov 092003

House in the colonial French concession in Shanghai. More pics from our Beijing trip – including new pics from the Temple of Heaven park – are in the gallery.

This was going to be a journal entry, but I have decided to expand it into a post relevant for this communications class. Part of it may bore you. I’m writing this here so that you can A) understand a personal disaster story that happened to me, and B) understand what I write about in the COMM 470 Communications in the Virtual Workplace class that I teach online through the University of Phoenix.

Disaster has struck me last night. I rode a taxi to the Shanghai Hilton to attend a “Mixer” put on by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM). I was sort of in a daze, trying to summon the right attitude and energy needed to be Mr. Smooth Networking Guy. I got out of the taxi. The Taxi took off. I discovered that my brand new Sony Erricson T610 cell phone – which took me months to buy – was not in my pocket. It was in the Taxi. So I called my phone. Someone answered, but didn’t speak. He was trying to figure out how to turn it off. I started screaming in Chinese “Gosh fudging darn you bumbblehead… you can’t use my phone – its an English system phone! If you’re smart, you will bring it back and I’ll give you money!” Whoever took my phone didn’t care for my reasoning.

I went into a murderous rage. Albeit, a quite rage because there was none around that I could rage against.

Luckily, China Mobile – the cell phone operator – was able to switch my telephone number to a new card…but they couldn’t do that today because (I’m told) all the customer service input terminals are down throughout Shanghai due to system upgrades and will not be available until tomorrow.

!!!! (breath in.) !!! (breath out. Feel the Chi in your chest) !! (breath in. Visualize a peaceful forest) ! (breath out…much better)

I have decided to use my misfortune (or stupidity…depending how you look at it) to open up a conversation about cell phone usages and virtual communications.

First of all, the obvious. Cell phones are first of all phones. So they have the same communication characteristics as wired phones, except they probably have more opportunity for noise,

Cell phones are also text messaging devices. Text messages(also known as SMS messages) are similar to internet chat Instant Message (IM) programs from Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN. You can even send messages from the phone to computer IM and E-mail programs (and vice-versa). Although most people send SMS to other cell phones.

I’m not sure if its right to classify this form of communication as synchronous or asynchronous. The SMS message can be received immediately after it is sent. On the other hand, because it takes so long to input a message on the phone keypad, reply communications (and feedback) definitely cannot take place in real time. Unless the reply is really short.

I bought a new phone today. Took me about 3 hours to pick it out – I’m improving! My new phone is manufactured by Siemens. I can input and read Chinese characters on the phone almost as fast as a can write English. I don’t actually know how to write or read Chinese, so I’m never really sure if my messages are clear. I know how to write the characters for Love, Make, With, I, You, and Bed. My wife, being Japanese, can write and read Chinese fluently. She sent me a Chinese SMS message with something about Smelly, Brush Teeth, and Leonardo Di’Caprio (his name was written in English).

In Asia, SMS messaging is a very common form of virtual communications. It has a very low level of formality – grammar and spelling are not important. I often wonder why SMS is popular, given that voice communication on the cell phone can convey information much quicker because it takes so long to compose messages. In Japan, everyone types SMS messages while riding the train (and it seems most people ride the train). This is sort of understandable because phone signal is blocked on the train. Even if phone signal was available, its not socially acceptable to talk loudly on the train (where everyone is concentrating on trying not to think about the 12 hours of work misery that awaits them day after day).

The administrative assistant / marketing coordinator of a prospective employer in Shanghai seems to prefer to send me SMS instead of calling me, even though we each understand each other’s English and Chinese. When I call her, I remind her about proposed meeting times. I then give her compliments; I tell her how enjoyable it was to meet her. I have also given her a little complaint because she did not sent me an email with meeting location details. She also didn’t call me back within the time frame previously agreed upon (no one in China ever does – I complain because I want them to realize that communication with foreigners requires on-time communication). She sometimes calls me, but more often she sends a message saying “meeting at 6”, or “good 2 talk 2 u” or “I confused. Meeting at 4”. Although these are short messages, it still would be quicker to call. I think calling requires more mental preparation . When you call, you communicate information with your voice tone. SMS messages frees someone from being concerned about the non-verbal part of the communication.

Also, its difficult to find a quite place in Shanghai. Streets, restaurants, and office buildings are always bustling with people. SMS tends to have less opportunity for noise (COMM usage ) than voice calls in Shanghai.

That’s the end of my COMM470 Communications in the Virtual Workplace discussion post.

I have been going to networking meetings almost every day. I will describe this in a later post here.

BTW, if I was going to buy more pirated DVDs in order to help me forget about losing my cell-phone, I would probably buy:

Malibu’s Most Wanted (recommend only for M.L.P.)

Yet Another Teenage Movie (not even recommend to M.L.P.)

28 Days Later (recommend to everyone except Mom, Rachel, and M.L.P)

Down with love


Days of Being Wild

Music CD: Nellyville (to bad no hip-hop clubs in Shanghai)

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