When I observed my children texting at the family Christmas function, I took their cellphones away from them. As I said, "That's rude." A conference might be different. Maybe not.
- You paid to be there. It's your time or the time of your employer. You may have an issue with your employer if you are texting with your fav(n) while your competitor is presenting.
- The speaker paid to be there. They take risks doing that and one of them is they may fail to hold the interest of the audience. If the speaker is paid to be there, they already have the money.
It is pretty easy to rouse an audience from somnambulance. Point the microphone into the monitor. Some will consider that rude and will leave to type elsewhere. Those that stay are interested. Think of it as culling by holding the wand of power. Rudeness like violence begets more of the same but in the moment, they don't have a power amplifier and you do. They have a wireless connection. They are welcome to IRC their displeasure from another room and surely will. That's fine.
Then there is the one that is most irksome: cellphones in business meetings. Do you tolerate that? If someone is required and does that, count the number of people in the meeting and multiply by their average salaries for the time you are waiting? Was that cellphone call as important as the time at the time? Does your company still have confidential meetings and allow people to bring their cellphones and Blackberries into the meeting? Remember, those are also recording devices. You might want to have a chat with your company security person if you do.
Reflexivity is the nature of communicative acts. Only when they are tolerant, considerate and compassionate can they be considered 'civilized' acts. If this is 'over' it might be a good idea to turn up the power amps, put on some earplugs, and make sure that the force is felt. Then at the very least, boredom ends quickly.
Uncivilized behavior follows it out the door. What is left has value however small.