The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

SHRINKING PHONECALL CONTAINMENT
(blogathon 2003)
With the prolferation of cellphones, we've all encountered people who seemingly have no concept of personal space--that is, they think nothing of making and receiving calls, and carrying on noticably loud conversations, in full earshot of complete strangers. It become one of those minor annoyances in modern society.

I considered how this represents a visible progression over the decades in the reduction of personal space devoted to public phone calls. Consider: When the first public phones appeared around the turn of the last century, they were housed in these huge, all-wood phonebooths, where you could practically sequester yourself while you made your call. There was usually even a little bench where you could sit down while you talked.

These morphed gradually into phonebooths that were much more cramped--just enough room for a person to stand up in. Even more telling, they were made most of glass and/or clear plastic, so now the caller was clearly visible to people outside the booth. So a certain level of privacy was now taken away. And even though you could shut the doors on the booth, it was often possible to hear some parts of the conversation taking place.

After this, by the late 80s and into the 90s, these enclosed booth was eliminated altogether, in favor of a phone kiosk that consisted of nothing more than the phone itself and a little bit of an overhang. Now, there was pretty much no private space from which to carry on your conversation. Anyone walking by could pick up on your conversation.

From there, we get to the cellphone, where you literally have no enclosure space at all. You could even take it a step further with headpiece attachments, so that you don't even have to take your phone out to start and carry on a conversation.

What's the next step? Telepathy, maybe? That would certainly bring back the containment factor, to the ultimate degree.