Friday, August 24, 2012

On hold

The phonebox, or public payphone, is quickly becoming a historic trace, an archeological remnant of earlier patterns of communication - of a time before the mobile phone. Gleick's book 'The Information' draws our attention even further back, to a time of telegraph stations and semaphore masts. In a similar way, they left their mark on the landscape. But because 'the phonebox that works' still exists in living memory, we can watch its slow slide into redundancy. The modern phonebox is like a scar on the urban landscape. A scar that has not yet healed. And yet we can still remember the strange social space that was defined by the phonebox: a place to queue, a place to wait, a place for teenagers to congregate, a place to shelter from the rain. The unique aroma; the opportunity for vandalism; the forgotten purse; the cryptic message scrawled on the damp directory and so much more. And of course, in the real world as well as the world of the imagination, the phonebox became the way to connect with distant places. The phonebox became the tardis, Dr Who's gateway to other worlds. Attempts to revive the phonebox have failed, because it has had its day. This one, discovered on a recent derive, is a hopeless case. All the windows are smashed. The door was removed a long time ago. Even the graffiti is sun-bleached. It promises 'text', 'email' and so on in a lost hope to move with the times. Perhaps an earlier version was a hub for the local community, but now there are better places to hang out, easier ways to communicate.


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