Public Problems

Where we would once find media technologies only in spaces considered private, such as our homes, it is clear that there has been a shift that sees audiences now consider public spaces just as important for accessing and absorbing media technologies. These developed media technologies have seen a dramatic change in the way the public act but also a change in public spaces themselves (Freitas, 2010, p. 630).

Talking on Trains

Talking on Trains

One of the most extreme and interesting examples of this is seen when looking at how audiences use mobile phones in public as well as the impact these devices being used in pubic has had on society.

According to Mensch (2007, p. 31)‘‘Public space is the space where individuals see and are seen by others as they engage in public affairs”.

This definition itself is already challenged by the changing dynamic of the public using their devices in public spaces. As we see people in public spaces absorbed in their phones with their heads down, paying little attention to the world around them it becomes unknown to people viewing them whether they are engaging in any kind of public affair or simply trying to crack that one level of candy crush. This unknown is what challenges this definition and goes to show just how the ideas of public space are changing dramatically with mobile phones usage in public.

It has also become apparent how public spaces have experienced not only a physical change but also an ideological change in order to cater for the use of mobile phones. This becoming obvious as I took a train from Sydney recently.

The physical change was noticed as I sat in a quiet carriage, which is basically a specifically allocated space that you can’t make calls in or play games / listen to music on your phones without headphones in.

However this physical development has come about with a set of unofficial rules put in by society or that says that you shouldn’t make loud phone calls or play angry birds on full volume for everyone to hear because it affects the social experience of nearby members of public within that public space (Turner, 2008, p. 213).

And  just like the video below I noticed this social rule and quiet carriage rule being extremely broken as a group of 15 year old boys next to me chose to make several loud phone calls as they tried to find someone to buy them alcohol for that evening.

It becomes apparent that using mobiles in public spaces is changing not only the way we view public spaces but also the social rules we put in place toward interaction within these spaces.



Freitas, A 2010, ‘Changing Spaces: Locating Public Space at the Intersection of the Physical and Digital’, Geography Compass, vol. 4, no. 6, pp. 630-643.

Mensch, J 2007, ‘Public Space’, Continental Philosophy Review, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 31-44.

Turner, M 2008, ‘Understanding emotions experienced when using a mobile phone in public: The social usability of mobile (cellular) telephones’, Telematics and Informatics, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 201-215.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s