Cinemas jamming mobile phone signals

Architecture & urbanism, Blog, Design with Intent, External Control

Via Boing Boing – the US’s National Association of Theater Owners wants the FCC’s permission to block mobile reception inside cinemas. To be honest I thought this already happened in some places… maybe I’d mentally linked it to office buildings with Faraday cage wall structures to prevent eavesdropping on wireless data transfer; I don’t know how common these are in general, but would guess that more sensitive workplaces have had these for a long time.

As an architecture of control, the phone signal blocking is (suprisingly rarely!) something which appears to have both commercial benefits and ‘social’ benefits (see diagram, and discussion), although the social benefits are for the majority of the cinema audience rather than society as a whole. It’s a case where the commercial benefits from more satisfied customers are presumably considered important enough to make it worthwhile satisfying those consumers–can anyone think of any other examples of architectures of control designed to do this?
Of course, the problem with not being able to dial emergency services may be significant, although one would hope that the cinema staff would be able to use a land line to do that if alerted. What might be a more worrying problem is the audience not being able to receive messages/calls–imagine a situation where some urgent or critical news (e.g. “Come home, your house is on fire”) can’t be communicated to someone simply because he or she is in the cinema. Yes, before cellular phones (and pagers) that wouldn’t have been an issue anyway, but it is now.


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