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Payphone Portraits and Urban Imagination

Thu, May 25, 19:30 to 21:30, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 2, Indigo Ballroom B


With their allure of urban decay, payphones have provoked a number of reimaginings, from libraries to art installations (Stokes et al., 2014). Themes that tend to coalesce around these projects include use and reuse, public access and local memory. This project investigates the payphone as a site of imagination, combining interviews with photographic documentation to ask, what is the work of a payphone? How and by whom are they used, repaired and repurposed? What do these practices reveal of media politics and urban futures? Methodologically, we address these questions in two modes: interviews and photographs. We use photographs to document payphones in multiple states of use and repair. As a counterpart, we recruit people who rely on payphones in some way, whether as a form of communication, income or employment. Our open-ended interviews with these individuals allow us build a narrative around use, repair, communication and memory in technologies of urban landscapes.