Serving a smarter America

By Claire • NewsCred Blog • Mar 01, 2012

Through the lens of 2012, Christian Marclay's "Telephones, 1995" almost seems quaint. A 7.5 minute compilation of movie clips of Hollywood stars winding radial dials, punching keys, being startled, interrupted, awoken by a chorus of ringtones, arrives with the analog neatness of Nick@Nite.

Today, these clunky telephones rarely exist outside of movies. Somewhere between 1995, the year Coolio topped the charts with "Gangsta's Paradise," and today, America went wireless, digital, flip, 3G, 4G, i. According to recent studies published by Nielsen and Pew Internet, nearly 50 percent of American adults now own a smart phone. Among 18 to 24-year-olds, this number climbs to 66 percent.

In an age of Skype, GChat and WhatsApp, the idea of being tethered to a wall, as Marclay's characters are, feels particularly old-fashioned. Coupled with the penetration of tablet devices (29 percent of adults now own one), it's downright prehistoric.

Radical shifts in the telecom industry separate "Telephones, 1995" from the present moment, but the anxiety, pregnant pauses, hushed voices, laughter and delight registered by Marclay's characters are timeless. The tethers may now be invisible, but our bond to communication is stronger than ever. As a Sept. 19 study by Pew Internet revealed, 18 to 24-year-olds send an average of 109.5 texts each day.

As Vivian Schiller, chief digital officer at NBC News, pointed out at a discussion on connective mediaat the Cornell Club in Manhattan Feb. 23,

“As responsible journalists, we have to be there. We have to be everywhere the audience is. To say that we will hold fast to the old business models because that is how we know how we make money is a fool’s errand. To use another cliché, you cannot stop the tide."

America is a mobile-to-mobile, nights-and-weekends, rollover country whose phones are getting smarter by the minute. Brands and news outlets who keep that in mind -- who are everywhere to all people -- will be the ones whose best days, unlike Coolio's, aren't stuck in 1995.

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