Jessa Lingel, University of Pennsylvania;
Kyle Cassidy, University of Pennsylvania

New Orleans 2019: Experiencing / listening

Consider the payphone. A technology that bewilders in its resilience, the public payphone has long defied its own obsolescence. Day after urban day, payphones bear witness to their replacement: cell-phone bearing people walking, texting, posting to Instagram. Yet even as payphones may blight an urban landscape that otherwise desires to be smart (Mattern, 2016), payphones are too integrated (read: expensive) to uproot, forgotten but not gone. With their allure of urban decay, payphones have provoked a number of reimaginings, from libraries to art installations (Stokes et al., 2014). We use archival research, interviews and 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?