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No Photos Please- A reflection on the impact of phones on club culture

One of the most significant advancements in technology over the last 20 years has been the development of the mobile phone. Indispensable for anyone in the developing world, the mobile has been a beacon for connecting people this century. They provide people with the instant ability to create a dialogue with anyone in the world via handheld, tiny portable device. Mobile phones are increasingly becoming a huge part of a people’s lives now, shaping how we interact with each other and portray our self-image. This is having an effect on all worldly institutions, for good and for bad, but what about nightclubs?

Nightclubs have remained largely unchanged in principle since their inception, serving as places for people to forget the mundane everyday and enjoy a moment of hedonism. A place for people to connect, discover new things and let inhibitions fly. And I can’t help but think that phones just get in the way of all that. They provide an instant ability to disconnect people from the moment in front of them, albeit through filming, texting or scrolling through social media. Intoxicated mistakes don’t just last a few hours now, they can have a serious impact on peoples lives long after a night out. You just need to look back at old footage from the UK’s summer of love in 89’ for example to see how different it was. Regardless, most of the people were on E, but there just seemed to be a vibe of living for the moment and not thinking about anything else… a vibe which is hard to find at any rave in the UK now.

Above: Berghain Nightclub in Berlin

One of the main things people use their phones for in the club is to record or snap moments, either of their mates, a good tune or the DJ. I don’t inherently have a problem with this, but can easily argue that this is the main way that people are disconnecting from the moment. Our cameras allow us to take memories home with us after nights out, but quite literally take that authentic moment away from us on the night. Today there’s a culture of constant documentation of people’s lives through social media, and this has an effect on other people’s nights too. Flashes from cameras and bright screens not only alienate the individuals directly involved but all of those around them. There’s nothing worse than a cunt videoing with flash on when you’re trying to just vibe with what’s going on in that exact moment. Berghain in Berlin and Output in New York are clubs now famed for their reaction to rise of phones in clubs with a no camera policy, putting stickers on lenses upon entry and have instilled a culture that reinforces these rules.

I say this all as a guy that uses his phone in the club every time I go… I know. I’d like to think I regulate my use compared to others however, a cheeky snapchat (…I know) and quick text to a mate to say where I am and that’s probably about it. I think these things have all become a part of the clubbing experience for us now. I have to say, if I didn’t have a phone I would’ve probably lost a lot of time ‘in the moment’ trying to look for the mate that inevitably goes missing every time I go out (me). As well as this, phones have added a new dimension to the digging culture of the world through the improved ability to ID tracks. Either shazam it straight on the dancefloor or record it and post it to the Facebook group IOM (Formerly The Identification of Music Group) for an almost instant ID of that track.

Midland played a whole Boiler Room of tracks that couldn't be Shazamed

The rise of IOM over the last 4 years has been well documented, with 3 separate Mixmag think pieces and countless DJ’s both endorsing and criticising the group. The basic intention of the group is to stand as a feed for posting tracks, so other members can reply with track ID’s. Standing at over 100,000 members as of writing this, the group has spawned a community that’s now a large part of the ‘underground’ electronic music scene. It’s shaped the way people listen to and find new music, with popular posts seeing upwards of a thousand likes and hundreds of comments of people ‘needing’ that ID. Although it seems so accepted now, do people really need that ID? Midland coined it well in a tweet with “I know what it’s like to want to know tunes. But if we spend our whole time filming everything just to know IDs we miss the special moments, which is what dance music should be about. Losing yourself for a few hours and don’t always feel the need to know”. As IOM moves forward, the owner of the group Robbie Murch, has responded to backlash with a “Record Responsibly” campaign, that encourages people to turn their phone brightness down, not use flash and film discreetly so as not destroy the moment for others. “The focal point of the Record Responsibly campaign is on not allowing the success of the group to detract from the live music experience,” says Murch. “We aim to raise awareness around track IDing respectfully.”

And I think that’s the ultimate answer to this. Phones are a given in clubs now, and it’s all about being considerate with your own use. London’s Phonox is a club that best aligns with my views and has established a good middle ground. They give out cards upon entry telling punters that there’s no phones on the dancefloor and to avoid persistent filming. This makes for a much-improved clubbing experience, creating a feeling on most nights that’s hard to beat and why it’s easy for me to call it my favourite club in the world. I think for most people, clubs serve as a place to forget the realities of life and make the moment matter and at the end of it all, it’s up to you on how much phone use you warrant acceptable to have the best time you can, without pissing anyone else off.

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