How Long Before You Can Only Participate If You Bring A Phone?

I was scanning an article on Arts Professional website and might have quickly moved on except the phrase “not for someone like me” caught my eye. That was a phrase that appeared in the last CultureTrack survey as a barrier to participation for people who didn’t normally attend arts events.

In the case of the article on Arts Professional, the author, Katie Moffat, theorizes that lack of digital access might be the reason some people cite “not for me” as a barrier to participation in a program designed to involve people in the creative process.

The Creative People and Places (CPP) programme has the explicit aim of enabling people in areas of low cultural engagement and infrastructure to take the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in art experiences where they live. As such, it offers a new model for the co-creation of a more democratic, locally-determined culture.

Our research has found that digital exclusion is a typical issue in the communities that CPPs work with…One of the largest groups of non-users of the internet is the so-called ‘not for me’ camp . This attitude may be due to people’s fear of using it, or a sense that it is not relevant to their lives. In a recent BBC podcast , Dr Josie Barnard explains: “People often say that getting online is just ‘not for me’, but this may well be an excuse to hide any shame or embarrassment about not being able to use a computer”.

In addition to a lack of comfort or expertise in using technology,  lacking access to computers, broadband and smartphones may contribute to “not for me” sentiment.

For as much as we might underestimate how adroitly older patrons are using technology and the internet, it is also necessary to acknowledge that as promotional efforts shift online-ward toward social media, websites and other technologies, this presents an increasing barrier to entry for a segment of the population without ability and access to online sources.

The Arts Professional article notes that arts and cultural entities are well-positioned provide enjoyable creative experiences leading to increased technical literacy.

However, that doesn’t address the lack of a computer or handheld device, as hard as it may be to believe that anyone lacks a smartphone these days. The head not bowed reverently regarding a phone is the exception.

Discomfort with physical space, perceived dress code, and unfamiliar rules and ritual are often cited as barriers to participation for arts and culture organizations. Do we/will we need to add technology access to that list?

It is easily within the realm of possibility that equipment supporting virtual reality or holographic experience will emerge in the near future. Couple that with the need to subscribe to a variety of service providers (until Disney consolidates all under its gaze) delivered at a certain speed in order to share an experience with other members of your community.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


3 thoughts on “How Long Before You Can Only Participate If You Bring A Phone?”

  1. I don’t have a cell phone, much less a smartphone. I have no objection to events that exist solely for phone users (like Pokemon Go), but I object to gratuitous insistence on the use of phones where they are not really necessary. (Like providing only a phone app and not a web portal for accessing data.)

      • Most of the multi-factor authentication (MFA) schemes I’ve encountered allow emailing a code (instead of texting it), and at work they provided tokens that generate the codes for people who did not want their cell phones used (or, in my case, did not have a cell phone to use).

        There are some services that absolutely require smartphones (like Lyft and Uber), but most of the financial and ticketing services still accommodate those of use who don’t carry phones.


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