Continued Anticipation Of The Digital Divide

Yesterday I made a post wondering how soon it might be before the digital divide kept people from participating in cultural activities.

At the time, I was trying to think of examples of instances where it might already becoming difficult to gain access to places without access to a phone or computer and couldn’t think of anything specific.

A commenter noted there are some places where you are obliged to access information via a phone app rather than having it accessible on webpages.

This jogged my recollection that I have already run into a couple instances where a phone was necessary to buy tickets in advance. It just wasn’t in the U.S.

In China, there are daily admission caps on a growing number of cultural attractions. The Palace Museum/Forbidden City has been that way for years. The most popular section of The Great Wall, Badaling, just had daily quotas applied this summer. (There are other less crowded sections nearby, but the train runs from Beijing to the Badaling section, making it the most convenient place to visit.)

In order to purchase tickets, you need to use a credit card from a Chinese bank. This isn’t terribly surprising. There is also an option to pay via the WeChat app which is pretty ubiquitous in China.

What is more surprising is that you can’t even get to the payment screen if you don’t have a Chinese cellphone number. You need to enter your cell number in order to receive a code before you can even pick a day to visit in the case of The Great Wall or before you get to the payment screen for The Palace Museum.

So if you are a foreigner, even if you have your credit card loaded into your WeChat app, you still need a friend in China or travel agent to help you arrange for a ticket if you are concerned about gaining admission. If you are someone who lives in China, you need to have a cell phone in addition to your credit card or payment app.

For anyone planning to visit either the Badaling section of The Great Wall or The Palace Museum, the respective webpages tells you how many tickets remain for the next 10 days. Based on that, you can gauge how likely you are to get in if you show up in person to buy a ticket.  (Which is what I did this summer.) Visiting the website on multiple days to watch how quickly the tickets sell is an investment of time and energy that simply being able to purchase them outright doesn’t entail.

I don’t know exactly why the process requires a cell phone to receive the code, but I can easily see how the added step would prevent or at least slow the automation of purchasing for resale.

Since the security features of many social media and financial services corporations in the US already use texted codes, I feel secure in saying there is a strong possibility something similar will be implemented for regular ticket purchasing in the US and elsewhere. When it is, it will represent another place that inhibits the participation of people who lack access to technology.

For your greater edification, here is a screenshot of the Palace Museum website today. You may think 63085 tickets left on 10/26 is a lot, but that means 17000 have already been issued. During National Holidays, it is quite likely the full 80,000 allotment would already be gone.

You may think 63000 tickets left on 10/26 is a lot, but that means 17000 have already been issued. During National Holidays, it might already be at 0

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.


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