The invention of the cell phone and more specifically the advent of text messaging and smart phone technology have been disruptive to the traditional theatre environment. For some, even now, the thought of being distracted by the light they give off, the sound of tapping keys, and the sound a phone on vibrate is enough to cause an altercation. Please note that actually building a cell phone jammer is against the law in the US and many other countries. Having said that, Wired recently published instructions for how to create a device that broadcasts disruptive signals on the same frequency that cell phones use to communicate with towers. These devices would be enough to disrupt a cell phone signal in a mid sized theater, thereby making the cell phone functionally inoperative.
The idea around cell phone jammers isn't new, but it does call to question whether or not the performing arts community has outgrown this idea of creating a quiet, even sacred, space for performance. Innumerable performing arts institutions now give permission, even blessings, to smart phone users in some performances or in certain parts of the house. Even more, however, still ask patrons to turn off all electronic devices before a show begins.
So, is it time for a cell phone jammer or is it time to bring smart phone seats to your house?