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Classical 101

Is “Laser Shaming” the Way to End Mid-Concert Cell Phone Distractions?

color photo of a woman standing up in a darkened room recording a performance on a smartphone
Steven Depolo (Creative Commons/Flickr)
Some theaters in China are using controversial means to address cell phone use during performances.

Ever had the hazy purple glow of someone’s cell phone catch your eye in the middle of a concert, or perhaps even worse, ever been woken out of a music-induced reverie by an impertinent ringtone? Some performance venues in China have adopted a controversial way of addressing the problem of renegade cell phone use during performances, according to The New York Times.

At Beijing’s National Theater for the Performing Arts and some other Chinese theaters, ushers are trained to watch for audience members using cell phones while performances are going on. When they find a culprit, the ushers direct red laser beams from a small pointer at him or her.

Amy Qin of The New York Times has dubbed the practice “laser shaming” and reports that it has received mixed reactions from audience members and performers at China’s theaters. Some have been alarmed to see the red beams of light, which can look like the laser sight beams on certain types of gun, appear in darkened theaters. Others, including performers, say using laser beams to put the kibosh on unauthorized cell phone use during performances is less distracting than dealing with flash photos and seeing ushers constantly running up and down the aisles.

What’s your take on “laser shaming”?

Read more:

  • A New Weapon for Battling Cell Phones in Theaters: Laser Beams (NYT)
Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.