The Phone Box Experiment Preview

Shall I go from the start? I’ll try to keep it brief. The phone box experiment first came about in the early days of the Internet. It started out with a booth in the Mojave Desert, one that used to serve a mining community, but stayed in place long after the miners were gone. Word about the phone box and its bizarre location spread online, and people – drunk people with nothing better to do, in all probability – called up at all times of the day and night to try and catch someone actually using the phone. Others trekked out into the heart of the desert to answer the calls. Eventually the local authorities took the phone box down in around 2001, due after local complaints over the amount of callers and hikers (read more here).

Next came The Viral Factory, a clever viral marketing company, who joined forces with Skype, and recruited Rob Carvazos – a multi-lingual actor – to front an online campaign by camping near a Spanish phone box in the middle of nowhere and taking calls from people all over the world. Rob managed to rope in people from over 80 different countries, and spent an average of 18 hours a day on the phone. He eventually quit after ten days. I heard about Rob through a mutual friend, and he kindly told me all about his experiences by email. His story became an AU Magazine feature article, which you can find here.

That, in all honesty, should have been that, but AU is keen on the imaginative, and a throwaway comment to the AU editors about recreating the experiment was met with more enthusiasm than I expected. So here I am, about to recreate Rob’s experience on a Dublin sidewalk.

The plan is that I’ll sit near a phone box in North Dublin for ten hours tomorrow, starting at 9am and finishing at 7pm. I might well have a hangover, as I plan to watch Groove Armada at the Olympia tonight, and then run over the road to catch Super Extra Bonus Party at Andrews Lane Theatre, too. What are we going to talk about? Well suggestions since the idea got the go ahead have included anything from a dating advice line to an opportunity for Irish fans to vent when the rugby’s over on Saturday. To be honest, I’m open to anything, I’m just hoping more than anything else that it doesn’t rain all day, and that the part of North Dublin I’ve chosen doesn’t prove to be one with either an abundance of strange characters averse to excessive phone box use or a strong neighborhood watch system. I already rejected Phoenix Park as the only working booth would have made me look like a man who wanted to spend a day next to a children’s play park. I guess no where’s perfect.

Up until Wednesday, the Phone Box Experiment – our one, at least – was known only to myself, a few friends and the editorial team over at AU. Since then things have been a little crazy – the Facebook group’s passed through the accounts of several thousand people and seems to have found several hundred who are up for it. If they all call I’ll be averaging a caller every two minutes or so, which would be some going. I went on Radio Kerry on Thursday morning to talk about the idea, and I’ll be doing a follow up on Monday morning. Several blogs have picked up on the theme, too (I particularly like this one from Ticketsthere, who also compared me to Colin Farrell. I’m sure he’s only referring to the film ‘the phone booth, but still…In my girlfriend’s dreams…).

I must admit I’m a bit nervous about this, because anything could happen. The worst case scenario, though is that I spend 10 hours next to a phone box fielding calls from only a couple of people. Hopefully it’ll all take off and end up a whole lot more interesting.

Want to take part? The number’s 0(0353)18304049. Or you can just follow proceedings on Twitter, here. My phone belongs in a past decade, though, so I won’t be able to reply to any Twitter stuff. I promise to check it when I get back. Talk to you tomorrow!

J x

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