This cartoon illustrates how gestures at concerts changed over the ages. It’s a funny cartoon and we laugh because, like with all funny cartoons, we see the truth in them. And this cartoon speaks a very interesting truth: the first three depictions of hands from the sixties to the nineties communicate unity and have value in as much as the group understands what they mean. Like prison tattoos or team jerseys they communicate unity – identifies one as part of a group and what that group stands for. The understanding and messages shift and change over geography and time, but in essence the signs have meaning and function: to unite.
But what does the smart phone hoisted up mean? In the concert context it becomes easy to tell which musicians are the favourites. People scream, jump and dance for an entire show but when the intro to a chart topper starts the phones come out and the crowd is lit by the dim light of cell phone screens.
In life, a street artist can gauge his public performance based on the amount of cell phones pointed at him, and we can pick up on interesting artifacts and happenings by looking out for people pointing their mobile phones. The cell phone has become a signifier for public interest.
What is more is that the publishing abilities of cell phones allow the individual to bring public interest to the event. Recorded footage and the connection capabilities of modern phones make time and space irrelevant.
The smart phone held up high has become shorthand for public notice and crowd reaction. In a connected, democratic world, it’s authority in the palm of your hand – quite literally. Maybe this is why Ralph Fiennes decided to make the cell phone so visible in his modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.