Graham Dugoni, the founder of Yondr, says society needs phone-free spaces, but many are reluctant to give up their handset.
Smartphones have changed society. Whether whistleblowers or voyeurs, we can all now record the world around us at the touch of a button.
This has been a particular nuisance for live performers, many of whom are now using pouches designed by Yondr, a San Francisco-based company, to lock up audience members’ phones before they enter a gig.
In January, comedian Chris Rock said he was fed up with fans putting up clips of his performances on social media instead of enjoying the show.
Rock used Yondr to ban audiences from texting, tweeting and recording performances, which he said was a “major intrusion” on the quality of his performance.
Sky News saw the pouches in action at a Dave Chappelle performance in London and spoke to Yondr’s founder, Graham Dugoni, about people’s complaints.
Many attendees said they found the requirement to lock their phones away in pouches to be condescending, even though they appreciated being able to keep hold of the pouches.
“The way it works, people opt-in to come into a phone-free space. You enter a premises and there are rules to that space as anywhere,” said Mr Dugoni.
He said that while some people were capable of keeping their phones in their pockets, we have not adjusted to our ability to record everything around us.
“People are wrestling with the question of what is the role of technology in society. It’s important that (using the pouches) is a rule, so that everyone’s on a level playing field.”
Society has not yet developed robust manners when it comes to using smartphones, said Mr Dugoni, adding: “You used to be able to smoke on airplanes.”
“At the end of the day, (the pouches) are helping people transition into the digital age in a way that we can all live somewhat happily.”
There are downsides, however.
At a Chris Rock performance in Glasgow, one man claimed he was kicked out by security guards for looking at his phone for an update on his father’s medical condition.
He told the Evening Times: “My dad is in the heart transplant ward in the Golden Jubilee in a really bad way.
“I explained the full thing but they still said I had to leave. I couldn’t believe it – I’m still baffled today. It’s just extraordinarily petty and unreasonable.
“I’m happy that my dad is doing better but I’m angry because my wife paid £140 for the tickets as a gift and we didn’t even get to see Chris Rock.”
Mr Dugoni told Sky News the pouches were being used “across all sections of society”.
“We’re in schools, we work with churches, we work with weddings, dentist’s offices, private events and parties.
“Anyone who thinks that you can have full transparency in society, I think that’s history,” he said.
“If you’re drunk and dancing, does someone have the right to photograph that?”
Sky News asked him if there was anyone Yondr would not work with, and if he feared the pouches could be abused to prevent whistleblowers working in sensitive environments.
“I’ve encountered people we’ve not worked with because I didn’t feel like they were enjoyable to work with,” he said.
“The other question is an interesting one – when we get there we’ll have to cross that bridge.”