In Myanmar, display and usage behavior around landline phones is that for both privacy purposes and to spread awareness of the service the usual practice is to keep phones on a separate table outside of the managing retail space, creating a separate “phone area.” As with other electronic instruments in this rainy and resource constrained environment, phones come with their own standards of protection for the object from the elements.This particular desk sits in front of an internet cafe, a space with which the phones on top of it share a communication function with the computers within the store. With the advent of Skype, Google Phone, and other VoIP services, acoustic intrusion from one set of users to the other seems unlikely. Whether on the phone or using the computer as a phone, you will always be in earshot of a possibly private conversation, although computers are superior to phones for conversations of this nature as the more sensitive elements can be communicated through text in the chat windows accompanying some of these calling applications.When I first noticed these phones, I was interested mostly in the approach this net cafe has taken to protection of their hardware through the use of particularly colorful and attention-grabbing means.
While another shop chose to repurpose a transparent document storage envelope to protect their phones (the other photograph) – perhaps more securely than cloth – the nature of the protective cloth itself has the potential to draw the attention of passerby in a way that the shop using transparent covers does not. Do phone (and other object) protection solutions in this resource-constrained context sit along a continuum of functionality at one end and attention grabbing/attractive at the other? How do standards for protection and display differ between an object whose service is being advertised to passerby versus one where use is reserved for employees?