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Smartphones and iPads, we all know, can be pretty cool. We also know they can suck. Take music concerts, when the other fans in front of you form a view-blocking field of little blue lights in their own private attempt to take home a digital souvenir of the show.

Filming performances has even been encouraged with the creation of websites such as evergig.com, which allows users to upload their recordings before reassembling them into one single video of a song or concert. “Your ultimate ringside seat to your fav artist's best shows,” the website boasts, no matter if this almost always means low-quality video and sound.

A growing number of artists such as Jack White, Kate Bush and Prince have slammed smartphones as a bonafide plague for live music. In April 2013, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs even posted a sign at their concert to tell their audience where they thought people should put their devices.

Now, finally, real action is being taken in the war against shiny screens at music gigs. After the creation this year of an app called Kimd, which allows users to take photos or videos with a dark screen, a company called Yondr recently joined the fight. Their idea: before a show, people put their cell phones in special cases they can’t open before the end of the concert.

The company explains on its website: “Yondr gives venues and artists the tools to create phone-free events and spaces. In a technology-filled world, Yondr is the easiest way to maintain authenticity, privacy, and exclusivity.”

It’s not the device itself the company is trying to change; it’s the way it’s used. “We think smartphones have incredible utility, but not in every setting. In some situations, they have become a distraction and a crutch — cutting people off from each other and their immediate surroundings. Yondr has a simple purpose: to show people how powerful a moment can be when we aren’t focused on documenting or broadcasting it,” they explain.

An initiative that may start changing mentalities on capturing events — maybe even beyond the context of concerts — that should be happening before our eyes, and not behind a lens.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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