Dial Goes Around

Dial Goes Around

02.02.2011 14:30
HKW - Lecture Hall
John & Jane, Ashim Ahluwalia
John & Jane, Ashim Ahluwalia

This programme juxtaposes two films that, each with its own absurdity, document cornerstones in the development of telecommunications. The 1940s educational film Dial Comes to Town taught people how to use the direct dial telephone, while today – regardless of the time difference – workers in call centres outsourced to India instruct British and American callers on how to use their technical devices via service hotlines.

The telephone was the first medium enabling people to communicate 'live' and interactively over extremely long distances. And yet, this form of communication is anything but simple. Hearing someone else's voice right next to, or rather inside yourself without seeing them remains a strange thing even today. Dial Comes to Town is an educational film that was produced by the Bell Telephone Company in the 1940s to teach the inhabitants of provincial American towns how to use direct dial phones. In it an actress patiently explains each step of self-organised long distance communication by means of a prop, a giant telephone. Some sixty years later and 12,000 km away, the documentary John & Jane delivers a portrayal of call centre work. In the course of globalisation, the labour-intensive and costly work of telesales and mail order has been outsourced to countries like India. With a time difference of twelve hours, Indian employees try to explain the details of BBQ sets to their American customers. The resulting communication is a tragicomic farce of the global village.


Dial Comes to Town (excerpt), Loucks & Norling Films, us 1940s, 13 min
John & Jane, Ashim Ahluwalia, in 2005, 83 min


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