There’s no question that technology has crept far more deeply into our everyday lives in the past eight years between the election of Pope Benedict XVI and that of his successor, Pope Francis. A composite image has been making its way around the Internet that appears to juxtapose images of the throng in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 during the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election with the audience present during that of Pope Francis.
But here’s thing, the photos weren’t taken at those times.
People fill Via Della Conciliazione boulevard about half a mile away from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican after Pope John Paul II's body was carried across the square into the Basilica for public viewing on April 4, 2005. With tens of thousands of mourners outside hoping for a glimpse of the body, 12 pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards carried the late pontiff's body on a crimson platform from the Sala Clementina, where it had lain in state since the previous day. (LUCA BRUNO/AP)
Post photojournalist Nick Kirkpatrick did a little digging and found that the lower photo (shown below this paragraph), which features a sea of smartphones and tablets, was, indeed, taken during the announcement of Pope Francis’s election. But the top photo (shown above), which shows an audience with far fewer gadgets was taken during the funeral procession of Pope John Paul II — a very different mood and event type. There was no one addressing the crowd from the balcony, for example. So, the comparison isn’t quite accurate.
Visitors take photos of Pope Francis as he speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (Michael Sohn/AP) The crowd reacts as German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger appears on the balcony of St.Peter's Cathedral as Pope Benedict XVI at the end of the second day of the conclave April 19, 2005. Ratzinger was elected the 265th pope. (Marco Di Lauro/GETTY IMAGES) The crowd reacts as German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger appears on the balcony of St.Peter's Cathedral as Pope Benedict XVI at the end of the second day of the conclave April 19, 2005 in Vatican City. Ratzinger was elected the 265th pope. (Marco Di Lauro/GETTY IMAGES)
Smartphones were not, of course, as prevalent as they are today. A sea of iPhones in 2005 would have been impossible, given Apple didn’t introduce the first iPhone until 2007. But people were still recording the moment in droves, and gadgets were then, as they are today, held high in the air.
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Emi Kolawole is the editor-in-residence at Stanford University's d.school, where she works on media experimentation and design.