The hero and phone-watch from Dick Tracy are evoked regularly in news and studies of cellphone use. This paper argues that the racial paradigm of White law enforcer and Dark law-breaker in the comic strip resonates in contemporary evocations and in discussions of cellphone use and crime. Representations of mobile communication and racialized criminality in Dick Tracy were inspired by the 1930s “war on crime” that intersected with wireless innovations and with lynching. This paper interprets that repeated evocation of the comic strip is a “perverse nostalgia” for an old-fashioned form of law and order premised on racialized violence and viewing.
Nicholson, Judith A., "Calling Dick Tracy! Or, Cellphone Use, Progress, and a Racial Paradigm" (2008). Communication Studies Faculty Publications. 17.