Reconfiguration of social, cognitive and spatial practices in cities due to technological innovations
After my post about the inevitable existence of electronic ghetto in cities (quoting Mike Davis and William Gibson), I had a discussion with Anne about how technologies (and hence interaction designers) are sometimes not aware of side-effects due to their creation, especially in terms of social, politics or even cognitive practices. For that matter, I am interested in reconfiguration of specific practices in cities due to technological innovations. It's been some time that I am trying to list interesting case studies about that. Books like "City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn" (William J. Mitchell), "Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution" (Howard Rheingold) or "Beyond Blade runner: Urban control, the ecology of fear" (Mike Davis) gives some elements. I tried to find other examples.
|Before the introduction of elevators/lift, there was a different social repartition of people in the spatiality of buildings. Rich people were leaving on the first floor, to avoid them having to climb stairs. The higher you went into buildings, the less wealth you had in city-dwellers. The usage of elevators in building where people were living (previously elevator was just used to carry materials such as coal), inverted this repartition: the last floor, now accessible with the technology were for rich people. This is an example of how a technology created a social reconfiguration in space.|
|Another kind of effects is of course related to cognition. There are indeed important consequences of having information about public transport now allowed with new technologies (urban information display in the vehicle or on an information board) or the organization and the interoperability of information. For example, I like this example by Vincent Kauffman (urban sociologist here at the school): the regularity of different train schedule (there is a train geneva-lausanne every 20minutes with regular shifts: 7:45, 8:15...) plus the interoperabilty of transport means (the departure of city bus is coordinated with trains arrivals) allows people to easily remember commuting schedule and hence better predict how they would manage their spatial practices. These new technologies (urban displays) and the organization of information (due to technological advances) impacts cognitive mechanisms (i.e. memory in the example I described). What's next? would such a intelligent system achieve its goal (i.e. facilitating navigation by suggesting all possible alternative shortest route that connect two or more transition points on a map)?|
|Likewise, there are interesting concerns lately about whether location-based services might modify behaviors and practices in cities. This question often pops up when people think about location-based games. Results from the MogiMogi game test showed very interesting behaviors: players who wander around in the city using their car or the metro when new objects are released; or once a player complained because he went to a place where he though an object would be but it was not present since it was just there when the moon was full.|
Also Daniel Blackburn (manager of Carbon Based Games) questions whether the bluetooth social games might modify people’s behavior in physical space by creating new technosocial situations:
With GPS games such as mogi some players would detour from their everyday routes to go and pick up a virtual object. With Bluetooth enabled game will people try to get within range of someone while there phone is in their bag so they are unlikely to hear it so that they can steal virtual objects without their knowledge. Or will they stay clear of people at work because they are at a high level than the game than them and they want to avoid defeat again. Or will they be constantly checking their phone because they’re convinced someone is trying to virtually assassinate them an could set of a bomb at any time. Meaning they would need to run with there phone to get it out of range of the blast.
Even though I like the example, I am still dubious by this last example (compared to the two others); there are still lots of big expectations with lbs.
Why do I blog this? well, what do I want to show here is that technologies sometimes reshuffle human practices in terms of spatial dispersions, cognitive appraisal of space and social organizations of infrastructures. Maybe I should write a better discussion of this and wrap this up in a paper, here is quite messy. This said, there is still the question of foreseeing the future reconfiguration due to emerging technologies.