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In London: more thoughts on mobile

First of all, in a response to a previous me in a previous post, I want to mention that I am having a swell time in London and I do plan on spending a significant amount of time here at some point in my hopefully near future. As such, I see this as a scouting trip for future adventures. Initial impressions are that London rates more favorably than New York in almost every respect, especially public transportation. Seoul is hard to knock from the top perch in my list of best public transportation, but London isn’t as bad as what Londoners might have us believe, strikes notwithstanding. Being here with my myriad of devices and wandering with just a hint of purpose through the city streets, I can see things unfolding that are easier to see when an environment isn’t your home. You see a layering of something behind the scenes that I struggle to see where I live (Princeton). 

I see London as a city striving towards increased mobility, but intelligent mobility, the kind only offered through organic design. A push towards making their city livable with the understanding that livability is the precursor for an explosion of human innovation and organic progress. At least that is how I see it. So, I was encouraged to see a few things, namely:

Cycle Hire: Chelsea, London: June 2011

Bikes are Nice

Barclays Cycle Rental– akin to the Paris program, you rent a bike somewhere, ride it around, and drop it off at a different location. Fast, easy, cheap, healthy transport. Good for the city, good for the individual. Further pitting the individual in motion, but in a healthy way. Now, we need some kinaesthetic powering devices attached to the bicycles which would generate power from the friction on the bikes and charge local streetlights or something. Or better yet CO2 converters that run on human power. Something to capitalize on human movement. I was trying to do a little study of how many were being used and the one closest to us in Chelsea, which I passed about 4 times at varying times of the last two days had:

  • 4 cycles in use
  • 3 cycles in use
  • 5 cycles in use
  • 0 cycles in use (respectively)

I conclude that it has yet to take off and rich people don’t ride bicycles as much as everyone else might. 

This is a bus lane. Enjoy. London, UK: June 2011

Bus Lanes Are Better

Bus lanes free up the kind of traffic you want to promote. I loved these in Seoul and I love them here. Everyone else is stuck, natural incentive for taking public transportation and redirecting energy resources towards something more productive, like infrastructure. Motion is valued in communal activity; devalued in individual activity. Important lessons for mobile designers to consider, frankly. How does one incorporate organic design decisions that promote communal activity, citizenship of sorts (and do we want to?). 

Don’t Assume Perpetual Connectivity

Bus/Train/Tube/Public Transportation Apps need to be standalone, whenever possible-the assumption of endless connectivity makes designers lazy or at least working from a faulty design standpoint. The only device I had with any connectivity was the work-isued Blackberry (which certainly helped), but the iPad obviously didn’t (UK service/US chip) and that mitigated some amazingly well-designed applications I saw for using public transportation-planners and the like. But there I was with my paper map and my Blackberry. Mostly my paper map. Nothing wrong with that, but I went analog there not by choice, but by necessity. I want the environment to be technologically enhanced, but alas I was unable. 

Chelsea, London: June 2011

I like this view from my hotel. It is a perfectly relaxing place to start the day. That is all. 

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

2 Comments

  1. it’s funny you showed that picture of the bike rental…seriously, i just downloaded one similar for a precedent 🙂 Maybe I should just borrow yours from now on!

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