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Novel experiences of time and place

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  • Simon Baddeley
    I sometimes feel in a dream state so oddly different are the experiences of time and place I ve been having recently. What I m trying to convey is that I m 57
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 5, 2000
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      I sometimes feel in a dream state so oddly different are the experiences of
      time and place I've been having recently. What I'm trying to convey is that
      I'm 57 and all my life phones have been in a fixed place and I have been a
      car driver and computers have been too hefty to move around. This has
      changed; is changing and will change more. I have long believed that the
      agenda that runs behind these proliferating information technologies relate
      to transformed experiences of time, pace, and place and the boundaries that
      have defined our understanding of work and play and divided our days and
      weeks into specialised chunks of dedicated time. Being on a bicycle is just
      one of the ingredients.

      I'm walking my bicycle down a grassy lane deep in the Gloucestershire
      countryside and my mother - in her 80's - phones me from a mountainside in
      the Highlands of Scotland to reassure me that she's been in and out of
      hospital and is now feeling OK. We talk as I wheel through the old wagon
      tracks shaded from sounds of traffic and the sight of any other human being.
      Across the fields a buzzard circles, mewing.

      I'm cycling along the canal towpath beneath a busy motorway interchange. My
      phone buzzes - or rather being set to silent - vibrates in my front pocket.
      I reach for the ear piece in my lapel and take a call, chatting as I hurry
      to a lecture along the tow path that passes through the campus. My hand-outs
      are no longer on paper (it so heavy and tough on wood pulp); instead I
      circulate floppy disks with the relevant reading material ensuring that
      anyone without access to a computer has a helper who will supply hard
      copies. I've arranged with the library to put my main reading list at a URL
      with hyperlinks to relevant published material. I encourage people to keep
      long hand notes, respect writing and the bound book - "submit your work in
      any medium."

      Another time it is me with my daughter cycling along a high narrow country
      road near Pitlochry and my wife in the city rings to discuss my son's exam
      choices, as he sits on a bus phoning home after a tutorial. The next call
      involves two calls to lobby people badly needed to attend a public meeting
      in two weeks time to argue against a planning application to build over
      allotments near my home. I refer them to our website to ensure they get the
      details - a site I added more material to while at a B & B the night before
      linking my notebook to the phone jack with the landlady's permission. She'd
      not had any guests ask to use the phone for that purpose before but was
      delighted to see her place advertised on the local tourism website which I
      called up for her.

      I'm relaxing in an English country churchyard on a working Sunday with a
      pile of exam papers beside me. I work through them occasionally taking an
      office call ("Hope you don't mind me ringing you at home" "Of course not, go
      ahead" ) using my hands free so as not to waste an arm holding the phone.
      Butterflies and other insects wander amid the quietness while motes of sun
      light slide across the greenery and the quiet gravestones. At lunch I open
      my picnic and enjoy a chilled white wine, fresh bread and cheese.

      In the bustle of a busy restaurant I make an appointment and we use my
      mobile with my notebook to down and up-load e-mail. In an interval between
      using the Internet my daughter asks through the messaging service when I can
      meet her from school.

      I cross central London from mainline station to mainline station on my
      folding bike in the morning rush hour. First from Euston arriving from
      Birmingham I'm deep in traffic, then I cut on foot through a narrow alley,
      through a quiet square, back in the traffic but passing through it at such a
      pace I seem in a different dimension (with other cyclists), then across park
      land, down a pedestrian underpass and park again. I travel through London by
      cycling, walking, scooting in almost a beeline to catch my train south. The
      sense of freedom is exhilarating, and a sense of misery and stress connected
      with other events in my life is temporarily dispelled by my exertions.

      In a seminar room where I am leading a discussion on organisational strategy
      on a one day course I've been contracted to run I call up the organisation's
      key documents from its web site via my mobile and using a data projector
      project the site on to a large screen where the whole group can interrogate
      the material there.

      I make a lot of use of video interview material but have always felt
      frustrated by the shortcomings of the VCR. Now I download the video from my
      camera almost straight onto my hard disk, edit it in a spare moment (at
      home, in a restaurant, on the train, in that same graveyard) and can now
      place 7 or 8 videos on the screen at the same time as little windows moving
      between them to convey the quality of an organisations culture from the
      discourse of its staff at different levels.

      On the train other passengers glance at me, sometimes quizzically, as I sit
      occasional tears of laughter or sadness watching a DVD movie on my notebook
      screen enjoying the soundtrack and music through well screened earphones.

      It is pouring with rain turning into sleet. Sheets of it blast across the
      dual carriageway as cars swirl by spraying me with wet. Its dark and cold.
      I've been in town doing my Christmas shopping. it's piled up in the trailer
      behind my bike. At home it'll be warm. There'll be a wood fire. I am well
      clothed and waterproofed. The cars whiz by but I feel safe with my lights
      and reflective clothes and delighted to be on my bike and not experiencing
      the seasonal congestion and impossible problems of parking.

      I get my daughter's mobile bill. She hadn't realised that her free calls
      didn't extend to phoning another company's mobile - as owned by a boy she's
      met on the net whose teen face is now down-loaded as a screen saver on her
      notebook. "Hey dad" she tells me proudly "I've had 1000 hits on my website"
      "Too bad your grounded until you've learned how to watch your phone use."

      Can others share similar experiences? I know I'm not alone or especially
      odd - though I am still finding these experiences different like being in
      another country for the first time in my youth.
    • Neil Gall
      ... Not really - I don t travel as much and my work is very much bound to this desk at the moment - but one thing that struck me was the attitude to time and
      Message 2 of 4 , Jun 6, 2000
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        Simon:
        > Can others share similar experiences?

        Not really - I don't travel as much and my work is very much
        bound to this desk at the moment - but one thing that struck me
        was the attitude to time and space more resembling that from
        science fiction, particularly the cyberpunk work of William
        Gibson or Neal Stephenson, or even earlier stuff like Heinlein.
        The wierd bit (I find it wierd, and I work in the telecoms
        industry!) is that the technology now exists to make all this
        possible. Last year I was interviewed for a job at Cisco and
        this attitude seemed to be embodied in the whole environment:
        every employee got a notebook and a leased line into their home,
        and there was no hard requirement where or when work was done.

        How does this relate to cycling or carfree-cities? Simon hinted
        at it: there is increasingly less need to be in particular
        places at particular times, and increasingly more ability to
        work in any place at any time. I mentioned (on urbancyclist)
        last week how non-car transport lets you do other tasks while
        travelling - can the greater freedom of time and place offered
        by information technology make driving yourself around a less
        atrractive option?

        Cheers,
        Neil


        PS: Hello to the carfree-cities people!
      • Richard Risemberg
        Simon-- I ll be putting this up on Living Room soon. Thought I d let you know. (I did already ask you permission for this one, didn t I?) I ll of course
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 1 10:39 PM
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          Simon--

          I'll be putting this up on Living Room soon. Thought I'd let you know.
          (I did already ask you permission for this one, didn't I?) I'll of
          course announce it on Urban Ecology and Carfree Cities lists.

          It's a lovely evocative bit of writing.

          Richard

          Simon Baddeley wrote:
          >
          > I sometimes feel in a dream state so oddly different are the experiences of
          > time and place I've been having recently. What I'm trying to convey is that
          > I'm 57 and all my life phones have been in a fixed place and I have been a
          > car driver and computers have been too hefty to move around. This has
          > changed; is changing and will change more. I have long believed that the
          > agenda that runs behind these proliferating information technologies relate
          > to transformed experiences of time, pace, and place and the boundaries that
          > have defined our understanding of work and play and divided our days and
          > weeks into specialised chunks of dedicated time. Being on a bicycle is just
          > one of the ingredients.
          >
          > I'm walking my bicycle down a grassy lane deep in the Gloucestershire
          > countryside and my mother - in her 80's - phones me from a mountainside in
          > the Highlands of Scotland to reassure me that she's been in and out of
          > hospital and is now feeling OK. We talk as I wheel through the old wagon
          > tracks shaded from sounds of traffic and the sight of any other human being.
          > Across the fields a buzzard circles, mewing.
          >
          > I'm cycling along the canal towpath beneath a busy motorway interchange. My
          > phone buzzes - or rather being set to silent - vibrates in my front pocket.
          > I reach for the ear piece in my lapel and take a call, chatting as I hurry
          > to a lecture along the tow path that passes through the campus. My hand-outs
          > are no longer on paper (it so heavy and tough on wood pulp); instead I
          > circulate floppy disks with the relevant reading material ensuring that
          > anyone without access to a computer has a helper who will supply hard
          > copies. I've arranged with the library to put my main reading list at a URL
          > with hyperlinks to relevant published material. I encourage people to keep
          > long hand notes, respect writing and the bound book - "submit your work in
          > any medium."
          >
          > Another time it is me with my daughter cycling along a high narrow country
          > road near Pitlochry and my wife in the city rings to discuss my son's exam
          > choices, as he sits on a bus phoning home after a tutorial. The next call
          > involves two calls to lobby people badly needed to attend a public meeting
          > in two weeks time to argue against a planning application to build over
          > allotments near my home. I refer them to our website to ensure they get the
          > details - a site I added more material to while at a B & B the night before
          > linking my notebook to the phone jack with the landlady's permission. She'd
          > not had any guests ask to use the phone for that purpose before but was
          > delighted to see her place advertised on the local tourism website which I
          > called up for her.
          >
          > I'm relaxing in an English country churchyard on a working Sunday with a
          > pile of exam papers beside me. I work through them occasionally taking an
          > office call ("Hope you don't mind me ringing you at home" "Of course not, go
          > ahead" ) using my hands free so as not to waste an arm holding the phone.
          > Butterflies and other insects wander amid the quietness while motes of sun
          > light slide across the greenery and the quiet gravestones. At lunch I open
          > my picnic and enjoy a chilled white wine, fresh bread and cheese.
          >
          > In the bustle of a busy restaurant I make an appointment and we use my
          > mobile with my notebook to down and up-load e-mail. In an interval between
          > using the Internet my daughter asks through the messaging service when I can
          > meet her from school.
          >
          > I cross central London from mainline station to mainline station on my
          > folding bike in the morning rush hour. First from Euston arriving from
          > Birmingham I'm deep in traffic, then I cut on foot through a narrow alley,
          > through a quiet square, back in the traffic but passing through it at such a
          > pace I seem in a different dimension (with other cyclists), then across park
          > land, down a pedestrian underpass and park again. I travel through London by
          > cycling, walking, scooting in almost a beeline to catch my train south. The
          > sense of freedom is exhilarating, and a sense of misery and stress connected
          > with other events in my life is temporarily dispelled by my exertions.
          >
          > In a seminar room where I am leading a discussion on organisational strategy
          > on a one day course I've been contracted to run I call up the organisation's
          > key documents from its web site via my mobile and using a data projector
          > project the site on to a large screen where the whole group can interrogate
          > the material there.
          >
          > I make a lot of use of video interview material but have always felt
          > frustrated by the shortcomings of the VCR. Now I download the video from my
          > camera almost straight onto my hard disk, edit it in a spare moment (at
          > home, in a restaurant, on the train, in that same graveyard) and can now
          > place 7 or 8 videos on the screen at the same time as little windows moving
          > between them to convey the quality of an organisations culture from the
          > discourse of its staff at different levels.
          >
          > On the train other passengers glance at me, sometimes quizzically, as I sit
          > occasional tears of laughter or sadness watching a DVD movie on my notebook
          > screen enjoying the soundtrack and music through well screened earphones.
          >
          > It is pouring with rain turning into sleet. Sheets of it blast across the
          > dual carriageway as cars swirl by spraying me with wet. Its dark and cold.
          > I've been in town doing my Christmas shopping. it's piled up in the trailer
          > behind my bike. At home it'll be warm. There'll be a wood fire. I am well
          > clothed and waterproofed. The cars whiz by but I feel safe with my lights
          > and reflective clothes and delighted to be on my bike and not experiencing
          > the seasonal congestion and impossible problems of parking.
          >
          > I get my daughter's mobile bill. She hadn't realised that her free calls
          > didn't extend to phoning another company's mobile - as owned by a boy she's
          > met on the net whose teen face is now down-loaded as a screen saver on her
          > notebook. "Hey dad" she tells me proudly "I've had 1000 hits on my website"
          > "Too bad your grounded until you've learned how to watch your phone use."
          >
          > Can others share similar experiences? I know I'm not alone or especially
          > odd - though I am still finding these experiences different like being in
          > another country for the first time in my youth.
          >
          > To Post a message, send it to: carfree_cities@...
          > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: carfree_cities-unsubscribe@...


          --
          Richard Risemberg
          http://www.living-room.org
          http://www.newcolonist.com

          "There is more to life than increasing its speed."
          M. K. Gandhi
        • Doug Salzmann
          At 10:39 PM 2/1/2001, Richard wrote inadvertently to the list instead of to ... I certainly is, Simon. Very, very nice. -Doug
          Message 4 of 4 , Feb 2 7:32 AM
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            At 10:39 PM 2/1/2001, Richard wrote inadvertently to the list instead of to
            Simon individually:

            >It's a lovely evocative bit of writing.

            I certainly is, Simon. Very, very nice.

            -Doug
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