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Self-enforcing speed limits, and control through deterioration

Interesting discussion at the SABRE roads forum on self-enforcing speed limits in the UK–current regulations mean that if a 20 mph zone can be created through a ‘self-enforcing’ architecture of control (i.e. traffic calming) then it doesn’t legally need any signs to remind drivers, other than at the entrance to the zone.

The point’s also made by a poster that allowing a road surface to deteriorate progressively to the extent that drivers have to slow down (or find an alternative route) is a cheaper way to effect the desired intention: is this ‘gradual deterioration of experience leading to change in user behaviour’ ever used strategically as a technique in other fields?

An analogue (no pun intended) might be the way that, increasingly, the BBC (a TV company with the luxury of intimidation-enforced public funding), is putting its more ‘highbrow’ content on the digital channel BBC4 (heavily advertised in other BBC media)–the deterioration and reduction of, for example, intelligent cultural (and, especially, science) programming on the ‘legacy’ analogue channels BBC1 & 2 is very clear over the past few years, leading to a gradually increasing frustration and desire for a solution in the mind of the viewer without digital TV, even if only subconscious (though it’s become fairly conscious in my own mind!).

The viewer now perceives dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, and will apparently ‘voluntarily’ switch to digital TV (which is of course, the government’s aim, since the analogue spectrum will make a nice windfall at auction).

You might call this idea a ‘water torture’ architecture of control–it’s not rigid like product architecture, but it has the desired effect of changing consumers’ behaviour. More examples, please.


  1. Pingback: Architectures of Control in Design » Deliberately reducing visibility at road junctions

  2. Ben

    “Intimidation-enforced public funding”?

    You might as well describe the NHS as “intimidation-enforced” healthcare or the fire service as “intimidation-enforced” rescue services, for all that it makes sense.

    And are you quite sure that BBC4 has “much advertising”?

    And how is the BBC exactly restricting access to the BBC4 content? On the contrary, there is a strong argument that the vast majority of content on BBC4 wouldn’t exist at all if there wasn’t a defined place for it.

    Look at cBeebies, another channel targeted to a specific audience. It is plainly obvious that without the kids’ channels, the amount of content for kids on the legacy channels would be considerably less. Putting like content in one place to enable better targeting is *the* defining feature of media fragmentation and has virtually nothing to do with removing functionality or value from an existing service or product.

    Finally, at £30 for a digibox, the creation of new channels on digital only isn’t beyond the means of anyone in the UK. The only barrier to receiving more channels is coverage.

  3. Dan

    This isn’t the place for me to go off on one about the tactics used by Capita to enforce the TV licence. It was probably a mistake to include this comparison in the original post, since it clouds the issue.

    But if the £30 for a digibox is so insignificant, why not give every licence-payer one as part of his or her licence? Then there could be no argument about it.

    Frankly I resent my television equipment, which I paid for, being made obsolete by a government-mandated analogue switch-off. The fact that the digibox is only £30 mitigates this somewhat, but there’s a principle at stake.

    The point I was trying to make when I wrote the original post, last year, was that the promotion of digital services is a process of attrition. Everything I might want to watch has been moved to channels I can’t receive, and I’m continually told about it. When I’m still paying for it, I resent that.

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