Josie Appleton, at the always-interesting Spiked, takes a look at the increasing systemic hostility towards ‘young people in public places’ in the UK: ‘When did ‘hanging around’ become a social problem?’
As well as the Mosquito, much covered on this site (all posts; try out high frequency sounds for yourself), the article mentions the use of certain music publicly broadcast for the same ‘dispersal’ purpose:
Scott Adams recounts an anecdote illustrating the ‘illusion of control’ and how important it is to many people – even to the extent that it is the single defining characteristic of mankind which one might use to explain human behaviour to aliens:
“The maintenance man is moving the thermostat in our office today. I started talking with him about the “Thermostat Wars” [from Dilbert comics]. He told me about one office with 30 women where they could never get the temperature to an agreeable level. At his suggestion they installed 20 dummy thermostats around the office. Everyone was told that each thermostat controlled the zone around itself.
Problem solved. Now that everyone has “control” of their own thermostat there is no problem.”
To what extent is the illusion of control, rather than real control, what most people really want in their products?
I don’t normally do ‘off-topic’ posts – in fact this is the first – but I just re-read the earlier post ‘Nice attitude‘ and clicked on the link ‘device to stop young people congregating‘ in the post, which links to an Orange search page which initially referred a visitor to this site.
I was woken up (along with, I expect, lots of others) at about 5am today by a driver sounding his/her horn in the road outside – an arrogant two-second burst – then another replying (perhaps) with a slightly feeble one-second tone. I don’t know why; there are often a lot of horns during the day as there’s a level crossing which seems to generate a lot of frustration, but there are no trains passing through at 5am. Anyway, I went back to sleep and had various, fitful dreams, but not before thinking that’s where an architecture of control would be useful: a time-related horn interlock function, only allowing use of the horn during hours when it is legal. In the UK, that would be from 7am – 11.30 pm.
Scott Craver of the University of Binghamton has a very interesting post summarising the concept of a ‘privacy ceiling’:
“This is an economic limit on privacy violation by companies, owing to the liability of having too much information about (or control over) users.”
It’s the “control over users” that immediately makes this something especially relevant for designers and technologists to consider: that control is designed, consciously, into products and systems, but how much thought is given to the extremes of how it might be exercised, especially in conjunction with the wealth of information that is gathered on users? Continue reading