For my BCM240 digital project, I have decided to look into public spaces and how technology is used in them. I have decided to take photos of people in public spaces to highlight how these spaces are used and how technology has been introduced into the spaces as well. By doing this I aim to explore the idea of how media affects the connections people make to spaces and also to the other people around them and whether introducing technology to a public space can be beneficial.
Public Space – Wollongong Lighthouse
Wollongong’s breakwater lighthouse is a scenic public space that attracts a lot of people. A lot of the time, there can be a whole lot of people taking photos of the scenery, however, recently it has become the main spot for Pokémon Go players as PokeStops have been placed at the landmark, which I will get to in a bit.
When I arrived at the lighthouse I was very surprised to see quite a few people wondering around in groups or spread out on the grass considering it has started to sprinkle. Whilst there I observed the public space in order to gain some insight on how it is being used by the people. I found that there were quite a lot of people walking around on their phones or using them as cameras to take photos of others and themselves with.
What was interesting to see, however, was the amount of people in small groups laying on the ground/ sitting/ walking around together on their phones. One couple was laying together on a small picnic rug together with their phones out and seemed to be quite entranced in what was happening on it. As well as this a lady was walking around on her phone with a child following along behind, headphones in and totally transfixed on her device.
What was interesting about the lighthouse is how the space is being used. Technology seems to have taken over the space and is being run by it. Over the half hour, I was there watching and taking things in the amount of people attached to their phones was actually astonishing. What was even crazier was to see children on phones in this space as well. It seems that the line of using phones in a public space has blurred quite a lot, especially when taking the lighthouse as an example.
The introduction of the game Pokémon Go in the Illawarra has had some great advantages for game players. Because Pokémon Go uses augmented reality that combined real space places like parks and buildings with virtual characters or object which appear on your smartphone a lot of participants have had to walk around to participate. This has then encouraged a whole lot of people to head down to the lighthouse because of the sheer number of PokeStops and Pokémon.
The game Pokémon Go would be both an advantage and disadvantage for people to make connections to the space. An advantage because players are being lead to these places, it could be seen as an advantage because players would be gaining more of an insight of the areas around them, even if it’s to catch Pokémon or reach PokeStops. Or even the idea of this game bringing people with common likes and interests together,the game provides the perfect stimulus to create a bond between people leading to players interacting with each other. A Disadvantage would be that a lot of players would get caught up in the game and forget their surroundings and would lead to them seriously hurting themselves.
Public Space – University of Wollongong
University is another world entirely when it comes down to public spaces and technology. Technology is used in basically every situation on the university campus, whether it be in the lectures, tuts or even out on the duck pond.
When going out to study the habits students have when it comes to technology and being connected, it is clear to say that students are fully enveloped in the digital world through their phone and laptop. Many people seem to be using their phones and laptops to information about others or just to plainly avoid interacting with people who are nearby.
Looking around the campus and especially focusing on the McKinnon Lawn there are plenty of examples of people using technology in a public space. Many people on the Lawn were sitting in groups, some had their computers out and seem to be doing work. A majority, however, were on their phones – either sitting down or walking passed whilst staring at a screen. What’s interesting to see is how people are multitasking between their phones and the people they are talking to. Walking around some couples don’t seem to be talking, just transfixed on their phones, whilst some were talking on off with each other whilst also being glued to the phone.
Mobiles can have a negative effect on the connections people make between the space that they are in and also with the people they share it with. Because people use their phones to waste time or to distract themselves for a period of time, it becomes a habit that persists further in their lives and can get worse. The constant of having our phone with us all the time gives users the promise that they won’t be alone, that they won’t get bored, that we can effectively put our attention where it needs to be and most importantly the promise of the ability to multitask. The ability to not have to commit yourself 100% to a situation and have that availability to avoid the terror that there will be a moment in an interaction when you will become bored is the selling point, and the thing people feel that they want most in their interactions.
It could also be said that the constant interaction between a person and their phone in any space can hinder real life interaction with people and their surroundings. Some individuals can find it difficult to remove themselves from their phones of laptops for long enough to re-connect with the people around them and the real world. Addiction to the technology and the constant connection it gives people can be a problem as it could hinder the person’s ability to socialise with people in real life because they aren’t comfortable chatting face-to-face.
Advantages are the obvious need for instant and easy communication with someone despite a distance that could be present. Public spaces become more resilient when this happens, and they open up to the ability for the space to become shared with someone else’s. Also if you’re with a friend in a public space and are talking and need instant information on something you’re talking about, being attached to your phone allows you to become instantly connected to information through the internet.
Constant information is available at a student’s fingertips allowing for a student to instantly look up things that don’t make sense to them or to further enhance their idea on a topic by searching up examples.
On a university level, the constant connection to people in the class can also be seen as a benefit. Interactions through social medias like twitter are encouraged in order to participate with other people in the class. Interactions like this encourage people in the classroom to bounce ideas off each other when certain topics come up and also allow for a more fluid interaction with the lecture itself. The way you choose to use the media that you have constant access to determines whether or not it can be positive or negative in a person’s ability to make connections with other people or the public space.
Public Space – Eating Out at Restaurants and Food Centers
Eating out at restaurants and food centres is another public space which can be run by technology and media. It’s not unheard of these days to be on your phone whilst having a nice meal at a restaurant with a friend or a group of people. Doing this can be considered rude, however, the experience of eating out has become a more social experience inside and outside the digital world and has become a norm is some ways.
I did end up going out and having a look at how people were using their phones and social media at the dinner table, and what was interesting to see was that a whole lot of people actually reach for their phones quite regularly during a dinner or lunch out with friends. A few of the people I was watching picked up the phones only at certain times when there wasn’t any conversation and others were on it quite frequently throughout the experience. What was interesting to see was that when someone picks up the phone it generally gives permission to the other person to do the same thing. When looking around and watching people interact is can be seen that a lot of the time some people don’t look to have a problem when this happens as they just follow suit and copy the other or most of the time just continue eating and look around the public space.
When doing some research on the issue I found a study which concluded 88% of people believe that it’s generally not okay to use a phone during dinners. And to delve further in 82% of respondents found that using a phone during a social setting hurts the conversation, at least occasionally. Because technology makes it a whole lit easier to document every aspect of our lives, including when we go out for dinner, people have started to adopt a food blogging ways, which could be said to have altered the dining experience.
Technology and media at the dinner table can have both positive and negative associations. While the experience of eating out has become more sociable in the digital world thanks to instant technology and the availability of social media, it’s come at an expense of human interaction, where people feel the need to connect to others that exist through social media rather than the people who are real and are sitting around them at present time. Because of the tendency of people to upload everything that they are up to this takes away time from real life conversation and interaction. There has seen to also be a shift in the way conversations are run when technology is involved as conversations are produced in a way to recycle conversation and jokes present on social media.
Again negatively, as food is seen as a time to come together and celebrate for a lot of people, mobiles also inherently become a part of their events. And in turn, the event becomes more a social one – but not a connection made through talking to people face to face, but more people talking and sharing online. In a way, people participating through social media at these events could be considered to be there as they are filled in on what is happening and who said what.
Positively thinking the introduction of technology at restaurants has allowed for a power shift in the dining industry. People who eat at the restaurants have more power as they can instantly use social media or technology to broadcast how their meal is or how good the service was. This leaves the reputation of the industry in the hands of the public consumers, which is great as people have the power in this case to express themselves.
As well as this, food blogging has emerged on social media. Food blogging allows for a more altered dining experience, where communities are created based on food and enthusiasts create a more dynamic space and interaction with the food and industry. Food blogging also gives the power back to the people and allows for them to express themselves freely. This gives the food bloggers the ability to use social media as a tool to encourage people to go to or not to go to a particular place for their food. This is seen as a good thing as it allows for the public to be influenced by everyday people and not professional food tasters who may not be relatable in any way to the public.
In this way, its clear to say that social media and technology does, in fact, affect the way that people interact with people and the space that they are in, and the examples explored in this post does support this theory.