Faster changes, better interfaces

14 Nov 2014 - São Paulo

Everyday I walk through 1.8 miles to work. For me, walking it’s a way to observe the people and the city I live in.

I like to see the way people walk, eat, look and talk. It’s my time to imagine what could be changed, physically, if I had the chance to apply my knowledge about technology . As I live in Sao Paulo, it’s not difficult to find urgent problems but it’s hard to imagine something that could be effective, cheap and fast to implement.

Well, there’s an aisle near the train station where people are forced to walk into a bottleneck, near the huge parking that belongs to Carrefour (a huge supermarket). At the end of this aisle there’s a small door and the only exit crosses the car entrance in to the parking area. So, going to the train station it’s an adventure.

Where the observation starts.

Everyday I stop for a coffee. It’s my opportunity to observe. Usually, I pay attention to some specific situations, trying to establish some parameters for my empirical hypothesis (totally based on my own experience, btw).

So It’s been about 2 months that I’m taking notes on:

  1. smiles in humans faces;
  2. children in the streets;
  3. collisions between 2 or more humans;
  4. humans relaxing and/or eating while resting
  5. People eating while walking
  6. humans making exercise

This aerial view localize each critical points of observation:

Image of Granja Julieta, in SP

At [1] there is a tiny gate. It has almost .80 cm, and people often collide trying to go thru this gate. After the gate there’s a car entrance [3] that don’t let the humans (that passed thru the gate) go with the flow. People here often don’t smile nor talk. They collide again and again and keep mobile phones inside their pockets (it’s another parameter that I set. People looking at their mobile phones are happier than that ones with worried faces).

At [2] people can get in to the train station, finally. But the bottleneck there is critic. People come along the arrows and accumulate in the gate, that has almost 3 meters. Collisions again, no smiles, no children and no humans making exercise. Only people walking like zombies.

At the [4] area there’s always some Japanese old people practicing tai-chi. Sometimes, right in the corner of the parking area, cars are moving around and people have to stop the workout. At least, they smile a lot. An interesting thing to note is that the parking is always empty, with one or two cars, at most, in rush time.

First, I wrote a summary of the problems that I could notice based on my own parameters:

  1. People accumulate and collide on bottlenecks, near the gates,
  2. People have to stop making exercises because they are at a parking area
  3. people don’t have space to sit down and look at their phones or talk
  4. people have to eat while they collide in the line for the entrance

Granja Julieta transformed, in SP

The green circles are trees. The idea is to remove the fence in 10 mt into the interior of the parking (the blue dotted line) and then invite people to sell food at the magenta benches to humans, near the “Tai Chi” area (in yellow). This can reduce the bottleneck because people will stop before arrive at the station door. This can also reduce collisions between humans and make them smile and talk, even rest at the area! The yellow area can be used by moms, dads and their children to play. There will be commerce, food, people staring at their mobile phones and everyone will be happier.

There is space for the web?

We have data integration and a platform for sharing results. So.. What’s missing? Generally diagnoses like that are made based on data, collected by companies specialised in urban planning. They are used to structure reports and results to suggest changes that aren’t really being adopted — because they are expensive, because it’s not priority, because everything but the real reason: consulting firms don’t have citizen enforcement. But, if we had some kind of “pervasive citizenship” using ubiquitous Web for collecting anonymised data about how people feel in the streets to change things faster?

I’m not considering collecting data at mobile phones. I’m strongly against citizenship granted only for people that has money to buy smartphones or any kind of “thing” to connect. But I like to imagine a Web that can serve as a surface to interact with humans at an invisible level, where people have control over their own data.

Given that the government spend a lot of resources in consulting firms that imagine solutions that are never used, the money could be used to make permanent structures of active feedback thru the Web.