Friday, March 18, 2011

"We would use a steam shovel to pick up a dime if we could."

I want to revisit a previous post with today's post, and talk about doing things just because we can. I went to CC Little bus stop this morning after parting ways with Joe. This bus stop, or the "Central Campus Transit Center," as it is now called, is the main bus stop on Central Campus at the University of Michigan. Over the fall, this bus stop and the roads around it were renovated (using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) to make it a grander presence on campus; earlier, it used to be a few little brick structures that would maybe house thirty students all squeezed together. Now it has a long and dramatic roof, and several hundred people can get some roof over their heads while waiting for a bus. What they also added, hanging from the roof, are these giant screens that display moving text. These screens have been up and running for more than a couple of months now, and my impression was that they would display information on the next arriving buses, the route details, and so on. Wrong. Here's what they actually show.

I waited at the stop for long enough today (and have previously as well) to see that no timing information was being put on screen, ever. In the first photo, we see that the sign is directing students to a website to see when the buses will be arriving. I especially like the second photo a lot - above the screen, you have the "analog" version (thanks, Joe!) of the The Ride above the digital one. Hahahahahaha.

I went to to see how much money was spent on this project, and although I am not sure which exact project on the website corresponds to this renovation, I am almost certain that several hundred thousand dollars were spent on the whole project. These screens (there are probably more than five of them) likely cost many thousands of dollars. Their purpose? To show that the University of Michigan has awesome screens to direct you to a website to find out when the bus will come...Why not just save those thousands of dollars and put up a sign with the website on it and put several of them up so that they are conspicuous? What's the point of the screen? This isn't the only place I've noticed screens being used as nothing more than signs. There's a new restaurant in town, called Squares, and there, they have their menu on screens, just like at Mujo Cafe on North Campus.

This points to a fundamental issue I have with technology - the loss of appropriateness. I have continuously advocated for making full use of what we have already. But there is some deep draw we have to developing new technology, and then being compelled to use it because we can think that is the best and only way to do something.

"We would use a steam shovel to pick up a dime if we could." ~Wendell Berry.

1 comment:

  1. I've wondered about those signs too.

    I'm hoping they're still planning on getting next-bus information to them soon. Who knows.

    An enterprising blogger might call them and find out. (I say, not volunteering.)