Sunday, August 06, 2006

Transportation Technology=Communications Technology? Part 2

So now that I've driven 95 hours and almost 6000 miles in less than a month, I can report more fully on the capabilities and limitations of the automobile as a communications device.

The car CAN communicate/facilitate:

  • hugs of family and friends, particularly nieces and nephews (wonderful and hard to get through other communications media)
  • mosquito bites and heat and humidity (also hard through other media, but some would prefer not having them communicated in any case--good to whine about, though)
  • the sight of Walden Pond and the feel of its water on the skin (lovely on a warm day, especially for one studying Thoreau, and hard to get properly through a photo, even in The Annotated Walden)
  • the smell of baking garbage on the streets of New York (ditto the comment from the mosquito bites et al.)
  • lots of in-person conversations, complete with the bobbing eyelids of friends who are getting sleepy as you talk late at night (lovely and easier to interpret than through the phone)

The car CAN'T communicate:

  • as quickly as other communications media (unless you're driving just down the street, in which case you might as well walk for the exercise)
  • as simultaneously as other communication media (no switching lines as with phones or cc'ing to more than the group of people than can be assembled in the vehicle and/or caravan)
  • as virtually as other communications media (it's shockingly real-world, which is often wonderful but can at times, as in the list above, be seen as a drawback if, for instance, you don't want the mosquito bites or the sweat rolling down your back)
  • as cheaply these days, what with the cost of gas and such

As with most other communications technology, the automobile is also prone to occasional "dropped calls" or "delivery delays," though oddly enough, this sort of thing, when a vehicle is involved, may actually increase the numbers of people you communicate with (which is roughly the case with the other media as well, in which a problem in communicating with someone may cause communication with one or more customer service representatives of the company facilitating the service).

To draw an illustration from out of the air (i.e., somewhere near the early part of this week), a flat tire--or even, say, two flat tires on subsequent days--is likely to delay the communications you wished to make with people at your destination, but may, in the case of the first flat tire, facilitate communications with a police officer stopping on the side of the road, an emergency roadside assister with a much better jack than your car came with, and/or other people in other vehicles, and in the case of the second (who carries two spare tires?), family and/or friends, insurance agents, tow truck guys, tire diagnosers, fixers, and salesmen, etc. Which is to say that in case one communications technology--such as an automobile--may fail, it's always good to keep one or more other communications devices--such as a cell phone--handy.

The corollary to this final point--that transportation technology facilitates communication with random people you may meet along the way--is, besides its communication of fully-rounded experiences (exercising all the senses at once), one of the best things about this form of communications technology. We've rather discouraged random sorts of these communications through many other media--in phones there's the do not call list, in email there's spam laws--and rightly so, considering the blatant exploitations of the technology that caused the discouragement. But using transportations technology (and, at times, our own feet), we may still meet new acquaintances and have conversations with them if we choose (and they agree). Those unexpected meetings enrich our lives, yet I fear we risk losing these sorts of serendipities in our society by limiting ourselves too wholly to other communications media... I hope we never lose them.

1 comment:

A said...

Hey Deb! I'm glad your car has taken you to so many good places since I saw you last, including back to Stoon! I'll be in town myself next week, so hopefully I'll see you then!