This is a guest blog post by Kate Milner who strolls around metro London with her toddler. I hope you enjoy her pictures and thoughts.
The world around us changed so much in the last 20 years.
It’s undeniable. So much of our social interaction has moved onto the internet, and with it all the things we used to do in person – booking holidays, grocery shopping, gambling. It’s all online. The outside world has moved onto the internet but has the internet moved into the outside world yet?
Transport for London caused controversy when they replaced real-time traffic updates on the roadside with a flashing sign saying “Check Twitter.” No one there really thought through the implications of that – and the impracticality of checking your phone while driving.
Every time a multi-channel service becomes internet-only, there are howls of complaint from those who don’t or can’t use computers.
Look at the insanity of this sticker:
It’s a “Pay By Phone” parking service. What would you expect the first point of contact to be? It’s not a trick question — perhaps a phone number?
But no, it’s a website.
Web addresses are everywhere.
This guy was in a café, with the address of his company’s website on his back. I didn’t get a closer look because he was a kinda scary looking guy, but essentially he is now a walking advert.
I bet they didn’t mention that when he applied to be a landscape gardener.
And, meanwhile, if you can’t think of a name for your nightclub, why not just use your domain name?
If you REALLY love your domain name, use it twice. On the same sign. Once in shiny black, once in retro red – so that color-blind people can appreciate it.
It’s not just URLs that are plastering London nowadays. It’s QR codes as well.
We nearly ran over a guy in West Norwood that had a t-shirt with a QR code on it, saying “The Future is Black.”
Sadly, we didn’t get close enough to scan him. But they’re everywhere.
Telephone boxes, planning applications and more phoneboxes, advertising ice-cream. If you don’t know what an ice-cream might be, scan this code and it’ll tell you! Advertisers are keen to jump on this new tool. And it’s not all they’ll jump on.
Who wants to use hashtags in an organic way, when you can have them dictated by a drinks manufacturer?
A word of warning here, brands: This kind of tactic can backfire.
Just ask a certain purveyor of burgers, who asked tweeters to use the hashtag #McDonaldsStories to relate great, fast-food-related memories. Naturally, people used it instead to tweet about cold burgers, filthy toilets, and long waits.
If you want a more organic use of hashtags, see what art students are up to:
I found this on a bench outside London College of Communication.
Clearly, these kids are cooler than I am because I’ve found a bunch of tweets that use #jkz and I still have no idea what it means.
They also run guerrilla sticker campaigns with nothing more than a URL and paint graffiti that seems to be a QR code but turns out to be a tiger!
So, the graffiti and adverts around town are taking virtual life out onto the streets – but how else are the real and virtual worlds meshing?
In the art world, an installation at the Science Museum features hundreds of fragments of text from chatrooms and bulletin boards around the web. You stand surrounded by other people’s conversations, unable to join in or really comprehend any of them. So, a bit like Twitter.
Even outdoor activities are getting a virtual tinge, with new trends like geocaching – a kind of treasure hunting organised via the internet. You head somewhere like the New Forest with a GPS phone and try and find a small box, with treasure inside. Before the internet, you just couldn’t do anything on a national scale like that. At least not without the help of Anneka Rice.
And then there’s Twitter’s place in news reporting – quicker and more truthful than the main news streams. I found this poignant reminder of the Vauxhall helicopter crash of a few months back, an event that was all over Twitter before the news channels had a single picture of the site.
The internet leaves us an indelible mark in the outside world.
Is it an improvement?
Do you remember what the world was like before?
Where will this go?