What is real-world search in a digital world?

Looking through a magnifying glass to illustrate the concept of real-world search

What is real-world search, and why might it serve us in the digital world? The promise of a fully connected, digital paradigm is access to all the world’s information, at any time, everywhere. But there are some reasons why this ubiquity of access might not be a good thing. 

  • There is a risk that we become less confident in going out into the world without the information we need. 
  • We may lose the ability to find information other than by searching for it via a web browser. 
  • We may become less willing to seek information from people rather than machines.
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Analogue Skill 002: Remember some phone numbers

Your loved ones. Your best friends. Your colleagues. Could you call them if you needed to? 

This skill is an enabler for leaving the house with your phone. If you need to call home you can use a phone box but only if you know what number to dial. 

Remembering phone numbers just takes practice. Find the rhythm. Find the pattern. Set them to song, if it helps. Practise recall by dialing the numbers rather than using the saved number.

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More lanes = more cars. More apps = more things to do?

Deleting apps and leaving your phone at home could be analogous to dismantling urban highways.

I read earlier this week about the research that established a direct link between building more roads and the level of traffic in a system. The researches established a directly proportional link. Increase road capacity by 10% and traffic increases by 10%. The causal link is that when you increase road capacity, you make it easier for more people to make more journeys. And so more people drive until the new road reaches capacity. At which point the traffic stops growing until new roads are built.

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Analogue Skill 001: Buy tickets at the station

Analogue Skill - buying tickets at the station

Go to the station. Stand in the queue. Look at all the people and wonder where they are going. See leaflets in the rack for places you hadn’t thought of going before. Look up at the station architecture, notice how drab it is, notice where someone has made an effort.

Talk to the person at the window. Smile at them. You might be the first person to do this today. Engage in life-affirming transaction. You want to buy a ticket and they want to help. Ask an expert. What’s the best route? What’s the best time to travel? Find out if there is a different way. Find out if there really aren’t any spaces available for your bike (or was the computer lying?).

Leave, ticket in hand, a malleable scrap of evidence that you are going somewhere and you didn’t just imagine it. A ticket that won’t run out of power.

If you are stuck in the weeds, look at the ecosystem

This morning I’m writing about how action in the context ecological crisis will sometimes feel a long way from anything to do with nature.

I wrote this week about my reflections following reading ‘What if we stopped pretending?‘. One was that the ecological crisis will require action on many fronts to build resilience and support regeneration. On a day-to-day level, many of these actions will feel a long way from that greater cause, but it is important, I think to maintain a connection between the means and the ends.

This week and last I have had my head in helping my colleagues at Hazel Hill Wood with providing back-up power supply to our off-grid buildings. The sorts of things that need doing are negotiating contracts with suppliers, managing resources, working with the team to set objectives, thinking about fundraising.

All of this feels a long way from ecosystem regeneration and supporting people’s connection to nature, which are our aims for the wood, and my motivations in the project. But there is a thread that connects the two:

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A minor win in the climate emergency

For years I have toiled to get bathwater out of the bathroom and into the garden to help reduce our water footprint. For many years, gravity wasn’t on my side. When we lived in a ground floor flat my method was to fill up a flexible bucket and carry the water out, trying not to slosh the carpet.

Even when we moved to a house with an upstairs bathroom – you’d think with the potential for some downpipe diversion to a water butt action – it has not been any easier. The downpipe from the bath is inaccessible. Our alternative has been to bucket the water out of the window, sending it down the roof of the lean-to extension, catching it in the guttering, and sending it onto a water butt. The high level of the window opening makes this a tough task on the arms, and about a third of the water splashes on the neighbour’s patio.

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If I’m the fool then what does that make you?

I heard this line in a BBC audio adaptation of King Lear for kids. “If I’m the fool, then what does that make you?” It struck a chord. For me this question captures the power of fooling around as a clown.

Fooling is playful and at the same time powerfully subversive stuff. The clown owns their foolishness, but in doing so raises a mirror the audience. I may be foolish, but in what ways are you unwittingly foolish too?

(The play also included the line ‘I hate living a thousand years ago’ – which I am also noting down here for future reference).

Universal Cycle Flyover

Diagram of Universal Cycle Flyover, an attachment for cars to enable vehicles in traffic jams to connect together to form a continuous cycle path

The daily traffic jam on my local high street has inspired me to think about a way to turn a traffic jam into an opportunity to a way to create safer cycling. This solution is win-win: car drivers get to stay in their cars while facilitating the creation of more traffic-free cycle routes in and out of our cities.

The concept is for all cars to be fitted with a light-weight section of Universal Cycle Flyover, designed to fit most any vehicle. Cars approaching a traffic jam simply park close enough to the next car to to enable a continuous connection for the cycle deck.

(The scheme shows a cyclist on a racing bicycle. Of course other types of bicycle would be encouraged, I just started the sketch too close to the top of the page to fit a more upright riding position.)