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New technologies affect on the ways of path-finding in the city. Internet that is accessible through the cell phones and navigation systems for cars make it possible to orient in the streets of a city, for example, without asking locals for a help, i.e. establishing contacts with them for communication. Apart from this they transform the way of communication with the local environment mediated through the visual elements of streets in a city, i.e. relevant markers for orientation are changing. The usage of a navigation system while driving a car affects the ways people understand where they are and what is around them. I suggest that this results in the atomization of the moving agents in the city, their individualization not only from each other but also from the cultural environment they move in.
The main research question then is how the implementation of these technologies can transform the ways people move and orient in cities. This question can be subdivided in several more specific:
How do new technologies affect the processes of communication between (unfamiliar) people while they move in the streets?
What elements of a city's surface become more and less relevant at the process of orientation and path finding?
How do new communication technologies transform material organization of a city?
How do they affect information that is available in the streets and in the virtual space about destination points?
These last two questions are connected with the suggestion that new technologies transform not only the way people orient, but furthermore their choices of where they need to get (what is far and undefined and what is close and easy to find). For example, without internet we chose the destinations we already know about, but with its implementation we can find new points of interest with the key words and define our direction.
I understand the process of path finding as a communicative process. Trying to find a desired destination people look for the information that can help them to define where they are and where they need to move. This information can be provided either by locals through direct communication or by some signs in the streets trough so to say indirect or mediated visual communication. As long as communication is a mutual process the changes in the request lead to the changes in an answer, so we can suggest that some transformations in the organization of the city (at least some elements that are markers for establishing a destination) or information that is provided can also be caused by the new communication and navigation technologies.
However, I suppose that each of these questions demands a separate research and would like to focus not on all of them. I am going to develop the first two as long as they are necessary to be answered before we can move further two the second two.
These questions about communication with local people and environment during orientation and path finding can be seen as a problem of individualization in the city as it seen by Simmel [Simmel 2005 ]. The city is getting bigger and more complex; any task of the daily life can be connected with the necessity to go to the place where you have never been before. It is the city life where the process of path finding and orienting in an unfamiliar area becomes somehow routine while in the rural areas this situation is rather extraordinary. Naturally this situation could lead to more intense contacts with the local people in unfamiliar areas, but instead we see that there appear more and more technologies aimed at replacing the necessity in communication.
The transformations that I am talking about can be compared to the one that has happened long time ago - the invention of the road signs. Before it people needed to ask not only the direction to unfamiliar objects, but also where they are. The more intense communication meant more often cultural contacts. The invention of signs made it possible to know where you are and orient with a map. But the invention of the navigation systems makes it possible not to notice any specific characteristics of the place until the destination point and not communicate with anyone apart from a technological device. During the empirical research I am going to look how these technologies are used in the process of moving in the streets, whether they substitute live communication and paying attention to ones current physical location and environment, what elements are becoming less and more important.
I understand technological devices as "extensions" of a man's body as it understood McLuhan . Every technological invention leads to the transformation of the range of possible actions and results in the shifts of communication process. As electricity changed the speed of all the processes and transformed the idea of time consequence into the possibility of simultaneous connection of different parts of the world further technological developments, to my mind, tend to deepen this logic and introduce immediate access to information in the parts of the space and our life that are not covered by electricity wires. In this sense cell phones provide access to people and information in the internet no matter where they are and space becomes irrelevant to the possibility of gaining information.
Navigation systems as well are good examples of technological devices that develop and substitute men's perception abilities. In the most radical sense this devices substitute vision and at the same moment connect it to the informational domain that could not ever before been accessed by a person moving in the streets. That is why I want to look at these new technologies from the point of view that questions their influence on daily processes of people's lives. These new extensions affect communication processes as long as they transform the 'bodies' that communicate as well as they are defining the range of possible topics to be communicated somehow. That is why new 'extensions' may substitute one ways of communication - with the locals, by another ones - with global flows of information.
The invention of these technologies follows the logic of individualization processes in the city. As city life implies certain urban environment [Simmel 2005 ] that deepens atonomization of people from each other technological inventions as products of this life function in the same logic. A person becomes more individualized and independent that is why it is not appropriate to perform any dependence on the other. There appear the generalized sources of information (such as Internet) that help people solve their problems independently. People that are overwhelmed with the complexity of city life are becoming calculable and economical in relation to their emotions. As long as any direct communication with people necessitates at least some emotions they tend not to establish unnecessary contacts with each other that is why they are not eager to ask for a help from strangers and prefer using technological devices. Moreover city life is not a life of a community in a Bauman's sense  it is fulfilled with dangers. That is why communication with strangers that is full of uncertainty is a potential danger and might tend to be substituted by technology. Of course these are just the propositions that can be worked out according to the relevant theories. These might be the developments of the logic of describing the city life that were made in the beginning of the 20th century applied to contemporary situation. All these propositions have to be proved in the proposed study. The most general one is that technological developments substitute communication with the locals due to the complexity of the city life. Metropolis "schizophrenics" are just afraid to communicate to each other and use technologies to cope with this problem.
As long as I suggest that the case I am looking at reflects the tendency of the contemporary city life I have to explain why I believe moving in the city is crucial to its understanding today. As Urry states grounding his new mobilites paradigm  the developments of contemporary society lead to the situation when it can not be understood as a stable entity. Mobility processes become crucial and more relevant for society functioning than stable notions of institutions or social groups. Material changes of contemporary life "seem to be `dematerialising' connections, as people, machines, images, information, power, money, ideas, and dangers are `on the move' making and remaking networks at increasingly rapid speed across the world " [Urry, Sheller 2006]. Urry suggests to focus of the mobility processes that can reveal the new features of contemporary societies and what is more important his understanding of mobility has nothing to do with traditional notion of social mobility. He understands it in a quite physical way and proposes to analyze the flows of people. But as long as this paradigm in fact has to say something about the functioning of contemporary society it has to be applicable to the processes of daily life. The daily movements of citizens is a typical example of mobility processes in a micro level. That is why I suppose that the study of the path finding process that is one of the aspects of daily movements 'exclusively routine' in the city life (that I have mentioned earlier) is relevant for the questions of functioning of the city and may provide some insights in the studies of individualization processes.
On of the relevant studies on the connection between technology and perception of the city as well as moving within it is the study of Katharine S. Willis "Information Places: Investigating, Defining and Developing Settings for Locative Media in the City" [2009-2010]. She focuses of a spatial way of perceiving the world. "The emergence of communication technologies has fundamentally affected the nature of visual presence in everyday life, so that the individual's image of the city, which they use to navigate and orientate themselves within urban space, is no longer confined to physical elements and configurations" [Willis 2009]. She asserts that technologies do not encourage people to learn about the environment while looking for their way. This proposition corresponds to my assumption about the connection between the new technologies and individualization processes. Though she focused on the gaining different spatial knowledge but not on communication while way finding here study provides insights for the methodological part of the study as long as the also conducted experiments and post-experiment retrospective tests.
Another interesting study for this proposal is provided by John Urry in his essay "The 'System' of Automobility" (2004). He proposes a prospective view of the car system. And though this study itself can not help with the suggestion of the proposition it provides a particular view on the connection between technologies and society functioning and interconnection of their development.
Andre Lemos more closely focuses on the connection between communication and new technologies (2010). He states that "informational mobile technologies have enabled new means of communication and sociability based on what I call "post-mass media functions" and "informational territories"". He focuses on gaining new control that is possible with new technologies and this idea corresponds to our suggestion that usage of technologies substitutes dangers of uncertainty of direct communication together with connecting it to Bauman's idea that the more safety is possible only with the less freedom and more control.
Moving in the city can be divided in two typical ways:
- a driver type that means using your own vehicle (most often - a car)
- a pedestrian type that means using public transport and walking on foot
This two ways of moving imply quite different ways of path finding and usage of different technologies. While a driver in the car more often has a navigation system, a pedestrian more often uses a map in the cell phone or searches for information in the Internet. At the same moment both of them might use paper maps but also quite in a different way. These differences noticed at the common sense level make me propose two different research methods for these to types of moving people.
1) Path finding process of a car driver
The method to be used is an experiment that implies observation of the way a person orients during moving through the city and marking out relevant elements of the city landscape for him of her. In the experiment a driver will be said to drive from one point to another and "think-aloud" everything that is connected with the driving process. There are to be defined certain elements of the experiment plan:
- The starting and finishing points of the route should be defined while the way a driver reaches the destination is arbitrary and chosen by a driver.
- The distance should include driving from suburbs to the city centre as long as I see it as a typical route of a daily city life.
- All of the drivers taking part in the experiment should be the same familiar with the city and have similar driving experience.
- All of the drivers should not know the direct way to the destination point before starting the experiment. They may be familiar with the destination but they may not know the exact roads and directions that lead to it from the starting point of the experiment.
- During the process of experiment there has to be gathered the information about the route a driver chooses (that will be (1) recorded with a camera that is directed outside the car on the street though the windscreen and (2) controlled by an experimenter that is in the car with a driver) and the voice of the driver that is going to comment everything he does while driving as a result of employing the think-aloud protocol [van Someren, Barnard, Sandberg 1994] with the help of experimenter.
- According to the tasks of the experiment there have to be performed a range of different gadgets used while driving (a navigation system that (1) that shows only the localization of a driver, (2) that marks the route to the destination point on a map, (3) that marks the route to the destination point on a map and gives voice instructions, (4) an electronic map without directions and showing the localization of a driver, (5) a paper map, (6) without any devices).
- There have to be marked out the situations whether, when, and where a driver resorts to the help of asking someone for help.
- After reaching the destination there has to be held a retrospective interview concerning which parts of the route are remembered the best and why and which elements of the city surface a driver remembers and why.
As a result of an experiment there is to be analyzed the connection between the usage of particular devices (or not usage of any) and the elements of the city that are remembered, the way a driver chooses a route and copes with certain situations (such as loosing oneself) while driving, frequency of asking for help etc. All this will help to understand the process of path finding as a communication with local environment and the influence of new technologies on it.
2) Path finding process of a pedestrian
In an ideal situation the way that a pedestrian orients in the city has to be analyzed the same way. But I should admit that the information that we have even about the frequency and types of situations when a person uses certain gadgets to find his way is not enough to establish an experiment plan. For example, a person might look for a way to an unfamiliar place in the Internet at home, come with an idea which public transport he or she needs to use and don't take any maps or use any technologies while moving. That is why I suppose that there is a need in a different method of studying the path finding process of a pedestrian at least on this stage of research. The targets then are to find out how a pedestrian uses technologies in the orientation process (on which stage, in which circumstances) and whether a pedestrian today resorts to the help of locals rather to the help of technologies or vice versa.
I suppose that the method that can be used is the retrospective questioning of a pedestrian's recent experience of path finding with the help of technologies or people in the street. There have to be asked standard questions about several types of actions: (1) asking for help of the locals, using a cell phone to call for help to find a place of familiar people (2) that can know the route or (3) can look in the internet on a computer, (3) to look themselves in the internet, (4) to look at the map or GPS system in the phone, looking at a paper map (5) that they have with themselves or (6) that are provided in streets or in transport.
The questions that have to be asked have to focus on:
when was the last time a pedestrian was performing each of these actions (to ask consequently about each of the day of the last week in order to figure out which of the actions were performed and which were not, and may be some of them were performed more then once)?
which were the situations and reasons of performing these actions?
what was the destination point?
where and when did a pedestrian started that actions (ask to mark on a map)?
was the action successful or not and why?
which city markers do they remember from the situations discussed?
Such a questionnaire will provide information that will help to analyze (1) the features of the situations when people use certain technologies to find there way in the city, (2) the way they choose a technology or method of its use, (3) the features of the city space that provokes such situations and problems of path finding (for example, loosing oneself), (4)certain methods of their solving, (5) and answer the question whether people today prefer the use of technology of asking for help of locals, (6) how this choice is connected with the characteristics of the place where a pedestrian is and which he has to find.