Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ramblings from a Digital conference

I am blogging live from the INCA (Independent Network Cooperative Association) conference.  I'm here because a group of us from the Centre for Creative Collaboration are giving a presentation on how we use digital this afternoon.

I feel like a bit of a fraud. I am not a techy person. As far as I know the internet is powered by magical imps who live in fluffy clouds (cause cloud computing is a thing, right?) I am happy that it works. I am happy that it allows me to effortlessly connect with family and friends around the world. I spend far too much time on twitter and FB. I use it to research. And I take it for granted. The only time I really notice it is when it stops working... then I curse at it, and try to remind myself that there was once a time when I could survive if I didn't have continuous instant-access to the entire world.

These people in the room with me are the ones who actually make it happen. They aren't imps (as far as I can tell) but corporate looking men (mostly) who use a lot of acronyms and talk about things like customer demand, network rates, and driving traffic. It is all going over my head. So instead I'm thinking about toilets and how my own work can possibly connect to what is going on here.

It strikes me that this is how most people probably feel about toilets.

They want them to work effortlessly, when and where they need them. They should be sleek and clean, and ideally not reveal too much of what actually goes on in them. Once flushed the waste is out of mind and out of sight... someone else's problem.

Just as non-techy conference providers may forget about the need to provide network capacity for all their guests so they often forget about the need for toilets. Because we use both without thinking we forget they aren't there magically.

On a slightly different note... Where can toilets and tech connect?

In a competition between toilets and digital technology the later is likely to win. It is a reasonably well-known fact that more people worldwide have mobile phones than toilets. Sadly loos just don't quite have the sex appeal that instant connectivity can command.

Thus toilet thus mapping and apping becomes important to those who care about spreading best practice in sanitation. For everything from locating loos to mapping problem areas digital technology is starting to play a role.

A couple examples include:

Open Defecation Apps
The idea is to help educate, locate, incentivize and sometimes name and shame. Open defecation and poor sanitation are some of the leading causes of infant mortality world-wide. In and of themselves no laughing matter, but humour and gamification can sometimes be used to engage people with the cause.

Changing Places Maps
Changing places is the target for the pilot stage of a British Toilet Association map. As there are only 45 of the enhanced accessible loos within London it is extra important for those that need them to know where they are... they can't just take the gamble on an available toilet as most of the rest of us can.

(note... I may continue to edit and update this post throughout the day. On the subject of digital, if you don't already follow me on twitter I am @londonlootours)