03 January 2016

Come closer and see

Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven, 2010 installation by London Fieldworks. For the birds, not lions.
Duncan Terrace Gardens, Islington, London, 28th September, 2015
In London, you are highly unlikely to see a lion or group of lions up a tree. That doesn't stop me from looking.

Walking down streets I often notice that people do not look up. In fact they barely look forward. The first time I went to London, aged 16 or so, it seemed like everyone walked around with their faces glued to a copy of the London A to Z. The smartphone has replaced the book, and Google Maps now owns the streets of London, its dulcet tones commanding the citizenry to "turn left in 100 feet". Never have I heard it suggest, "in five feet, pause and look up. You will see something wonderful".

A while back a group of Yahoo researchers demoed a concept for a map app that would calculate a scenic route, what they called a "happy route", not the shortest route from A to B but the route that would provide the user with an uplifting experience based on crowdsourced ratings of photographs of that area. In field trials their research suggested that users consistently preferred taking the happy route over the shortest route.

Wellbeing trumps time. Serenity beats speed.

Of course obtaining those photos to crowdsource a happy route relies on original perambulators pausing in their perambulations to stop, take a photo and actually look up once in a while.

Just in case there were lions in the branches above them.

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