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What’s up with London cabbies? Yesterday I wanted to go to the annual BERA conference at the fabulous Institute of Education.  Its such an obvious drive from Euston, no-one on earth who was working as a taxi driver would have claimed ignorance of its existence.

But not the taxi driver who picked me up.  He claimed he’d never been to the Institute of Education in Bedford Way, that he’d never heard of it and had no idea how to get there.   Apparently,  black taxis no longer know everything about London’s streets. There is no longer such a thing as ‘The Knowledge‘ apparently: the collective wisdom and skills supposedly held by all Black Taxi cabs since time began.

This is alarming in the short term – what will they all do during the Olympics? The idea of London full of black cabs perpetually getting lost is dire. You expect it of the minicabs – they’re full of guys who have a satnav with attitude and have seen too many de Niro films – but the loss of the knowledge by these seemingly unchanging parts of London’s make-up is more worrying in its implications for the rest of us.

What if we all found that the knowledge we learnt 24 years ago was useless?  That whilst we might have taught particular subjects one way, we were to  just throw up our hands, shrug our shoulders and say, well, that’s the way it was, and I have no idea what we should be teaching any longer. What if we were civil engineers and took the view that because bridges were once built on stilts, that any new technologies were now beyond us?  We’d all resort to the SatNav equivalents of our trade – and we know what that leads to when it comes to trying to get anywhere in the world.

The knowledge-less taxi driver is of course a problem when it comes to negotiating the streets of London; but the knowledge-free zone that teachers are turning into, that doctors are becoming and rocket scientists seem to be blindly accepting is a poor state of affairs for all of us.

The question is of course, what kind of knowledge really matters?  We’re working within the relatively new research field of arts based research and are working within BERA to establish new ways of understanding the world, and using the arts to develop new forms of knowledge.  The next BERA conference in Manchester will see the results of our next endeavours: we may even be able to help taxi drivers find their way around the capital cities of the world!

Number 1 in an the series: Knowledge, traffic and how arts based research can help the modern driver.

More travel knowledge here.