The taxi driver as the eiptome of post-modernism. Number 8 in the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

I reached a new level of taxi driver – passenger complexity tonight.

I get in a cab.

“Where do you want to go?” he asks. I tell him.

He says: “How do you want to get there?”
I say: “The shortest journey possible.”
He says: “What’s the shortest to you is not the shortest to me.”

I say: “The quickest you can.”
He says: “What’s quickest to you is not the quickest to me.”
I say: “You’re the driver, you know best.”
He stays silent.

I say: “The cheapest route possible.”
He says: “What’s cheapest to you is not the cheapest to me.”
I say: “I think we can agree on a price of what constitutes cheap.”
I name a price.

It’s a ridiculously stupid low price. He grunts, puts his foot down and we get to my destination having jumped 2 red lights. The journey is £1.50 cheaper than it cost me earlier in the evening to get to the destination he collected me from.

But that last fact is not the most significant aspect of this transaction.

What’s significant is that everything we think we know about a taxi ride, is from the point of view of the taxi driver, uncertain, relative and open to dispute. Your putative knowledge about your desired journey is, from the point of the taxi driver, a pointless conceit.

The taxi driver is the epitome of post-modernism: nothing is stable, nothing certain, nothing definable and there are no foundations at all upon which we can agree to define a taxi journey by. No wonder they know nothing. They operate in a world which is fundamentally unknowable. They have reached the stage in human existence where the will to know about the universe meets its comeuppance. This allows them to say to you:

“Forget it. You know nothing. I know nothing. I may be a taxi driver with a satnav but deep down I am utterly ignorant. You are utterly ignorant. The sum knowledge of the human race wouldn’t fill the back of a postage stamp. Assuming we could agree on what a postage stamp looked like. So lets agree to disagree about our ignorance. There are no other valid philosophical positions. You might at least get a cheaper fare out of it. Or you might not. Who knows?”

He drops me off and I respectfully salute him as he drives off into the night, unsteadily weaving his way back and forth across the duel carriageway. I finally understand why taxi drivers never know anything at all. It is a position borne of deep wisdom, not a lack of familiarity with the mechanics of the taxi, the road, the Highway Code, of the A-Z of your home town. Respect.

More travel knowledge here.

The disappearing knowledge of the Hyperloop passenger: schools beware! Number 6 in the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

The hyperloop has hit the news again with dreams of tubing it from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than 10 minutes. Everyone around the world will have their equivalent journeys and will marvel at the apparent ease at which such previously long journeys have been reduced to bats of eyelashes. In the UK, we will wonder how a hyperloop journey could take us from London to Liverpool in just under 30 seconds: although given the magnetic pull London has on all things economic, political and social in the UK, it is a wonder that anything ever leaves London at all, never mind in a hyperloop tube.

But the greater significance of the hyperloop proposal is on how we understand knowledge of traffic flow and our place in the civilised world and how we engage with passengers, train spotters and irate cows on the line.

Because make no mistake, in hyperloop world there will be no room for any of these travel distractions. In a hyperloop tube, you will be strapped to your seat, asked to brace yourself and before you know it you will have been shot across the planet with the equivalent of a ton of TNT shoved under your backside. You will know nothing of the experience and your sum knowledge of the world and all its wondrous creations will not have improved a jot.

This is why we should worry – and worry hard – about the proposed hyperloop project. No longer will students be able to revise on trains before exams; no longer will commuters be able to improve their literary knowledge and no longer will we see people frowning over Sudoku puzzles and other complex numerical machinations. The nation’s literacy, numeracy and emotional intelligences will all suffer enormously.

Where arts based research can help however will be on the hyperloop platforms, both pre and post-TNT backside kick. Artist researchers will offer passengers new ways of consolidating their knowledge before they take the fatal kick up the backside. These researchers will remind commuters of their 12 times table through pretty graphics; confirm proper grammatical construction of sentences and offer new ways of reminding ourselves of our Shakespearian heritage. Whilst the journey will be over in a bat of an eye, our memories shot to pieces, the learning will continue for ever: and for that, Michael Gove will be proud.

More travel knowledge here.

Give Us This Day: a Toast to Artists Knowledge (Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

Knowledge of the first kind
is the stats, the dates, the measurements.
The what, the when, the where.

Knowledge of the second kind
is the interpretations, the rational analysis of observable events.
The scientific, analytic, predictive.
The regulatory, the politic.
The how, the whether.

Artists knowledge is knowledge of the third kind.
Sensory and sensitive,
Intuitive and imaginative,
Magical and miraculous.
Generating meaning and stories
which bestow ownership of knowledge of the first kind
and give purpose to the knowledge of the second kind.
The what-if? The why? The If-not, then why-not?

My Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen and Members of the Jury, please raise a toast to the knowledge of artists.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Toast: read all about toasting here.

The knowledge of the car driver: Number 5 in an the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

The knowledge of the car driver is perhaps the most complete form of knowledge available to us in both the private and public spheres of knowledge. He (for the car driver is always male, the form has not yet found a way of accommodating female insights into how to navigate oneself around the world) knows how to use Satnav, A – Z or his own innate capabilities in recognising how the world roads systems should connect up; how to surround himself with the perfect soundtrack which mirrors how his own internal emotional turmoil connects to his public confidence in the morals of the highway code; and  how his mpg will accurately predict his eta. On a good day, the drivers knowledge is both organic and inorganic,  both evolved and constructed: man and machine are perfectly melded. On a bad day, you find yourself on the M25.

Arts based research has a particularly effective role to play if the driver finds himself on the Moebius Loop that is the modern outer city motorway. Poetry, site specific installations and bricolage can be bought into play on the car dashboard, creating new interpretations on ancient themes of mans inhumanity to man, the place of God in a Godless society and the existence of the Devil. The only risk to the driver is that by becoming so immersed in the knowledge that this research generates, they miss the turning for the Dartford Tunnel and are doomed to repeat their journey for a further 120 miles.

More travel knowledge here.

The transgressive knowledge of the cyclist: who the f#!? do they think they are? Number 3 in an the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

Whilst the knowledge of the taxi driver is in a state of crisis, and the knowledge capacities of the bus driver under-exploited, the knowledge of the cyclist is both stable and fulfilled. Stable  in the sense that they know how to get where they want to go (ie sit on saddle and peddle like crazy) and fulfilled in that there are unlikely to be any surprise passengers on the bicycle, hiding in the pannier bags ready to spring a few narrative surprises…

The cyclist knowledge is also trangressive and reflective of some problematic identity resolutions. One minute they are a law abiding traveller on the nation’s roads, the next they have become pedestrians on wheels, oblivious to the demands made by red traffic lights or pelican crossings. This transgressive performativity (identity is not who you are, it’s what you do) may provide them with additional epidemiological insights, but it also causes wider concerns amongst fellow travellers. ‘who the f#!#do they think they are?’ being a common rhetorical question posed by car drivers, relatively ignorant of the knowledge capacities of the cyclist when witnessing their delight in swapping identities.

This is the cyclist’s dilemma.  Their transgressive capabilities, whilst providing them with new insights into contemporary travelling insights is generated at a price: existential questions of who do they fundamentally think they are.

Arts based researchers would help them resolve these questions through the suitable application of a course of graffiti, bricolage and spoke-art. The nation’s roads would become safer as a result.

More travel knowledge here.

Poetry on the Hoof: Scruffy Students

Sporty scruff
Sparky scruff
Just pissed up in the afternoon

Beery scruff
Hippy scruff
Permanent student in a beetle

Lecturer scruff
European scruff
We’re all mates together in a rugby scrum

Lectures seminars
Tutorials workshops
Doubting supremacist knowledge

The only unscruffy ones are the Arabs, Africans and Chinese.
Do they know something we don’t?

A poem on the hoof: thanks to my favourite postgraduates.

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