Taxi wisdom: give a guy a Satnav and he thinks he’s Robert De Niro. Number 7 in the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

Whilst taxi drivers seem to losing their abilities to know where they are, where they’ve been and where they’re going, they have no shortage of knowledge about the state of the world we’re in and where we all should be.

What is it about taxi drivers that means that for better for worse, we feel obliged to engage in banter about celebrities, footballers, politicians and the dog across the road who is urinating into the nearest macdonalds burger wrapper? Do they have some mystical power, sat there in front of their cab, staring at you with one eye through the rear view mirror, which means they can hold forth on any subject under the sun whilst reducing you to a mumbling wreck who will agree with almost anything until the ride stops, you pays your money and insist on a receipt for the journey from hell and back?

There are some honorable exceptions though. A driver this morning, whilst opining on the terrible story that is unravelling around Jimmy Saville, offered the astute observation that the only thing he believed in the newspapers was the date at the top of the page. A breath of fresh air from the usual polluted atmosphere you find in the backs of cabs.

There must be a great business opportunity out there for someone to set up a cab firm who employed drivers who knew where they were going, how to get there in the shortest possible time and in a manner which was both civilised and civilising.

More travel knowledge here.

The London Black Cab and an epistemiological crisis in the making. Number 1 in the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

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.