The social aspects of elevators

Elevators as a Shared Experience
While we may not really consider elevators as a social place, there is a sense of togetherness that occurs when you enter into that shared experince together. This includes things such as holding the door open for someone, pushing a button for a floor that someone needs, or even entering and exiting together. The hotel for IA Summit this year has provided an entirely new take on elevator access that goes beyond just the interesting new interface as the technology has affected the social aspects as well.

The Elevator Technology
First, the elevators are only accessible from the third floor (while yes technically there are other elevators, these are the most accessible). Second, there are touch pads outside of the elevators and that’s where you select your floor. What you don’t know unless you are told is that the first bank goes to a set number of floors and the second bank goes to a different set. There is no sign that states that. It’s only through education or paying attention to your experience that you may perceive this. Third, after you select your floor there is a voice that tells you what car to go to. If you are an accessibility person there are two things that scream out here. How do people who are blind pick their floor and then get to the right car? How do deaf know what car to go to if there is no visual indicator? I have not investigated these things myself yet, so I’ll get back to you when I find out.

But beyond all of that is what happens after you select your floor and are directed to your car. While there may be another 4 to 6 people waiting for an elevator, they are usually waiting for their own car. There is no more sharing the elevator experience. There is no one to hold the door open for. There isn’t even a button to push in case someone mistakenly gets on with you not knowing that your car is going to your floor for you. While this technology may have been invented for the purpose of making the elevators faster or improving the singular user experience (though the jury is still out on whether it does either of these things), it does so at the expense of the shared experience. You couldn’t even ride the elevator with your friends on different floors unless the system decided to put you all on the same one (and I’ve yet to see this happen).

Though this may not seem like a huge issue, just consider all of the other shared experiences that have slowly disappeared over the years. Is it really better to benefit the individual in a solo and completely separated experience over the shared group one? 

Introduction of New Technology Creates Both Winners and Losers
I’ve been reading a lot about social informatics this semester, so this has really influenced my thinking on the influence of technology on people and the influence of people on technology. One of the overarching principles of social informatics is that there are two sides to the introduction of every information technology. There is always a give and take. There is always a winner and a loser. A lot of times people only consider the implementation of the technology and it’s benefits, never really taking into account the adverse aspects. I suggest that those of us who are the technology innovators and implementers really should take a moment to step back and realize technology does not always make things better. We should always consider the potential negatives. Especially those that are not always tangible. Emotions around an interaction are just as important as being able to complete physical tasks. 

I have to say it feels kind of lonely and self serving going up 26 floors all by my self. If nothing else, it’s really frustrating to have several cars come to my floor and not be able to get on them because I’m waiting on my car to arrive and I have no way to know where the other cars are going (and no way to influence their direction once I am on them). 

For those of you here, what do you think of the experience? 

P.s. – Please forgive my typos. This was all typed out on my iPad.