Warning! If you Tweet & Text-Walk at your Own Risk
In the hustle and bustle of a densely packed metropolis in China, people are bound to collide into one another. This invariably happens when you have elderly pedestrians and children, jostling for space with others who are tweeting and texting, while oblivious to the swarms of humanity all around.
Recently in this city called Chongqing, signs on streets and various notices suddenly appeared in the city’s entertainment area. The signage indicated a cell phone free-zone on one side of the sidewalk, and one for users on the left-hand side. It appeared that most pedestrians did not comply with the new ‘rules’, although many did stop to take pictures of this new oddity in their lives.
The source of inspiration for this scheme originated with National Geographic in the US, which set up a separated sidewalk as an experiment which was televised on Thursday, July 17, 2004 as part of a science study in human behavior. The filming of the experiment was screened on Mind over Masses, a new series. A downtown Washington block-long sidewalk was divided into two sections-one for cell phone aficionados, and the other for those who abstained. One the side for cell phone users was the sign: CELL PHONES “WALK AT YOUR OWN RISK” .
The purpose of the experiment was to film and gauge the reaction of pedestrians. A spokesperson for National Geographic Channel declined to elaborate much about the experiment, but stated that the filming would continue on the next day. On Thursday afternoon, many pedestrians seemed to ignore the notices and signage. Many took photos, as if it were just another tidbit to tweet or text about. At the same time, others gawked at someone in a gorilla suit, eating a banana. Apparently, this was also part of the filming action.
A notice on a city communication website, obliquely indicated that the new series will explore innovative and interactive solutions to daily problems-all based on what we know about human behavior. Interestingly, people not using cell phones, spontaneously interacted with others. They simply bonded with each other and found the novelty amusing. Those using their digital devices remained glued to them, and more often than not, were not aware of the signage.
The series Mind over Masses took its cue from YouTube. In one episode, a stairway was painted up to look like the keys of a piano. Many people chose to use them more frequently than the elevator. There may certainly be some interesting conclusions that social scientists will arrive at concerning human behavior. Stay tuned!