Monday, July 16, 2012

If We Started From Scratch

In June, we took a trip to BC, Seattle, and California (I had a conference in Nanaimo, and my sister-in-law lives in Cali, and since we were effectively in the same neighbourhood by being on the same side of the continent, we took a jog south to visit her. Seattle was coz I'm curious.) It was great. While we were in California, I drove into L.A. to visit a friend from high school for the evening. The drive went kind of like this:
  1. "California drivers aren't bad. They're kind of like Ottawa drivers."
  2. "L.A., I can totally handle driving in you."
  3. "OMG it actually took me an hour and fifteen minutes to drive two miles because that exit is closed."
  4. "Where the **** am I?"
  5. "SERIOUSLY? Phone, you won't connect to any US networks? Seriously??? You're supposed to be smart!"
  6. "Can't turn around. Liz will think I'm dead."
  7. [Visit]
  8. "Holy hell. I managed to get lost again."
  9. "This is sketchy. Must get back to the highway so as not to die in L.A."
  10. "Welp, this is definitely not where I thought I was going and it will seriously extend my drive home, but at least I know where I'm going to end up."
I got back to my SIL's at 3.30 in the morning. Suffice it to say that's not how I had envisioned my evening. I put it down to bad, bad, BAD highway signage, and poor street design. And it got me thinking - we keep building roads the way we do because we've got to work with that's there. The existing infrastructure constrains subsequent development. But what would highways look like if we were starting from scratch? The way we design things, or are complacent in accepting previous design, has a serious impact on the way we live. (Is an area pedestrian-friendly or pedestrian-unfriendly? Is that a bike friendly road?) As a visitor to L.A., I felt distinctly unwelcome because of how hard it was to navigate. Seems that the roads in L.A. are built for those who already know where they're going.

Highways. Everywhere. This was about how much traffic there was at 3 in the morning though!

That train of thought then brought me to work. What would it look like if we remade the library? (That gets talked about a lot.) And when can we do Information Management differently, please? Because what I see now isn't working.

The hard part is that the current reality not only limits our future actions (it's easier to build on it than to scrap everything and start again, even if we don't like the way things are), it limits our thinking. I don't know what a new approach to information management would look like. I can make suggestions, but to tell myself to start with a tabula rasa and build it from the ground... eeesh. I don't even know where to start.

But that trip got me thinking, and now I have a metaphor for things that are bad, and that should be rebuilt. I know that driving in L.A. is lame, and I'd love for it to be different.