by Malaika Allen
Communication has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Just ten years ago we used landlines to call one another and now we can do anything on a device the size of our hands. Although most people think of communication as the use of phones and computers, it is actually much more than that.
Street signs, notices, televisions and even stories are all ways to communicate. Today in the National Museum of Scotland, there was an exhibit on the evolution of communication. It got me to thinking about how quickly some of these advancements occurred. In my lifetime, I have experience the evolution from landlines (those have cords for the young people out there) to literally having a computer in the palm of your hand. When we think about communicating it is very easy to think simply about being able to contact others, but what about informing individuals.
During the ninetieth and early twentieth century communicating at war was a completely different world. The telephones were the size of large laptops, the telegraph was still a thing, and carrier pigeon was actually a way to get a message across (eventually they were hunted to extinction, but still how do decide you want to train a bird to do that?). It was definitely the dark ages. Could you imagine having to choose between driving and looking at a map? SHOCKING!
One thing that has been interesting to think about is how communication differs between the United Kingdom and the United States. A lot of these evolutions in communication happened in the states, but it seems like there was a thing for fare in the Kingdom (Is that a thing? Is that short for the UK too or am I making that up?).
For example, both sides have had phone booths, but there’s were definitely more pleasing to look at. Even today people line up to take pictures in these eye catching pieces of equipment. Back home I don’t think I have ever actually seen a real phone booth. I’ve seen plenty of payphones, but most of them look scary.
Something I have also noticed is that in general, it is a lot easier to follow signs here in the Kingdom (I’m making it a thing). I know we have all seen a sign that pointed in a direction, but after a considerable amount of time you start to wonder if you’re going in the right direction. Back home you would probably end up either: giving up and going home, turning on the gps (because you have to be down right lost), walking right past it, or on the rare occasion actually reaching your destination. I have found here that around the time you getting that feeling you are headed the wrong way there is … ANOTHER SIGN! This sign helps to confirm your suspicious and helps keep you from walking around circles, like the tourist you are.
The communication overall here is much better than in the United States as a whole. Comparing it to the CATA service is like comparing night and day. For one, the CATA is never on time. You can text and email the bus all you want, but the bus is definitely going to be late (even Transit doesn’t know where the bus is sometimes). It is a lot better than Detroit, where the bus will just not come at all. Although living in the apartments that has happened to mean (two or three times actually). The CATA system told me multiple times that the bus should arrive and not one drove by. There was absolutely no notice that the bus wasn’t coming, but it decided to take the day off anyway.
The communication to the public about transportation is unmatched (from what I have seen) here in the UK. The bus stops all have digital boards that show what busses are coming, at what time, in what order, and they update automatically. The subway system has the same system, which makes getting around less stressful. You already have to figure out where to get off, why should you have to worry about that bus that was two minutes away not coming. It’s almost as if they want you to make it to your destination. Another magical thing they do here is inform users when their method of transportation is closed or delayed and provide them with alternative routes. I always thought this could have been one of the simplest things to communicate to users and it is actually being put to good use somewhere in the world.
There are quite a few things that American businesses in general can learn from the UK. For one, the customer wants to be communicated with. A lot of issues arise simply because no one said “hey your ____ is going to be a little late”.
I realized that in general these two countries communicate in very different ways. The biggest difference is the end goal in mind, who is being helped if I do this? I know at home that most people are self-oriented and selfish, so they are more reluctant to just openly start helping people (no they aren’t heartless, but it shows in the culture). Here people are a bit nicer and less self-oriented. They seem like the idea here is more of a “help one help all” type of ideal. The way people feel about others is shown in the way they treat people when it is not directly benefitting to them. At the same time this difference goes a little deeper, because in America it is seen as “bad” to make a mistake. In fact, you won’t go far if you are afraid to make a mistake, perfection never helped anyone, but it is actually hurting everyone. As a whole we need to accept that some things are just out of our control and instead of dwelling on what is wrong, learn from it.