Lately, one of the most lucrative and modern enterprises is app design. As you designers know, apps require enormous amounts of creativity and originality in order to stay relevant. One thing that apps offer is a remediated platform to perform tasks in more efficient ways. Essentially, smart phones have integrated all of the devices, tools, and programs that users relied upon in the past and brought them together into a single, friendly interface through the use of apps. Consumers no longer need to carry analogue calendars, calculators, cameras, and other devices on their person to achieve whatever they required the device for. Now, our technology has enabled us to have phones, calendars, calculators, cameras, GPS, email, and thousands of other applications on one singular platform.
Due to the availability of a wide range of applications, we have come to rely on our smart phones in a number of ways. I would like to share with you one experience where my Samsung Galaxy S3 with 4G capability saved my butt.
In July of 2013, I was involved in a car accident on Lakewood Blvd, 23 miles from my dorm. It was a three-lane road that was prone to accidents and collisions due to its ridiculously high speed limit and the behavior of California’s drivers. As I was driving, a white pickup truck merged aggressively from a side street into my lane. To avoid a collision, I had to quickly swerve to the innermost lane. However, in my confusion, I neglected to notice the yellow light that had appeared before me. I turned and realized, too late, that I was going too fast. I slammed my foot into my break pedal as hard as I could, but that couldn’t stop me from colliding with the red Kia before me at 40mph.
As the hood of my car crunched up like an accordion, steam began to spew from beneath it. This was the beginning of an entire year and a half of driving without air conditioning. As the Kia and I pulled to the side of the road, onlookers remarked and laughed at our situation. I hopped out, stomach in throat, and checked if everyone was okay. The folks in the Kia were immigrants from India who didn’t speak a word of English. Eventually, after long, staggered discussion, we decided to exchange insurance information. In my fluster, I called 911, which I later realized was unnecessary.
Unfortunately for me, the Kia was a rental car, and I knew then that I could expect lots of angry phone calls from Enterprise. As we finished up our dealings and had sufficient information, I pulled my smoking, scrappy, oblong car into an alley and banged my head against my wheel in confusion and agitation. I had no idea if I was going to be able to get my car home, and I certainly couldn’t afford a tow. My first saving grace was remembering that I had a Samsung smartphone with 4G and a charger running through my car. The first thing I did was to call my Grandma. She originally owned the car. She redirected me to our insurance provider, Safeco, who declared that, since I wasn’t within a 15-mile radius of my dorm, my insurance wouldn’t cover a tow truck. Figures.
Assessing the situation, it seemed like I was in deep water. I was in an unfamiliar city with a smoking, broken car that could barely move faster than 25mph, and a smartphone. After some deliberation, and several soothing folk songs courtesy of Spotify, I opened up Chrome and Googled “reasons police would pull you over”. A list popped up immediately, linking me to a comments section that told me that police would pull you aside if the state of your vehicle wasn’t deemed roadworthy. Judging by the steam emitting from the enormous dent in my hood and crack in my windshield, I guessed that a pullover would probably happen. That’s where Waze comes in.
Waze, for those of you who don’t know, is a programmable map and GPS software available on Android and iPhone OS. Many of its functions resemble Google Maps, my go-to app for directions and guidance. However, what distinguishes Waze from other, similar apps is its emphasis on community participation. Essentially, users can upload information to the Waze system to keep other drivers up-to-date on road conditions. This includes weather, collisions, cheap gas, traffic, and, much to my benefit, the location of police cars and speed traps. As I opened up Waze, I plotted a course home. I felt like Geordi LaForge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Waze offers parameters for your route, so I specified that I needed to take side roads and avoid highways and tolls. My estimated duration was 2 hours and 45 minutes. This would definitely be an interesting day.
I would like to draw attention to the theory of remediation, as it significantly pertains to this story. The primary scholar associated with this theory is Jay Bolter. He discusses the phenomena of remediation and draws parallels between the technological advancements we’ve witnessed in recent years. An example of a remediated technology would be mail. For hundreds of years, humans have hand-delivered written letters as a system of mailing. However, developments in digital technology have remediated mail to email, a far more sophisticated and efficient system. Remediation accompanies shifts in efficiency. However, as Bolter claims, “remediation is not limited to technologies of writing.” In my car crash story, the app Waze represents a remediated version of analogue maps, payphones, and AM radio all combined into one. A single app has combined each of these rather outdated mediums and created an entirely new, efficient system. Apps often represent a combination of technologies and remediated devices. Another example of this could be iCal, the Apple calendar software that also links up with your Facebook events and acts as a day planner.
Before I embarked on my journey, I needed to assess the damage to my engine. As I lifted the hood of my car, an angry cloud of vapor mixed with oil greeted me. Propping it open, I image-searched what a functioning 1999 Subaru Outback engine should look like. I found a great picture with annotations and labels with descriptions, and assessed that my condenser, drive shaft, air conditioning, and headlights were the most damaged. I needed to drive slowly without suddenly accelerating, braking, or turning quickly, and I needed to get home before dark.
Thus, I departed. As I flicked on my emergency lights, turned on some Mumford and Sons, and groaned down side streets, I kept an eye on my Waze route. Every so often, cars would get stuck behind me, so I would pull over to look like I was arriving at my home in order to let them pass. I must’ve looked quite sketchy. About halfway home, I realized that there was a large group of police cruisers nearby responding to an incident. Another Waze user had updated the app to reveal this. Rerouting my course, I skirted around the officers and continued home. By 7pm, just as the sun was setting, I pulled up to my dorm and sighed the largest sigh of relief in my life. Only then did I realize that I was almost nearly out of gas.
I chose this narrative because it highlights an incident where I had an exigency to employ hypertext browsing, interactive online communities, global positioning applications, and image searches. I found myself trapped in a challenging, dire situation, and, using the only means available to me, found an efficient and safe way to get home without getting pulled over or going broke after paying for a tow truck. In hindsight, I probably would’ve had a lot more trouble if it weren’t for my readily available access to the Internet and new media.