[Self-Cleaning Bathrooms]

February 25th, 2011

A few weeks ago my friend was telling me all about the self-cleaning bathrooms in Japan, and after hearing this I decided to see if the US has any.  Interestingly enough, there are a few cities that have implemented them.  New York City had 20 of the devices planned (this was in 2008, I’m not sure if they went through with them or not).  A New York Times article presented a very thorough description of the bathrooms, which I will summarize for your enjoyment.  A green light on the outside of the $100,000 bathroom door signifies that the room is vacant.  The user then pays 25 cents to enter the room, and upon doing so, the door opens like an elevator.  The actual room has a rubber floor with sensors that detect whether or not someone is in the room.  A tissue dispenser covers the top of the toilet and there are numerous buttons to allow users to call the company if there is some sort of emergency, dispense toilet paper, and open the door.  At the sink, there is a dispenser that emits warm water with soap that is already mixed in.  Everything is touchless, operated by motion sensors.  The user is allowed to remain in the room for a maximum of 15 minutes, with a yellow warning light flashing 3 minutes before the door will automatically open.  Once the user exits the bathroom, a robotic arm sprays the toilet with disinfectant while jets also spray the sink and floor.  After this, a fan dries everything with hot air.  The cleaning process takes about 90 seconds, after which time the bathroom is ready for the next user.

In 2003, DC Metro riders agreed to test a self-cleaning bathroom costing $66,500 at the Huntington Station on the Yellow Line.  Managers tracked the number of people who used the bathroom, and after reviewing the numbers, a decision was made to forgo adding more bathrooms like it at other stations.  Seattle has also added 5 self-cleaning bathrooms located throughout the city.  In a poll conducted by Seattle PI Local, 36.7% said they would use the bathrooms and 20.5% said they absolutely would not.  I would definitely try one out if I ever came across one, although the idea of a self-cleaning bathroom does seem a bit frivolous.

DC Metro

[The Future of Technology]

February 11th, 2011

Hands are distinctly human – no other creature has features that closely resemble them. Used in this image they represent power, control, authority and care. They are meant to infer that the future of technology, and that of the world to some degree, is up to us. Humankind has the potential to make a huge impact on the planet. In fact we have in a sense been doing so since the beginning of our species. We are always trying to shape the earth as we see fit. We invent new machines which help us understand and master the natural world. New technologies have paved the way for much great human advancement. Cities have been built where trees, not skyscrapers, once pierced the skyline. The air is no longer the dominion of birds alone, flight has been given to humans through airplanes. New technologies do not, however, provide humans with the ethics needed to discern their appropriate use. This image strives to convey this idea through coded and non-coded iconic means.

At first glance this image appears fairly straightforward and lends itself to a simple analysis of its non-coded iconic imagery. It is a collage consisting of several individual elements that are easily distinguishable and recognizable. The most distinct features are a city landscape and a pair of hands. Upon closer inspection, an airplane flying through a cloud is visible, along with a couple of reflections in the water.

The only text in this picture is the faint ones and zeroes which partially constitute the “reflection” in the water of the cloud. The numbers here are used to represent the multitude of data that is collected on people. It does not offer a denotation of any particular literal meaning – the message is more representational and therefore more iconic than linguistic.

Further analysis of the coded iconic imagery present in the image yields several interesting conclusions. The various buildings bursting into the skyline and the plane soaring high above the earth bring to mind the fact that technology has provided humans with almost limitless possibilities. However, that same technology, when placed in the wrong hands, can yield unruly and critical consequences. Within the opposing reflection of the cityscape and plane lie these consequences.

The plane’s reflection depicts the plane flying through a “data cloud” as opposed to a meteorological cloud. This technological cloud is a representation of the data that is collected on a vast majority of our activities. Just as passengers on a plane sail through a wispy cloud without even really noticing it, people sail through their everyday lives without the faintest hint of worry about the massive amounts of data collected on them. This data is used by advertisers, the government, and businesses, and for the most part is relatively harmless. The problem is when people with a shadier motive come across this sensitive data. Credit card numbers are stolen, along with social security numbers and even whole identities.

The atomic bomb is something of great power and is a prime example of humankind’s achievement. Yet it also represents the darker side of human nature, the destructive side that yearns for power no matter the cost. The reflective nature of the water that contains this image and that of the plane hints at the idea that we humans should pause and reflect on our actions and inventions. Our ability to safeguard technology and use it ethically must keep up with the pace of technology as it continues to grow.