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Computers Versus Commuters

Part 1 Dissertation 2001
Naomi Fisher
Birmingham City University | UK

Hours spent in snaking traffic jams is an experience all too familiar for motorists on Britain's roads. Dispersion of activity in urban hinterlands has compelled suburbanites to be ever more dependant on cars to function satisfactorily. The conventional benefit of the convenience of city life is rendered irrelevant as travelling times increase to reach work, shops or eateries, through relatively short distances.

In parallel, for many, the occupation of a specific physical space to undertake one's work is no longer necessary: a benefit afforded to sedentary workers, in particular, with the personal computer and telecommunications. Home-working is on the increase, and even for some of the most practical occupations, the assistance of a computer is necessary for recording and storing information. However, this is an invisible activity on land-use maps, yet potentially a phenomenon that may play a critical role in the planning of our urban environments. As an expansion on home working, this study considers what the benefits of remote working are, particularly with regards to addressing the pressure on our communications infrastructure and the devastating social effects the dominance of the car has yielded

The third motivation for the study is sustainable development - a subject much spoken of but as yet rarely manifested in our urban environments. How could the promotion of alternative lifestyles, dependant on the duality of global telecommunications and short pedestrian physical movements aid the most efficient use of resources?

As a departure from current government traffic reduction measures, this study investigates alternative lifestyles that depend less on physical transport, and more on the transmission of information through technology. It is argued that the new tools for communication vitally must be accessible to all, in contrast to the car which has isolated poorer communities by dislocating the provision of services to areas difficult to access by foot or public transport. Additionally, a cautious glimpse at business centres within apartment buildings demonstrates how technology may reinforce social boundaries if primarily in the domain of the private sector.

The remote worker's heightened dependence on his or her immediate environment for social interaction is considered, and a model for localised work hubs is promoted, combining shared work resources with local services.

Naomi Fisher

This is a written piece of great quality and maturity. It earned the nomination from the Birmingham School of Architecture for its approach, focus and relevance of subject.
The dissertation tackles an issue which is both broad in its scope and local in its effects, and is particularly applicable to the city of Birmingham and its changing city-centre demography.
The dissertation is well structured, logical and written with an informed yet approachable use of language.

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