The Networked Urban Citizen

For this blog assignment we were asked to observe an “Everyday Urban Space” looking closely at how and in what ways people are connected to larger networks of digital mediated communication. I decided to do this assignment in my place of work, Tesco. 35,000 customers a week enter the store that I work in. I serve many different types of people. This difference can be anything from wealth, race, career, gender and age; we serve an incredibly wide range of people. As I sat at my till and served customers I decided to observe the people that walk past me and the customers being served by other members of staff.

Tesco can easily be compared to the “local Starbucks” that is talked about in Varnelis’ and Friedberg’s text. They talk about how customers in the coffee shop are “Drawn together by the lure of the generic (but branded) caffeinated beverage”. The people who visit Tesco are all also drawn to it by what they sell. The difference being though that the people who visit Tesco could being buying very different products; for example one could be a vegetarian and the other could be a meat lover. By offering these choices Tesco can still be seen as the “Watering Hole” but one that offers a wide range of products; therefore attracting a wider range of people. Meaning people who visit the store, could be seen to have a stronger desire not to reach out to those people around them. Instead reaching out to others through the networks they are connected too.

The first customer that caught my attention was a middle aged woman who seemed to be buying groceries for her family. She was at the checkout and on the phone to what sounded like her son or daughters school. She was talking about arranging a good time to go into the School for a meeting with her child but also discussing the problems she has in doing so. Something along the lines of dropping of her other child at a different school. It was interesting to see a woman discussing her children at the checkout with the school, as everyone could hear her conversation. It seemed that her mobile was the only reason that she was having this conversation at this awkward time, the school had obviously rang her off guard. This was strange as when I attended school the school would only ever ring my parents at home, I suppose that nowadays children’s parents can be contacted at anytime. The channels between parents and schools are now open for much longer periods of time than they were just a few years ago, showing how the ease of communication has developed.

I also observed the network that I was apart of. The checkouts are all connected by a service that contacts a team leader if you need anything from a product exchange to the security team. These buttons are all accessible from the checkout and contact team leaders on headsets, these headsets are also able to act as verbal communication systems that allow conversation. Allowing the team leaders to communicate; about more sophisticated problems. This network saves masses of time for many. It allows checkouts to operate quicker, team leaders can communicate from different points of the store and the self service tills can also benefit massively. This is an in house network that makes a massive difference to the everyday running of the stores front end.

Another person that caught my attention was a man who walked in the store from the delivery service company DHL. He wasn’t shopping he was working; he walked straight towards the customer service desk and delivered his parcel. He was connected to two networks. His PDA allowed him to contact DHL’s delivery system to confirm that he delivered the product. He had also become part of a Network within Tesco as he had completed a service that had been ordered by the store its self. The way in which he was part of two major organisations running was an interesting thought; he would obviously go on to join many different company networks in that same day.

The sheer volume of people that enter Tesco on a daily basis would be considerably higher if you counted the people that are also digitally connected to those entering the store. People being online in different digital networks is something that is growing and growing with people joining and creating new networks on a daily basis.

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