Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Door Close"

This makes me unreasonably upset:
In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works. (It does work if, say, a fireman needs to take control. But you need a key, and a fire, to do that.) Once you know this, it can be illuminating to watch people compulsively press the door-close button. That the door eventually closes reinforces their belief in the button’s power. It’s a little like prayer.

The article is a surprisingly interesting essay on elevators. I particularly liked the bit about "smart elevators", in which you input your floor at a central control panel, and it tells you which elevator to take. Consequently, the elevators themselves have no control panel, which apparently makes people feel like they've been kidnapped by a Bond villain.

2 comments:

Stentor said...

I've heard the same thing is true for those "press for walk signal" buttons at corners in many cities.

Anonymous said...

"The consensual form of politics in our time is a bi-polar system that offers the appearance of a choice where essentially there is none, since today poles converge on a single economic stance - the 'tight fiscal policy' that Clinton and Blair declare to be the key tenet of the modern Left, that sustains economic growth, that allows us to improve social security, education and health. In this uniform spectrum, political differences are more and more reduced to merely cultural attitudes: multicultural/sexual (etc.) 'openness' versus traditional/natural (etc.) 'family values'. This choice - between Social Democrat or Christian Democrat in Germany, Democrat or Republican in the States - recalls nothing so much as the predicament of someone who wants an artificial sweetener in an American cafeteria, where the omnipresent alternatives are Nutra-Sweet Equal and High & Low, small bags of red and blue, and most consumers have a habitual preference (avoid the red ones, they contain cancerous substances, or vice versa) whose ridiculous persistence merely highlights the meaninglessness of the options themselves.

Does the same not go for late-night talk shows, where 'freedom of channels' comes down to a choice between Jay Leno and David Letterman? Or for the soda drinks: Coke or Pepsi? It is a well-known fact that the Close the Door button in most elevators is a totally inoperative placebo, placed there just to give people the impression they are somehow contributing to the speed of the elevator journey - whereas in fact, when we push this button, the door closes in exactly the same time as when we simply pressed the floor button. This extreme case of fake participation is an appropriate metaphor for the role accorded citizens in our 'postmodern' political process."

--- Slavoj Zizek