Tuesday, September 21, 2010

love pneumatic tubes

Whilst I haven't posted for a month on pneumaticpost, I have certainly been thinking about pneumatic tubes, reading about them, and posting of a different sort - postcards. From Japan.

Japan. Home of raw fish, tatami mats, pachinko and parasols. Home of love hotels, where rooms are bought at the touch of a button and bills settled via pneumatic tubes (all in the interest of discretion of course)!

I was in Japan for a holiday and to attend the Society for Social Studies of Science's annual meeting. The conference was held at the University of Tokyo, tucked away off tiny streets near Shibuya and the wonderful Japan Folk Crafts Museum. Sessions were held in classrooms with wooden desks and blackboards, whilst crickets chittered in the humid air. I gave a paper about adjustment (here are my slides) and heard some fantastic talks about anatomical museums, biobanks, telemonitoring, online patient feedback systems and genetics. It was a small and friendly conference, and the attendees bonded by hanging out around the pond, guessing noodle dishes or waiting for drinks from the vending machine, paper fans flapping. I hope I'll keep in contact with many of the great people I met there.

On the last night of the conference my husband flew in from Melbourne and we continued to explore Tokyo together. The technology around us was often mesmerising. We watched all our fellow subway passengers silently connect to their mobile phones, passed shops with displays of the latest gadgets, saw an exhibition where our biometric data was recorded and we interacted digitally with our fellow gallery goers. And yet, amidst this new technology, alongside the retinal scanning and artificial intelligence, we saw signs of older technologies too. We hopped on a little tram, from one part of Tokyo to another - the last tram in the city - and caught a train with brass fittings and bankers' lights in the dining cart. One night a vintage car hurtled past, with two young hipsters snug and smug inside. There was a certain nostalgia for the technological past, that nestled within a thirst for the new. It is something I often think about in relation to pneumatic tubes, and the nostalgic associations that many people have with them. Something to further consider, and more posts from my time in Japan to come ...

Photos of nostalgic transportation are my own.

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