Connected Lives

Material Lives
Narration Everyday objects often taken for granted shape our behaviour and the kind of society we live in. In this film we??™ll explore the roll that objects play in our lives and how the material and human worlds interconnect on City Road. Two Open University lecturers Elizabeth Silva and Simon Bromley have come to Cardiff to see for themselves how the material world here impacts on people??™s lives. More history papers. Street furniture is something many of us scarcely notice but it affects all of us. Dr Elizabeth Silva It??™s interesting that the bins are all painted blue, is that the same over all or just in this region Rodney Berman That??™s just in City Road because there was a major exercise to improve the street environment in City Road, which took place in 2001, and the idea was to have a specific colour scheme that all the street furniture would then be er produced in. And in terms of er choosing the colours there were some consultation with local residents but we also thought about how it might affect people who are partially sighted and that??™s why, for instance, we have the white stripe on the bollards, which makes them stand out more for people who have poor vision. So they can see the bollards and don??™t walk into them.

Dr Elizabeth Silva Why do you have so many and why are they at this height, which is quite high Rodney Berman Essentially it??™s to stop er motorists from driving their cars onto the pavement and parking onto the pavement. That makes it difficult for pedestrians, it makes it very difficult for people in wheelchairs or mothers with pushchairs. So we have to look at where that??™s been a problem and we??™ve put in the bollards er to stop it in those areas. Dr Elizabeth Silva And you have in the centre of the street, you have that island with the two concrete posts??¦. Rodney Berman Yeah Dr Elizabeth Silva ??¦??¦there. What is the purpose of that Rodney Berman The purpose of that is to make it easier for people to cross the road. Er we have crossing points at various places, some are proper controlled crossings,1 where you have traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, but we can??™t have that everywhere because it would slow the traffic up too much. But people do want to cross the road at other points as well so we??™ve put these traffic islands in

Er we have crossing points at various places, some are proper controlled crossings,1 where you have traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, but we can??™t have that everywhere because it would slow the traffic up too much. But people do want to cross the road at other points as well so we??™ve put these traffic islands in er to make it easier for them to do so. Dr Elizabeth Silva We have different colour of tarmac here Rodney Berman Yeah, yeah Dr Elizabeth Silva Um immediately I can see the red, the yellow lines, the white lines, the red tarmac together with the black tarmac. Rodney Berman Yeah. Here in Cardiff we tend to use red to mark an area that cars aren??™t supposed to drive onto. And of course er that, as we can see up there, it??™s about helping keeping the cars away from the traffic island so that the pedestrians who are waiting at the traffic island to complete their crossing are kept safe away from the cars. Dr Elizabeth Silva So we are talking about a very complex communication system here Rodney Berman Absolutely. Dr Elizabeth Silva Lots of signs all indicating in their own language what is allowed to be done, when, by whom and etc. Dr Simon Bromley Almost all the traffic is going straight down the street, very little is turning off to the left or turning off to the right, very little is er arriving on the street. The street is being used as a conduit, it??™s a route through which people are travelling and that??™s of course a key feature about our contemporary lives.

But the traffic is overwhelmingly that of cars, there are buses going up and down this street, many of them more than half empty. Our mode of transport in contemporary UK society is very individualised. It??™s often a single person travelling to work, perhaps a couple of people travelling into the city together. Narration City Road began life more than 200 years ago. Then it was just a country lane and the means of transport were very different. Malcolm Ranson In the beginning there was horse drawn transport er then tram transport of varying kinds, originally drawn by horses then electrified. Dr Simon Bromley So the trams needed tracks on the road 2 Malcolm Ranson Yes. Dr Simon Bromley And then when it was electrified it needed cables ??¦??¦.. Malcolm Ranson Above.

Dr Simon Bromley ??¦??¦.above. So that gives the transport a kind of certain organisation doesn??™t it Malcolm Ranson It does, it does. It can only proceed down these routes. Dr Simon Bromley And the control of the traffic, how was it controlled in the past Malcolm Ranson Well I suppose at first there was no control at all and people, it was a case of who came first you got in. I mean there??™s wonderful pictures of London with the horse traffic in them where people are going absolutely everywhere at once. But gradually the police took control, there would have been a policeman on point duty. Up at the top end of this street with Albany Road. And um traffic lights then appeared after that.

Dr Simon Bromley We now have physical material objects that control us in the way that in the past people used to control us. Malcolm Ranson That??™s right. Narration Materials goods are all around us. We spend much of our time buying, using, throwing away, recycling and City Road is a street with a rich variety of shops. Male Interviewer What sort of things do you buy here Female Reply Food and clothes and you can buy stuff like there??™s a Tesco??™s down there. Male Interviewer Can you tell me about the kinds of things you??™ve been shopping for Female Reply I??™m shopping to make a chocolate orange cake actually er but I couldn??™t find what I wanted up there so Im going to Tesco??™s, which is really bad, I prefer to3 shop local, at local businesses but um I wasnt actually happy about the Tesco??™s opening on this street, but I shop there all the time.

Male Interviewer What sort of things do you buy on City Road Male Reply Beer. Beer. Male Interviewer Anything else Male Reply Food, you know, vegetables, er fruit Female Reply I use it to get the Indian takeaway and I use it to go and get my paper every day from the shop there. Narration Many shops in City Road sell goods aimed at the diverse local population and the shops themselves help to create a sense of community. Janet Symmons The hair product if we need it we have to go to London, er Birmingham??¦.. Male Interviewer Yeah Female ??¦??¦.or Manchester to buy it in the beginning. So this is my way of giving something to the er, to the new Africans in our community. Male Interviewer But a fair percentage of your customers are originally from Africa Janet Symmons Yeah, especially on the food side.

Male Interviewer Ahh Janet Symmons They are all er Africans except for a few South, white South Africans that will come in and buy these Iwisas and these sort of biscuits. And here the Milo I have three different ones from different countries because everyone likes to see their country??™s name. MALE INTERVIEWER Absolutely4 Janet Symmons This is from Ghana, that??™s from Kenya and that??™s from Nigeria. Narration The shops in City Road are always changing. This used to be a street dominated by car showrooms, but few car related business have survived. This repair shop is an exception. Denis Robinson Every other unit was er a car show, this hairdressers was a car showroom, um spares, er cars, all different things but all to do with the motor trade. Narration Recycling is an important part of this business. Denis specialises in Robin Reliants but because they are no longer being manufactured he has to reuse old parts. Denis Robinson Well this one for instance um someone has broken into the car and broken the door. The door is no longer available, they??™re obsolete now erm they??™ve stopped production. But what we have in the lane we??™ve got a donor car that we??™ll use the door and we??™ll recycle the door, we??™ll paint it same colour and it??™ll be fine. Dr Simon Bromley So what kind of customers do you have these days, how are they, how do they come to you, how do they find you do you think Denis Robinson Well some of the customers er we??™ve had for, since we started in business really. Um, you know, we??™ve picked up customers and their um, their dads have come first and if the wife drives she??™s come along for servicing and different things, their sons, their daughters, you know, we??™ve built up a reputation for that and um they??™ve stayed with us. We??™ve got customers from day one to the present time.

Dr Simon Bromley Im struck by the fact that this business, although it??™s a commercial business, relies very much still on local and personal connections. That although it??™s a business in a market economy, supposedly anonymous exchange, in fact small workshops like this survive and thrive very much on a network of personal and local connections of reputation. So that the ways in which materials lives are bound up with social lives has continuities as well as very dramatic changes. Narration As businesses come and go the constant change can create problems when a site is left empty. This old petrol station is an eyesore for local residents and they??™ve complained.5 Rodney Berman The Council can??™t directly do anything about it because it is in the hands of a private owner and all the Council really can do is try to persuade that owner er to do something with the site and that can be a problem if the private owner feels that they would rather leave the site empty for a few years until the market has got a bit better and then might want to develop it then. Dr Elizabeth Silva So in a way you have in there a chain of things put together like the ownership of the site??¦.

Rodney Berman Yeah Dr Elizabeth Silva ??¦.the regulation by the Council, the desires of the local residents??¦.. Rodney Berman Yeah Dr Elizabeth Silva ??¦..and they are all in a way in tension, in some conflict, about the use??¦??¦. Rodney Berman Yeah Dr Elizabeth Silva ??¦??¦of this physical space. Narration One building which dominates City Road, and has been successfully transformed, is this former office block, now home to Cardiff Tertiary College, which moved here to attract a more diverse range of students. Nigel Hallett We took the building over in 1994 and it was an old Post Office building. Er what we did was concentrate on changing the eye level of the building. So we completely changed the ground floor and first floor of the building. Er we got architects in to redesign it so that you, you??™re eye didn??™t look up to the building, it stayed at the first floor level. Dr Elizabeth Silva And did you get new cohorts of students, new kinds of students Nigel Hallett We increased recruitment from the north of Cardiff um, which er was something we were seeking to do. The north of Cardiff, generally speaking, is the more affluent part of Cardiff and we were looking to increase student numbers from there um as well as increasing them from the south part of the city er because we have a very strong widening participation brief.6 Dr Elizabeth Silva The college occupies a very prominent role within the population use of City Road??¦??¦.. Nigel Hallett Yes Dr Elizabeth Silva ??¦??¦..itself, in terms of parking, movements of bodies, crossing the street and so on. Nigel Hallett Well it??™s it??™s an advantage to have it where it is in one sense. I mean it??™s a disadvantage in the sense that you, as you can see City Road is a very busy road, it??™s a key arterial road in Cardiff; and that presents some problems. I mean you??™ve got students coming out of here, there??™s a lack of space somewhat. We haven??™t had a student knocked over yet I can safely say that. Narration Many students who attend the Tertiary College live in and around City Road.

Elizabeth is keen to talk to some of them, about objects which have been significant in their lives, both today and in the past. Dr Elizabeth Silva Think of three objects that were important in our lives when we were ten years old Books were very important to me. Abdul Waheed When I was ten years old I used to play a lot of cricket and the ball and the cricket bat used to be very important in my life. My brother bring me a small puppy dog, I used to walk with him miles and miles outside the village, I live in a small village. And when I used to take the dog down there for a walk I used to take the small story books with me as well. Dr Elizabeth Silva It??™s really interesting how they relate to, for the young men, to a very early age, all of them put balls as being important because they did lots of sports and the balls were important to them. Interestingly for me it was a high heeled shoe of my mother??™s which I used to play with. Narration Today the students have different favourite objects. Abdul works part time as a taxi driver. Abdul Waheed Now the more important thing in my life, as an object, is my car. Because I use it to make my living and er use to travel to meet friends and families or if I pick up my daughter or drop off my daughter. My mobile phone because it??™s very important for me because I can keep in touch with my family, friends.7 Narration Our material lives are often hidden from view. We??™re sometimes unaware of how the objects we live with shape our lives. Dr Elizabeth Silva If you think of your house, here we are in Mat??™s house.

But, you know, let us bring our own houses into here in our imagination so we can talk a bit about it. Male Yes Dr Elizabeth Silva If you could do a drawing of a room in your house, which is your favourite room or your most significant room. Male I must write the name Dr Elizabeth Silva You don??™t need to use one colour. Huh Male I must write the name of the??¦. Dr Elizabeth Silva It??™s nice to write the name. Abdul Waheed This is my cabinet where I put the DVD??™s and films, it??™s television, DVD player and a music system and that??™s my refrigerator and freezer back here. And the reason I choose this room because most of my time when Im in my house I spend my time in this room. I study here, I eat the food in this room and I watch the telly. Dr Elizabeth Silva Ok. Could Mat tell us about his room Which room is it Matias Sentis Alvarez This is my bedroom in Spain, In my house of Spain Dr Elizabeth Silva Oh I see not here. Matias Sentis Alvarez Not here no. Dr Elizabeth Silva Ok. Tell us about it8 Matias Sentis Alvarez Here is the door. I have a mirror in front of the bed two little tables, there??™s like lamps. The bed, I have a window and I can see a beautiful landscape there and I have a little furniture here with a desk with a chair and drawers. Dr Elizabeth Silva I found it very interesting if we take yours ok and look at Mat, you know, he goes into the bedroom and he does say he wants rest, isolation and that is extremely important, looking at the landscape from the window. Abdul Waheed Yeah definately. Dr Elizabeth Silva Ok you choose for when you are describing your room there??™s a world of people, activities, lots of things, you are very busy there. Abdul Waheed Yes Dr Elizabeth Silva It??™s an interesting contrast between those two. Matias Sentis Alvarez Yes Male Yeah Dr Elizabeth Silva You think of the object that he has a fridge there. Abdul Waheed Yeah fridge and freezer Dr Elizabeth Silva As well as a DVD, television, you know, he works there, a sofa, you know, he has objects that take him into many different activities??¦??¦ Male Exactly. Dr Elizabeth Silva ??¦??¦in a way that Mat??™s would possibly enable him to do. He has a bed there, you know. Abdul Waheed Yeah he??™s gonna go to sleep. Dr Elizabeth Silva He doesn??™t even have a wardrobe??¦??¦9 Abdul Waheed Exactly. Dr Elizabeth Silva ??¦??¦.which is unusual for a bedroom. Barham Rashidi It??™s a little bit small but it??™s actually perfect for me. Narration These students can??™t afford many personal objects so what they do have is significant. Dr Elizabeth Silva And it??™s they are together what does??¦. Barham Rashidi Yeah ??¦.. it mean to put them together Barham Rashidi Well the thing is now Im living in Britain, this one is Britain picture and Im from Kurdistan yeah this, me, this, two parts of my life yeah. First one Kurdistan, second one British. Narration Everyday objects play an important role in our lives. They shape our behaviour and the kind of society we live in. Dr Elizabeth Silva And if we take all of those personal with statements we have a lot of social patterns about how the material is embedded in the ways in which we do things and how things are meaningful to us as people and we begin to trace the social life and the life of objects in interaction.10