On this blog we talk a lot about “augmented reality,” or how the digital and the material are increasingly mutually constitutive. As an example of this concept, I bring you the following development: Britain’s ‘Safe Text’ Street.

Brick Lane is the first ever "Safe Text" street, complete with padded lampposts to prevent injuries.

Apparently “unprotected text” has become a serious problem in the UK, where there were a reported 68,000 injuries in 2007 (although other sources claim 6 million of such injuries have occurred, this seems highly unlikely).

According to the Daily Mail:

The blame was placed on the large amount of street furniture such as lamp posts and bins and a growing number of pedestrians attracted by the area’s curry houses and bars.

Officials are also playing with the idea of incorporating texting safe “mobile motorways” into pedestrian spaces. These “walk ‘n text” lanes will be color-coordinated and act like cycling lanes, providing a safe, clear path for pedestrians whose peripheral vision is compromised by their cell phones.

Nonetheless, this provides a compelling example of how “digital and material realities dialectically co-construct each other” (Jurgenson 2009). In this case, the widespread proliferation of texting and its seeming ubiquitousness in daily life now influences the way we construct our urban spaces. But of course, this is nothing new.

For example, David Banks has written on his work in Kumasi, Ghana, where they are developing a mobile phone based condom location service in an effort to combat HIV/AIDS. With the widespread adoption of cell phones (last reported at 67% of the population, but no doubt over 80% by now), this technology has been incorporated into their efforts, utilizing text messaging as a vehicle for assisting individuals who may not have ready access to condoms.

Both cases reveal how urban spaces are incorporating new technologies asĀ  a means to improve the lives and welfare of those who live and work there. And we can expect to see this trend continue as the digital and material become increasingly intertwined in our daily lives, prompting urban planners to follow suit.