09 May 2011

Coping Mechanisms

I have several things I am working on, but I wanted to leave a short post on coping mechanisms. In short coping mechanisms are the things we do to adapt ourselves to a system functioning perfectly in a way that produces results and consequences we find problematic. "Cope" originally means 'to come to blows' as in coup d'etat. Amusingly there is an obsolete meaning having to do with 'traffic'. I ran across an example of a coping mechanism on the front page of the NYT yesterday.
"It is the urban driver's most agonizing everyday experience: the search for an empty parking place." Matt Richtel, NYT, 8 May 2011

The article went on to describe a phone app that will help solve this apparently agonizing experience. The only 'catch' mentioned in the article was that drivers might pay too much attention to their phones. It is a $20 million project in San Francisco.

This is what is meant by a coping mechanism. I won't go into a lot about that since I feel it is pretty obvious as an example. The one thing I did want to point out is our relationship to it. It is on the front page of the Times. It is considered a 'breakthrough' that we should celebrate, even as it strengthens and reinforces the dynamic it is trying to address (e.g. it encourages people to drive, it reinforces a mental model and way of life about that as a given, etc.). It takes the system producing the 'problem' as a given at the structural level and then adapts to that. It is lauded because much urban congestion, and therefore also emissions are produced by people driving around looking for parking spots. Presumably it lessens that and is therefore considered an efficiency. This makes it an interesting study in efficiency as a coping mechanism. It is both a 'free market' and a technological fix ("fix" as a noun also meaning a position from which it is difficult to move oneself or a dose of narcotics).  This simple, easy to see, example illustrates in part the difficulty with an ideology that minimizes the degree of transition and change currently needed on the basis of 'free market' or technological 'breakthroughs.'

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