Robot announcer says "very sorry" for delay caused by them bumping my journey for a STEAM TRAIN. Missed connection. So cold, furious.
— Ste Curran (@steishere) December 12, 2012
Ste complains that a steam train has caused delays to his commute. I find it amazing and bizarre that the station or the rail company have seen fit to pre-record a message, saying that delays are caused by a steam train. Is that a regular an occurrence?
One thing I have always thought particularly sad is that the rail companies have a pre-record for “due to a fatality on the line.” It is clearly a frequent enough occurrence to be a necessary annoucement to have in the library, which is sad in itself. And yet it also offends that something so serious and sombre should be delegated to the robotic system. Perhaps I am being an old fashioned ‘digital immigrant‘, but it feels like the sort of thing that should be announced live. I suppose it is a harsh thing to ask the station managers to do.
My worry stems from the fact that there is a cadence and a timbre to a real voice that a pre-record does not have. When we cede these tasks to a machine, we lose a whole set of human interactions. We only notice this when the subject matter is something so exceptional as a death.
Is this just modernity? Am I being overly sentimental about routine and repetitive information? It is not as if most of these announcements are declarations of love or philosophical debates.
(See also: my piece ‘Encountering the Submerged‘ from almost exactly seven years ago, on the aftermath of a railway suicide I saw in Glasgow; and ‘The Best People Aren’t People‘ about non-human tweeters with personality).