Week 3 PCOMP: Observing Interactive Tech

For my interactive technology observation, I chose the pedestrian walk lights. I thought NYC would be an interesting place to examine this technology, which is pretty universal across North America, because despite everyone pretty much fundamentally understanding how it’s supposed to work, everyone jaywalks here.


  • People will jaywalk less on the avenues (because they’re wider and busier)

  • People will jaywalk less at night (this turned out to be true). 

  • I assumed there would be pushbuttons at the intersections for pedestrians, because there are in Canada—there weren’t.

Context: used in the city at road intersections to avoid motor accidents/ pedestrian fatalities


  • Everyone seemed to have implicit knowledge of how the lights worked—even when they disregarded it. Even the jaywalkers looked at the light.

  • People always walk when it’s a white light and they have the right of way even when there’s a biker or a car turning—they assume those people are also going to obey the light (they don’t always— ESPECIALLY the bikers.)

  • The countdown causes people to run across the street/increase their speed, but the flashing light didn’t. 

  • Even when waiting for the light to change, people often stepped off the sidewalk onto the street 

  • People who were waiting for the light to go from red to white often jaywalked IF they saw another person jaywalking.

I’m not sure if this truly counts as an interactive technology because I was expecting there to be buttons (input) and there were not, so it was much more of a one sided interaction—the light displayed a message and people listened (or they didn’t) by waiting or walking. I think the interaction could be improved by adding pushbuttons, because it would give pedestrians a locus of control, and might lead to less jaywalking.

Caroline NeelComment