How to Stay Human
A Draft Connies' Guide
1. The tram conductors’ charter
Left to progress, human interaction will be increasingly mediated by
machines. Devices like Walkmans, mobile phones and ticket machines cut
people offer from each other. While the big bucks of monuments and great
events bring crowds together, a city needs the small change of public
interaction in order to maintain its inner life. The small change of
weather talk and eye contact circulates in places where strangers spend
periods of time together, such as public transport, bank counters, elevators
and street corners.
Traditionally, tram conductors kindled our public spirit in their interactions
with passengers. While they have been replaced by ticket machines, conductors
still function as a lobby for being human. What follows is a draft guide
for city inhabitants in how to stay human when faced with faceless interactions.
This guide was developed in a workshop at RMIT Gallery during the Goodbye
Kind World exhibition. Other materials related to the guide are available
online at www.kitezh.com/gkw/human.
2. Basic principles
Be generous—always have something to give, even if it is nominal
Make eye contact—
Be public—respond to actions in public space such as mobile phone conversations
Resist—evade fares, don’t validate tickets; get cash from bank tellers
1.1. Always have something to give
Even if you have doubts about the legitimacy of their need, it is always
been to offer something. It can be a coin or even a piece of fruit
1.2. Be up front
Make eye contact.
2.1. Use the teller
Try to keep a passbook and use the services of a human teller. Make
this commitment known to the teller as a point of solidarity.
2.2. Start a conversation
While waiting in the queue, make an attempt to talk with others. It
is easy if you bring something that starts the conversation for you,
like a child.
3. Call waiting
3.1. Don’t use it yourself
The call waiting beep interrupts a conversation and breaks the intimacy
3.2. Acknowledge it in another
If you hear it on the other end, a very polite response is to say ‘Is
it mine?’, giving the person the opportunity to respond.
4.1. Humanise the interaction
The telemarketing inquiry is an opportunity to interact with a complete
stranger. Make a conversation out of the questions.
5. Mobile phones
5.1. Avoid use
Like call waiting, mobile phones can break up the flow of conversation
and prevent you being fully in the moment.
5.2. Treat calls as public events
Show that you can hear what the person is saying. Use someone else’s
call as the opportunity for conversation with other listeners.
6.1. It is not private
The Walkman makes a noisy, even through the earphones. Maintaining
silence together is a public contract. The Walkman
7.1. Avoid fares
Don’t reward the system for removing tram conductors. Use fare withdrawal
as a vote against the faceless system.
7.2. Don’t validate
The need to validate tickets is the consequence of the break-up of
one system into several competing transport companies. Don’t participate
in this economic irrationalism.
7.3. Pity the inspector
Remind the inspector that their job is contrary to the spirit of public
transport by showing pity when asked to provide a ticket.