“full”

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The characters “客满” (plus the “Full”) on the front of this bus outside of Taibei, Taiwan indicates its inability to accept more passengers. Consider the implications behind this design, and what it affords: upon the bus’s approach to a stop, any queued passengers at the stop are informed of the bus’s status, and need not engage in the awkward attempt to board the bus and the refusal of boarding privileges by the driver (unless, of course, the requisite number of passengers disembark at the stop, in which case the order of queuing at the bus stop suddenly becomes particularly important).

What strikes me here is the friction that may arise around differing definitions of the word “full”. That a bus states its “fullness” begs the question: “according to who?” Between navigating the streets, reacting to traffic, and ensuring proper passenger behavior, the bus driver probably has enough to occupy his or her attention without needing to persistently monitor the bus’s level of occupancy as well. Questions of technological feasibility aside, this then begs the question of whether the idea of an at-capacity bus is determined by the bus itself, and in turn if and how the local context’s average passenger body mass influences such a judgment. If “at capacity” from an engineering perspective differs from “fully occupied” in terms of available seats, I could foresee a setting ripe for heated disagreement around what “full” means. Certainly Latour would have some interesting observations about objects and their agency to contribute to this discussion.

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