Friday, August 24, 2012

Power to the people

For the third time in just over a year, I've felt compelled to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. It's a good outlet for venting, for publicity, and for offering a counter-argument to articles/other letter writers. So far I've written letters about waiting for insurance decisions and the Save TVNZ7 campaign. Now I can add "disputing other academics' research" to the list (if they print the letter, I'll scan & post it). Oh dear, I'm turning into that archetypal over-educated suburban noisemaker who likes seeing their name in print.

It's not that I think the research in question is wrong, it's just narrowly-focused. It's not what's in the research, it's what isn't. I shifted from Media/Communications across to Cultural Studies because I felt I needed to understand and look at not just media, but the wider social environment in which it operates. The research in question (from a Marketing lecturer) looked at the use of social media during and after the Chch/Canterbury quakes, and found that social media platforms served as virtual community spaces where people could meet and share information.

Which is all well and good - if you have access to this electronic world. My own research in this area also found some positive uses for social media and the internet but, overwhelmingly, respondents reported difficulties in accessing any kind of electronic media - mainly due to lack of power. It's hard enough to watch television (let alone surf the 'net) when you have no electricity, and some respondents to my survey were without power at home for over 8 weeks.

There are people all over the world who assume that because they have access to technology, then everyone does. There is a growing myth that social media is the answer to all our communication issues, and much research is being done on its use during emergencies and disasters. But what happens when nothing works the way we're used to, when the black box of technology has been broken open? And what if you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment, navigating completely new territory?

As it was during the immediate aftermath of the February earthquake, so it is now during the construction of our new home. We are very much in unfamiliar territory, finding our way through the process and relying on those who 'know what they're doing'.

Sure, we expected a few hiccups along the way. We're not so naive to think that a project such as building a house, with multiple planning & consent stages and a variety of subcontractors, would proceed perfectly according to plan. A few small issues here and there - we could deal with that. What we weren't anticipating was the compounding effect of a multitude of small errors when added to a couple of crucial lapses and a few installation gaffes, especially as many of these issues have only become apparent in the last week or two. We've gone from being certain of our move-in date to wondering if we'll be out of this rental house before the next tenant moves in.

I had a very frustrating phone call with the sales manager of the building company recently. I don't believe in talking behind people's backs, so thought it was only fair that he knew there was an unhappy customer on the loose. I sent him the link, so he phoned me Monday morning asking what I wanted. I said that I wanted things sorted out, and told him I felt their systems had been letting us down, especially in regards to the power & the bathroom. Now, I don't know if he just doesn't like Mondays (along with everyone else) but he certainly left his soothing voice at home that day. I was left with the distinct impression that he thought I was being a bit of a whinging cow; that I should expect a few things to go wrong and I should just let them get on with it.

A few things. Oh please... if only it were just a few things. There simply weren't enough checks in their system to make sure that everything had actually been done at the appropriate time - and believe me, we've found all the holes possible. At the time of that phone call, we weren't yet aware of the full extent of the internet issue*, or that would have been on the list too.  (*another day, another post...)

One little piece of paper that wasn't filled out in March has been the cause of much delay and unnecessary stress. We have now spent the last 3 weeks frantically trying to sort out the power connection - something that should've been instigated & dealt with months ago. I've been told that this, along with a few other issues we've encountered, have led to some changes in systems and procedures within the building company. Hoo-fecking-ray. If anyone else that follows can be spared some of these problems as a result of all this, that can only be a good thing. I am also pleased to report that, as of today, we finally have power to the house. The Code of Compliance visit has been re-booked for Monday afternoon, and it's now a frantic race to the finish line... just like The Block, only without the camera crews and magical budgets.

There are still a few issues but we're working on it - some of the tradies are even working tomorrow (Saturday) to get a few things finished. All going well, we should have the key on Wednesday - fingers crossed! At least the sun has been shining and the bog at the building site is starting to dry out a little. Maybe one day soon we'll be able to walk up the driveway without needing gumboots :)

The countdown has resumed: 5 days to go!

1 comment:

  1. Well I really hope they got their act together and you got the keys!!!! Maybe even moved in by now???