Hooves for Drivers


The National Historical Independence Park located at 6th street and 5th street between Market and Chestnut streets. For this project, my study was done right outside the Liberty Bell Pavilion, which this is my work setting; it is the area where my horse drawn carriage company does business. This location is known as the carriage stand. This location is also called Independence Mall, right across the street from the Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


I completed my field study of how horse carriage drivers use their smart phones while waiting for customers. First, presently working as a horse carriage driver for one of the two tour companies, here in Philadelphia. The date of the study was Saturday, March 8, 2014. Second, there are 20 carriages, 20 horses and 20 drivers. These two companies employ drivers as sub-contractors, and will refer to these companies as Tour 1 and Tour 2. All of the drivers from both companies have and own smart phones. Third, the senior management of these companies trains their drivers to use the mobile phones for business use and frown upon using the phones for non-business reasons.


This particular day the weather was pleasant. After a long winter, with record-breaking snowfall, the temperature was 58 degrees at 2pm. This study was conducted between 2pm and 4pm. All the drivers used their phones during the time of these observations. This field report is using fictitious names to identify the horse carriage drivers as per the class instructions.

Drivers from Tour 1:

Jess, Frank, Sherry, Luther, Ben, Shara, Troy, Devon, Abbey and Justin.

Drivers from Tour 2:

Jim, Wayne, Chip, Charlie, Chief, Doc, Rex, Spot, Pete and Lucy.

General notes:

Everyone uses their mobile smart phones to call and receive communications from their perspective office. Everyone also uses them to make phone calls and communicate with friends and family. Everyone does not use them for texting. However, not everyone pays for and has Internet access, with their mobile phone plans. If they had the ability to send text messages, they would use it.

Special Observations:

A) There are two people, Ben and Troy, who use their smart phone to play the game ‘Candy Crush’. They both seem compulsive and often play the game for enjoyment; they both admit, playing combats boredom.

B) Two drivers, Justin and Devon, engaged in sexting messages back and forth while flirting with each other.

C) All drivers, that have texting service, when interviewed, admitted to texting friends, family and their office.

a. Texting supervisors back at the office – coordinating schedules, sharing special jobs that change.

b. Texting friends and family – basically making plans.

c. Co-workers –texting about work issues.

D) Few drivers used the photograph features of the phones to take photos. One driver, Frank, took video of a police arrest during the study.

Describe the space:

This location is a very big space, as much as a half of a square mile, or several acres. There is a constant stream of moving advertisements, SEPTA buses, taxis, all the out of town bus touring companies, some examples; the duck tour vehicles have ads, the out of town trucking companies also have advertisements. It is an extremely busy place, with a mind numbing number of advertisements. Last year, in 2013, the tourism numbers say that over 7 million people came and visited the City of Philadelphia; the Independence Mall area is one of the top attractions.

Who is there?

There is every ethnicity and social demographic that you can imagine, from all over the world. My ethnic background is Irish American. There are Irish from Ireland, there are Irish families from every state in USA, and there are Irish from other countries. Literally name a culture or a category of people and they visit Independence mall. They’re the customers that the carriage drivers try and sell narrated historical history carriage rides to, as they pass by while walking around this area. There are also the office workers, everything from security guards, restaurant staff, Federal Court house employees, broadcasting videographers, homeless people, police, and US National Park service agents. It is rather a very heterogeneous place to work.

How do people (carriage drivers) interact with one another and with the mobile devices?

I have already mentioned some of the ways that the carriage drivers use their mobile phones. It is important to note that customers hand their smart phones over to the drivers so they can take photos of the customers in the carriages. Some drivers like, Chief, Doc, Rex, and Lucy, tell the tourist that in Philly we say cheesesteak, then snap the photo. Sometimes customer will take ‘selfies’, or self-portrait pictures, while sitting in the carriages.

Social Justice Connection.

I would like to design a horse carriage driver mobile app for Apple iOS and Android. This app will incorporate social justice for the underpaid and poorly treated carriage drivers. The idea for this app was inspired, when last fall, one of the co-workers, a college student, went traveling across country to Chicago. A metaphor for the app could be a stable of able body employees, who have experience, or want to train to be horse carriage drivers. I’m reading Karl Marx right now for Mosaic II, and want to create an app that will help the downtrodden. This app could coach drivers to relocate and find work in other US cities. The driver could be looking for short-term work, for example, moving to Florida and needs work for three months outside of Fort Lauderdale. Maybe the driver wants to move for a longer period, for example, relocating to Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah or Miami. In this case, we are referring to a long-term basis. The grievances are too numerous to list in this field report, trust me, everyone of these working class people complain of unfair treatment from the capitalist company owners. These carriage drivers sell their labor to the companies and get a small amount of pay. The top 1% of the company owners drives expensive trucks and SUVs, take exotic vacations, live in wealthy homes. From this 1%, all other employees are expendable, stable hands, drivers, anyone that works around the barn. Please trust me on this. I wouldn’t wish this job on any of my enemies. However, that being said, the reason why this people work in these jobs is because they love being around and working with horses. These hard working people are exploited and are what we call the working poor.

Accessibility issues.

The design of this app cannot consider blind, deaf or unable body humans. The horse carriage drivers need to be able body to perform the job. The design of this app is intended to help and find driver’s work and networks. There is an old saying, “you can please some of the people, some of the time, but you can’t please everybody all the time’.

This design is directly helping people (horse carriage drivers), and helping them overcome ways that the working world is not designed to help them.

Privacy and Surveillance issues?

I agree that data collected from mobile technologies allows for more surveillance and steals our privacy as citizens. But, this is not a utopian world we live in. I don’t remember who said it, ‘this is a dog eat dog world’. This app design will forfeit some basic privacy and surveillance for the better good of making the carriage drivers life better. This app design will make available every carriage and tour company that has carriage information, already on the Internet. Presently, there is a carriage drivers association, that will remain nameless, who already exists online. Their website is not geared to the working class drivers but the capitalist owners and top management.


One thought on “Hooves for Drivers”

  1. Creating an app for worker justice is a great idea, but I wonder if you need to make it just for horse carriage operators. I know that is your point of reference for the design, but many of the points you raise are concerns for all manner of exploited, under paid workers. You could even just broaden it to people who work in the tourism industry generally (tour guides, etc.).

    Research on labor rights movements (reading Marx is helpful in that regard) will be useful in your paper. Also Ling and Donner’s book where they describe how workers in various countries use mobile devices will be helpful (in particular their discussion of how households in the Philippines wouldn’t allow their maids to use mobile phones to communicate with each other for fear that they would share working conditions and compare incomes)..

    In terms of the privacy issues, is there a particular reason users would need to give up privacy? Particularly given the exploitative nature of the labor market you describe, having anything on that network that is personally identifiable could get people fired. The network you describe doesn’t seem to require people provide their personal information.

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