Border Town design jam

Madeline Ashby (whom you'll remember from such Boing Boing features as Surfaces - a short story for a thesis on border security sez, "This is an invitation to join a 2-day design jam in Toronto, focused on user experience problems common to international border crossings. I'll be there Friday to give a talk, but what I'm really excited about is what the other jammers will produce. The theme of the jam is 'Everyone Must Pass...' and the design challenge will be presented at the event. After that, teams will develop their own solutions to the problem. And all those solutions will be Commons licensed, so they can be shared with border towns around the world!"


  1. I wish this was being held in the tiny city of Sarnia, Ontario (3 hours south of Toronto). It’s an actual bordertown to the US with some real issues (Boing Boing covered one of many stories awhile back, about a Sci-Fi author who was beat up and such).

    I’m mostly pandering because I’m bored and living there though :)

    1. Same feelings in Windsor. It’s actually a little offensive to me that this is happening in Toronto and not one of the many cities on the border.

    1. Toronto is on a lake.  The US is on the other side of the lake.  That makes it a border town.  Why is there this bizarre idea that borders only exist on land?  cf. the coast of southern Europe vs. the coast of north Africa.

      1. Because most people can’t cross from Toronto into the US via Lake Ontario. I don’t think there’s even a ferry running anymore since the one to Rochester closed down. I assume you can cross in a private boat or if you wanted to swim 45 km. Might be a bit chilly this time of year.

        By those standards, you could call a lot of towns and cities along the Great Lakes border towns, but most people can’t cross at most of them. You could call Toronto a border town because of all the international flights, but then you’d have to call Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton border towns.

        1. Actually, a lot of those Great Lakes cities are very much border towns, being ports of call for smuggling operations all long the 3rd coast.

          Official transit routes are only one way of crossing the border.

        2. A border is that thing which runs around the outside of another thing. The US borders Canada, the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico and the Pacific. Not just Canada and Mexico.

    2. If you read the description, they’re not looking at the US-Canada border specifically. It encompasses all border crossings. I’m sure they’ll mostly have the US-Canada border in mind because that’s what they’ll be most familiar with, of course.

      Why would they hold it in a border town – where the only people who would want to come and who live there are well-meaning but non-expert local residents, not anyone with applicable skills or knowledge? Few people from Toronto would make the two hour drive to the border for this.

      I’m from a border town, Buffalo, and if I were involved with trying to get the border experience changed I would look towards Toronto for people with expertise and skill because there certainly aren’t many such people in Buffalo or in the small Canadian towns across the border.

      And more people from Toronto cross the border into Buffalo than you might think – with the Canadian dollar so strong compared to the US dollar, they come across the border to shop. It used to be the other way around, but everything’s too expensive for Americans in Toronto these days (though it’s indispensable for those of us from Buffalo and Rochester with big-city tastes).

  2. I don’t care whether it’s a seaport, an airport, or a road-based port of entry, the biggest obstacles are the amount of space dedicated to the machinery of the bureaucracy for crossing, and the amount of staff committed to it.  I just crossed the Atlantic and the passport control station in Philadelphia’s airport was not so good.  There weren’t enough lanes open even with twenty, the rope line has a huge column right in the middle of it that makes using the line difficult, and the process is not clear, even for someone who has used that exact port of entry before.  At least Customs seems to have been on autopilot the two times I’ve been through.

    Worst is the real lack of signage of what documents to have ready, how to proceed with more than one person travelling together (ie household versus non-cohabitating indviduals) and what to expect from the controllers of the process, like to let people know that they should expect to answer questions.  The individual passport control officer that we dealt with at Philly was actually fairly cordial and quick, and didn’t beat around the bush with his fairly standard questions, but because the line feeding him was far enough away it made those waiting in line think he was just socializing with the people in his line, which inflamed tempers slightly.

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