Talking to Strangers
One of my vacation goals was to think big picture about public space. I’m entrenched in a project to build a creative town bague argent granite square in Santa Cruz connected to my museum. I wanted to reconnect with the philosophical goals of the project.
So I decided to read Jane Jacobs’ classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It’s a masterful work: witty, story ful, righteously indignant, and wise. (I also received many other book recommendations and look forward to reading bague argent et onyx femme and writing more about urban planning and public space in the months to come.)
My favorite part of The Death and bague homme argent biker Life of Great American Cities was Jane Jacobs’ treatment of strangers in public space. It challenged my pre conceptions and made me think twice about “good” design for social bridging.
Jane Jacobs writes beautifully about bague femme la redoute the anonymity of big cities. Lively public space creates opportunities for social contact without commitment. Share a smile. Pay for someone’s coffee. Flip someone off. You’ll never see them again.
No friction, no repetition, no expectation. These bague argent devenu noir anonymous collisions may seem trivial, but they aren’t. They are continual reminders that we are all human. They often reinforce civility and empathy. They allow us to be kind, and generous, a bit wild even, without consequence.
In places where there is healthy social contact among strangers, people help each other out. They intervene when a stranger is in trouble. They hold open a door. They care because they only have to care for a minute.
If social life ranges from “being alone” to “being together,” public social contact exists in the middle. When we lose the public space that facilitates it active sidewalks and thoroughfares we lose the simplicity of anonymous collisions.
Suddenly, the stakes get too high. Now we can’t just nod at each other we have bague argent oeil d’horus to get to know each other, exchange numbers, have a conversation. Social contact becomes work, and that work pays uncertain dividends: Friend for life Bore Injury
“Being alone” and “being together” are both useful ways to be. But they are extremes. When we don’t feel safe in public space with strangers, we’re stuck with these extremes. Either we’re having a coffee date or completely ignoring each other. There’s no in between.
Many of us live in towns where we rarely have the opportunity for this kind of anonymous, safe, positive social contact. This is a problem. It means we smile less at strangers. We take care of each other less. We fear it opens up a social contract for too much more.
I am obsessed with designing opportunities for strangers to interact meaningfully with each bague homme argent avec pierre other. I’ve always had a bias that building community means people moving from “alone” to “together.” But Jane Jacobs showed me there are lots of different ways to experience togetherness. More “together” isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s a stressor to be avoided.
My museum’s mission is to “ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections.” Reading Jane Jacobs, I felt glad that we’re doing work to enhance low expectation social contact. We do this in simple ways, like always putting out multiple chairs at an activity station. But I also worry that we sometimes set unrealistic expectations for the intensity and duration of interaction among strangers at the museum. Is it really necessary for visitors to share their life stories with each other Is it OK for them to just share a pair of scissors
We’re in the process of developing more consistent evaluation tools at our museum, and one of the things we track is how often strangers interact in the museum. I think we have a bias (I know I do) that deeper interaction a longer conversation, an interaction with followup is “better” than brief encounters. We’ve actually had internal debates about whether it “counts” if someone self reports “talking to a stranger” or if they have to actually “have a meaningful interaction with a stranger.”
Maybe it’s time to reconsider what kinds of stranger interactions are most important for us to cultivate at our bague argent aigue marine rectangulaire museum. Maybe it’s just as important to be a place that bague argent femme 48 reinforces the joy of anonymous interactions as one that encourages the work of building relationships.
How much do you work on supporting people “being alone”
How much do you work on supporting people “being together”
How much do you work on the social contact in between
It was pretty freaking amazing. About 700 people participated over two days, including some who had traveled to Santa Cruz from London, Indonesia, and across the US. The group was mostly young (teens to thirties) and nerd diverse: a little bit punk, a little bit hacker, a little bit craft grrl. There were two guys with rainbow beards who tanzanite bague argent did not previously know each other. There were some locals who stumbled in unaware, but mostly, this was an insider’s event bague homme argent histoire d or for bague argent rhodie people who know and love Ze’s particular brand of emotional connection mediated through online participation. To get a sense of what it felt like for participants, check out this great video by one visitor from afar about his experience. We were pretty nervous about the unknowns going into the weekend. Ze had issued an invite to tens of thousands of people online, and we had no idea how many people would attend, and who they are. What we DID know is that the people coming would be connected through work that focuses on sharing intense and not always comfortable emotions online. I was concerned about how we could welcome people into the museum in a way that acknowledged the enormous risk they were taking in showing up bague argent belle in a foreign city and space to connect with people they only sort of knew in an online space.
Ze was amazing. He gently acknowledged the fundamental weirdness of meeting people in real life, in confronting their “fleshiness,” giving voice to anyone else’s concerns about over stimulation in the space. Ze was really hands on with everyone, giving hugs, taking photos, jumping in to do activities with participants. Even though for many of the participants, Ze is a celebrity of epic proportions, he did everything he could to make the event about them and their engagement and not about him.
The activities had a really low barrier to entry. We collaborated with Ze to develop activities throughout the weekend that were lightweight, fun, and encouraged low key social interaction exactly the kinds of activities that we have found encourage social bridging with strangers. When people walked in, they received a program and a sheet to collect finishing stamps (unique marks created by participants at one activity station) from other participants. The sheet gave people a lightweight tool to use in social interaction, to trade and share stamps. And the program helped people feel like they knew what was going on. Again and again, we tried to balance the wackiness and spontaneity of the event with the surety that people were in the right place, that we could help them, etc.
Our volunteers and staff and the participants! rocked. Our regular museum volunteers partnered with new volunteers drawn from Ze Frank’s online community, which created a nice bridge between people who knew the museum and people who knew the community and its spirit. Participants who felt more confident modeled generous behavior and engaged others. I was so proud to see how our overall ethos of participation and social bridging was manifest in making the experience really wonderful for everyone.
The museum itself was well integrated into the bague homme argent et turquoise event. In some ways, this event reminded me of the Ontario Science Centre’s YouTube Meetup in 2008 a real time, physical event to support an online community. One of the concerns at the YouTube Meetup was the disconnect between the museum and the participation; for many attendees, the science center just became bague bague homme argent motif grec argent libellule a venue for a social experience. In this case, because our current exhibition includes a gallery of things made by Ze Frank’s community, it was natural for weekend participants to be enthralled by and want to engage with the exhibition itself. Also, our museum wide approach to participation suited this community nettoyer bague argent bicarbonate well; bague argent topaze impériale they really enjoyed moule bague argent exploring other floors and participating in activities that had nothing to do with Ze Frank except in the ways that our philosophy and his are well aligned. I loved meeting so many people who were surprised bague argent lion homme and delighted by the participatory approach of our museum it made it feel like this was a place “for them” instead of a place that was hosting them.
Make sure to develop prompts or projects that are both interesting to DO and to experience as an audience. This is something I strongly subscribe to a huge percentage of any audience is more likely to spectate than to contribute. But on the web, it’s even more important than in a museum. In a museum, if something is appealing to watch, a person might share it by taking a photo or talking about it with a friend. Online, if something is appealing, a person can share it in a million ways via social media. Ze talked about having a personal filter on project ideas that really focuses on ensuring that the activity AND the resulting content is appealing to share.
To get lots of participation, always celebrate the human quality of the work. Ze pointed out that many participatory projects that operate as contests end up focusing on a narrow set of “best” work that can exclude broad participation. When Ze described his Young Me Now Me project, in which people replicated photos of themselves as children, he explained that he really encouraged people not to focus on getting the props or costume right but instead to focus on getting the expressions right. bague argent bali By focusing on that human element of self expression, people felt that the activity was open to them regardless of their ability to set up a scene or take a great photograph. This point is a really interesting extension of bague argent double my focus on personalization and using individual experiences as a starting point for community participation. Broad participation is not the goal of every project, but I found Ze’s framing here a useful salve to the frequently espoused and flawed idea that “to get lots of participation, make the activity stupidly easy.”
All in bague argent martelé homme all, a beautiful and stimulating weekend. You can see more comments from participants here and here and see a photo set from one participant here.
Over the past few years, there have been several fabulous examples of pop up museums bague argent forme marquise focusing on visitor generated content. There was Jaime Kopke’s Denver Community Museum, which existed for nine months in a Denver storefront in 2008 9 to celebrate visitors’ creations. Maria Mortati runs the wonderful SF Mobile Museum, which roams the Bay Area showing mini exhibits on evocative themes. The never quite opened National History Museum of the Netherlands created an innovative vending machine for historic objects, which traveled to festivals and urban centers for people to add their memories.
Michelle partners with an organization, institution, or group. They come up with a theme, a date, and invite people to come…