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Strangers 101

John Brack, Collins St 5p.m. NGV Collection

Kio Stark teaches human social dynamics at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program. This month she wrote about her 'Stranger Studies' course for The Atlantic. Here she gives us a fascinating week-by-week precis of the course, a linked reading list, and a series of exercises we can try at home - there are more on her blogs.

The course has three themes:

  • Why stranger interactions in cities are meaningful
  • The spaces and the significance of the spaces in which strangers interact, and
  • How strangers 'read' each other, how they initiate interactions, how they avoid interactions, how they trust each other and how they fool each other, how they watch, listen and follow each other.
It veers from an analysis of the original Bystander Intervention case in '60s New York, to William.H.Whyte's "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces." Starck gathers many examples of research into stranger interactions, chiefly from the Sixties and early Seventies. It appears we have not been thinking about strangers (except online ones) for a few decades. Perhaps they are making a comeback.
Task A: See if you can find 3 ‘unwritten rules’ about the place from the way people are behaving? Hint: you’ll see these the most clearly when they’re violated. My fave is “civil inattention.”


Build Healthy said...

It is true...spaces bring us together and also make us go apart.

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