Hey, stranger, may you phone me? --- by Meng Li @ itp


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I have been living in NYC for a few years, and it is far from my hometown – Beijing. From a F.O.B. (fresh off the boat) who constantly asks for directions on the streets, to a “walking google map” who has been constantly asked for directions, I have realized something interesting within the simple action and developed a strong curiosity around asking for directions. So I decided to ask for directions for the sake of understanding me and the strangers in the city.
It is a urban intervention experiment in new york city, asking strangers to give me their personal information, including signatures, phone numbers; then call them to ask them to give me directiong. then ask if i could follow them along their way. see how people react to my requests, where the fine line is in terms of the personal interaction between strangers, the trust issues.


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Hey, stranger, may you phone me? --- by Meng Li @ itp

  1. 1. Hey Stranger, May I Phone You?
  2. 2. <ul><li>Chicago, the city my friend was moving to last summer. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Seattle, where I was interning last summer. </li></ul>
  4. 4. One day, I got a phone call from her, asking me to turn on the computer, and google where she was and directed her to get to her destination. I did that and operated her to get to her destination by phone. operator
  5. 5. <ul><li>Is that normal? I mean it’s chicago. It’s not in the middle of nowhere. there are so many people… </li></ul>
  6. 6. Why me? But not to ask a person close by? a stranger?
  7. 7. --“Because <ul><li>I know you </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Safe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trust </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fast and direct </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>walkin & talkin, accompany </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cheap phone, and you have internet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… “ </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Wait a sec, then you mean : <ul><ul><li>A person close by physically… are </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NOT Safe? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NOT Trustable? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NOT Fast and direct? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CAN’T walkin & talkin ? </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Yes, some strangers are bad . </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>in real world, there’s no “M” to identify strangers. identifying and cataloging people is harder and harder. </li></ul>
  11. 12. <ul><li>What’s the dynamics between strangers? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Paranoid </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Being cool </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the fine line? </li></ul></ul>
  12. 13. <ul><li>Strangers do talk a lot online. </li></ul><ul><li>Strangers do talk in Hutong, a kind of street in Beijing, another culture. (public character) </li></ul><ul><li>How about face to face on street in Manhattan? </li></ul><ul><li>How about in phone? </li></ul><ul><li>I DON’T KNOW. </li></ul>
  13. 14. <ul><li>Is talking to strangers difficult? </li></ul><ul><li>How strong is the social norm: “avoiding interaction, even just eye contact between strangers”? In this culture. </li></ul><ul><li>What if break the norm? how tolerant can people in Manhattan be to accept such breach experiment? How ‘s their reaction? What’s the fine line? </li></ul>
  14. 15. <ul><li>Then I started approaching to strangers to ask them questions: </li></ul>
  15. 16. <ul><li>Excuse me, can you tell me how I can get to the A train station nearby? </li></ul>
  16. 17. Can you draw a map for me? <ul><ul><li>Reactions: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No one rejected me. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 18. Can you give me your name? <ul><ul><li>Reactions: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sign my name? no </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hehehehe (shaking head) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 19. Can you leave your phone number? (can I call you?) <ul><li>-I don’t have a phone number </li></ul><ul><li>-no. (hehehehehe) I’m sure you can find it… find other people… </li></ul><ul><li>-hmmm, what’s your name? </li></ul><ul><li>- I’m going to take the train, so you may not find me. </li></ul><ul><li>-you’ll find it. </li></ul><ul><li>-I could give you my card… </li></ul><ul><li>-no. … it’s not allowed. </li></ul>
  19. 20. <ul><li>Those are the drawings, their signatures and phone numbers. (for privacy concern, I covered those personal info) </li></ul>
  20. 21. <ul><li>I got another phone number from a stranger on broadway & houston. </li></ul>
  21. 22. <ul><li>Yes, I did call him. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(When I walked till canel & lafayette, I dialed his phone number) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ I don’t know how to get to allen & canel…” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ now I have your number, let me get back to my computer, then I’ll call you in 3 minutes” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>After 3 minutes, he called me back “…” </li></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 23. <ul><li>I met a stranger in washington square park, who lead me to my destination and talked a lot along the way. </li></ul>
  23. 24. <ul><li>Then I changed my question: </li></ul><ul><li>Excuse me, can I walk along with you together? </li></ul>
  24. 25. <ul><li>Bridge, without crossroads, no chance to turn, perfect place to ask this question. </li></ul>
  25. 26. <ul><li>Then I changed my question: </li></ul><ul><li>Excuse me, can I walk along with you together? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>face to face conversation with 3 strangers, in different topics. </li></ul></ul>
  26. 27. <ul><li>How much can people give off their personal information to a stranger? </li></ul><ul><li>How do people say “no” to a stranger? </li></ul><ul><li>The little negotiation between strangers before giving off private and personal info. </li></ul><ul><li>The trust between the operators and myself. </li></ul><ul><li>How long can the conversation between two strangers keep engaging? </li></ul><ul><li>How much can one learn about the stranger and construct the identity of each other? </li></ul><ul><li>“ no meaningful conversation could happen between strangers” as kio mentioned ?? </li></ul><ul><li>-Not strange, but never happened before. </li></ul>
  27. 28. Concepts:
  28. 29. <ul><ul><li>Stranger to go with you along your trip: I provide a moderation phone line at the entrance of the bridge, bus stop, and the crossroad, you can dial when you want a conversation with a stranger to accompany your trip, who happens to be on his/her way commuting. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The conversation will be cataloged according to the topics, location and commuting time. So people with similar commuting time could talk during the trip. Either taking the bus, or walking. </li></ul></ul>
  29. 30. <ul><ul><li>Stranger as an operator: you need commands from a stranger who happens to pass by the phone and pick up the phone. He/she will decide whether will help you find out the code around that location to operate your task. You will need to decide whether to trust him/her. You’ll share the prize with him/her. </li></ul></ul>
  30. 31. <ul><li>Stranger portrait artist: instead of sketching according to the appearance of the stranger, I want to do the sketch of his/her identity. See how much I can construct around the stranger’s identity by conversation. (personal) </li></ul>