Hearing my classmates share their ideas for the Capstone project inspired me to think deeply about an area that intrigues me, while also pushing me out of my comfort zone.  Last semester, I took a course called Comm 440- Global Iconic Events. We spent the semester examining- just as the title suggests- global iconic events. These events ranged from the assassination of JFK to the Royal Wedding. For our final paper, we each could choose any event that interested us. I wanted to take a different approach to this assignment, and examine individual life events in a global sphere. In order to do this, I examined the “Real Humans of New York”. I am not sure if everyone is familiar with this, but it is essentially a collection of photographs of subjects all over the world who share pieces of their life stories. The pictures are then posted to Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media sites.

While researching for this paper, I was was shocked to find how other viewers were able to deeply connect with the people in the photos. The comments on the Facebook or Instagram pictures was incredibly supportive. For this project, I am interested in exploring how vulnerability can lead to empathy, shared connection, and understanding. I think it would be particularly interesting to explore this concept with an audience and area who are seemingly disconnected.  I would appreciate any feedback you all may have for me! Good luck brainstorming ideas!

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5 thoughts to “Brainstorming”

  1. Hi Emily,

    I think this is a fascinating topic and I love the idea of looking at a phenomenon like HONY and seeing it as an experiment in vulnerability, connection, and understanding. Some questions I have about it are – what makes HONY unique? Why is it so popular? Has anyone tried to do it and were unsuccessful? What makes this one successful?

    In addition I’m interested in this idea of citizen journalist that we talked about a little in class which is sort of what this man has decided to be (in addition to citizen journalist) Could this sort of connection have happened in a world where there wasn’t social media? Or the idea of citizen journalists? What is it about the medium that makes it successful? What are some pitfalls? Also – if it’s just a like or comment on facebook how much of a connection is it really?

    Also I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but there’s a ted talk on vulnerability by Brene Brown that is INCREDIBLE. Here’s the link:

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hey Emily,

    I think there’s a ton of potential with this idea! It’s something each of us can’t help but be interested in. Displays of human connectedness, and simply common humanity for that matter, catch our attention and before we know it, we feel real emotion towards an individual we haven’t even met face to face.

    I think that mass media itself has monopolized on this concept, taking advantage of it by flipping individual stories (that realistically don’t belong on national news) into sensationalistic stories. My point is, there seems to be a time and place for such stories. And I think that the online platform is the place, like you suggested!

    Some questions you may ask yourself: How does the platform through which such stories are shared affect reaction? Is posting about oneself online a display of vulnerability and outreach for human connection or is it vanity, as most people these days are so quick to point out? Since “Real Humans of New York” posts stories on social media, does technology provide a higher form of social interaction? I think you can use your topic to cleverly question the common assumptions of the generations older than us pertaining to the “degradation” of social interactions and that could be super interesting! And maybe even redeeming for the “millennials.”

  3. Really interesting ideas! HONY definitely has an addictive quality to it that makes it hard to stop scrolling through their posts. Thinking about this, I think that empathy definitely plays a role, there is often a degree to which we can relate to the people and their vulnerabilities that are posted. Combined with the diverse range of people that HONY tries to exhibit, I think also present is the idea of connectedness in a world where a lot of people might feel outcast- a sense of community I guess you could say. I actually seem to recall somebody in my gateway class (Fall 2013 Cohort) creating a really cool HONY-like project in Ann Arbor- I can’t find it at the moment but if I do I’ll definitely share.

  4. Hey Emily,
    I’ve never followed HONY but it always pops up on my newsfeed when other people like/share the photos. I also find it interesting that people are able to connect with the subjects, but I’m even more curious as to how the guy gets these people to open up in the ways that they do. How many people are that willing to talk to a total stranger about deeply personal and private things, and–assuming they know who he is by now–allow that to be spread on social media?

    Your idea to look at it from the perspective of the commenters and explore how their vulnerability leads to support is intriguing, but I’d be just as curious about what qualities these subjects have that allow them to open up. As far as how you’d go about doing this, maybe you could perform an experiment yourself by doing a ‘Humans of Ann Arbor’ (if someone hasn’t created that already) and see for yourself. You could also go with the more academic route and do a psych-oriented research paper about vulnerability…or maybe you could combine the two somehow.

    A third idea I have stems from the really interesting approach you took in that project for the COMM class–we obsess over these iconic, big-picture events, even though these smaller individual life events in aggregate tell us the true story. So maybe you could write more of an argumentative type paper on why we should focus and more closely examine these smaller individual events rather than these global iconic ones.

  5. Love this idea! Exploring human connections is an amazing topic. One angle you could take is to compare the connections between people who are connected vs disconnected via the digital world. Or you could look at the relationship between a picture accompanied by text and a video where you hear the words. Is one better than the other at achieving connection? I don’t know if this is the approach you want, but there are plenty of times when the internet is not supportive/is cruel. Looking at that might provide contrast to the other side.

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