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Social Experiment #1, Pie Brains

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

New York City is a great place to experiment with society given the dense population. Three of us decided to do just that this past weekend.

The concept was simple, randomly compliment people and observe their reactions, and maybe initiate some conversations. Inventing the practice would prove to be a little more elusive. A thumbs-up from one stranger to another for no particular reason at all… now in NYC, you can’t just walk up to someone and give them a compliment, you’d be labeled a lunatic or perv. So we brainstormed on how we’d convey our message. One of us had the idea to use Olympic style grading where we would proudly hold up 9’s and 10’s for those unsuspecting pedestrians that happened to cross our path. We would only offer 9’s and 10’s since this was a mission of positive reinforcement for the general public.

the concept

the concept

We chose a date, Aug 15th, and a place, Union Square Park in lower Manhattan and began our prep. Admittedly, Tom (thinker@thinking atoms.com) did most of the legwork. Some background music from a mini radio with speakers, a great playlist of tunes and construction paper to make the signs were all provided by Tom. We’d call ourselves the Pie Brains, a catchy name we all agreed on. Kmart supplied Jason and I with lawn chairs, Tom had his own. The morning of the event, we huddled in Heartland Brewery in the northwest end of the park to color in our animated Olympics score cards. The coloring was fun, flashbacks to P.S.2 art and craft classes made me feel like a kid again.

the practice

the practice

We strategically chose to camp in the south west corner of the park, an area where the pathway constricts, allowing us more people interaction opportunities. Like bears camping for salmon migrating upstream, we stationed ourselves and mentally prepared ourselves to show some love :). It was great to see the smiles on all the faces, no one received lower than a 9, we only had 9’s and 10’s, after all. Lots of people chuckled and tourists, cameras at the ready, made sure to use them. The comments were priceless, some that I remember were “thanks, I needed that”, “brilliant”, and my personal favorite, “well done guys” from a woman with a grin that would put that cat from Alice In Wonderland to shame. Of course, there were some sneers from people that didn’t see the humor in what were were attempting and we respect their opinion. This is NYC, after all, we were expecting to be boo’ed out of the park.

Tom, the Thinker

Tom, the Thinker

Golds

Golds

The NYC Park Department officials showed up about an hour into our event and politely gave us the rules of the park, in which we were in clear violation of. We were instructed to move to a different location and turn off the radio immediately ‘or else’. We happily complied with their instructions knowing that our first social experiment was a success, however brief it was.

HI, NYC Parks Department

HI, NYC Parks Department

We’ll be back Union Square and other parks around NYC, either with a Parks Department permit or roaming on foot (tentatively scheduled for Aug 28th). It was great to see people smile, I hope they went on to enjoy the rest of their day, infecting other people with their happiness and chuckling about the four dorks sitting in Union Square. When you see us again, don’t be shy to stop and chat or take a pic with us.

— Chris