Tag Archives: Union Square

The Automated Anthropologist (details here)

Today, Tuesday, July 16th, I will be in SF doing what every people tell me to do.  It’s an experiment, a culturematic.  

Starting at 9:00 West coast time, I will be in Union Square ready to act on your directives.

Please send those directives to @grant27 on Twitter, with #autoanthro as your hashtag.

In between acting on real-time directives, I will try to act on the suggestions you have sent over the last couple of days. Thank you for those!

You can follow the events of the day by searching for #autoanthro on Twitter. (I like Tweetdeck as a way of keeping track of my Twitter searches.)

We will take photos and video and post the former on Twitter and the latter on YouTube. (Thanks for the suggestion, Kate Hammer.)

We will post our location in SF using Glimpse with links announced by Twitter.

For those who miss events tomorrow, I will post a compilation on Storify in a week or so.

USA Today has given us early coverage (for which many thanks, Bruce Horovitz!).  You can find the details here.  

Thanks to the help of Cameron Maddox of the Academy of Art University’s School of Advertising I will have the assistance of a recent graduate, Maria Elmqvist. Thanks, Cameron and Maria!

Thanks to everyone for their support.



For background, here’s the email that first announced the project a couple of days ago.  

Over the course of Tuesday, July 16, I will do whatever you tell me to do. Assuming of course that it is within the bounds of legality and morality(ish).

I am going to San Francisco this week.

I am giving a talk on Monday and come back to NYC on Wednesday.

That leaves the whole of Tuesday to …

Well, that’s the question, what do I do on Tuesday? (I should have booked a get-together, but things got busy and I never got around to it. Apologies to friends in SF, Eric and Ed especially.)

So this is my plan.

To put myself on automatic pilot.

Over the course of Tuesday, I will do whatever you tell me to do. Assuming of course that it is within the bounds of legality and mortality(ish).

Please tweet your instructions to @grant27 on Tuesday over the course of the day.

I will tweet the results, text and photos, with the hashtag #autoanthro.

I haven’t quite figured out how best to capture and sequence the requests you send me. And I can’t promise to do everything that is proposed. But I’ll try. I will.

Feel free to embarrass me. I believe myself to be one ill-chosen word away from social catastrophe in any case.

But the real object is ingenuity. What effects can you set in train in an American city by directing an anthropologist on automatic pilot. Think of it as a rolling Rube Goldberg event. Small events and larger narrative arcs are both welcome. (Everything from “Turn right.” to “Find someone to tell you the story of [x].”)

If the Twitter feed stops suddenly or you never hear from me again, well, we’ll call it a long term culturematic.

Thanks for reading and thanks for any directions you send me on Tuesday! Grant

Normal Bob, extranormal anthropologist

So little useful anthropology is being done in/on contemporary American culture(s), This Blog celebrates anything that serves the cause.

Last week the New York Times wrote up a guy who calls himself Normal Bob.  NB (aka Bob Hain) has made himself a student of the Union Square area.  His blog is a treasure trove of ethnographic observation.  Bob has made a typology for the Square, including "skaters," "scenesters," "models," and "junkies."  He also has documented individuals: Ramblin’ Bill, The DJ and Quarter Guy.

Bob’s view is unblinkered and unsentimental.  In this passage, he documents the passage of a runaway teenager from Goth to Punk to heroin addict.

One of the funny things that I’ve experienced since moving here to New York that I’d never seen before is witnessing first hand the frequent and predictable junk-related falls of the human being over the course of just a couple years. This girl is one of those cases.
Just a few years ago she was another teenager hangin’ around the cube, goth, bashful and (found out later) a runaway. Then the winter comes and goes, and in the spring I see her doin’ more of the punk thing, hangin’ out with squatters, a little less feminine, a little more soulless. The transformation is so predictable.
Then another year passes and there she is, a useless junkie squatter nodding out in a Starbucks with her Grande Mocha Frappuccino and her forehead on the tabletop. Now I’ve almost gotten to the point where I can see the kid and predict their nodding routine almost to the month. It’s sad but true.
Hain, Bob.  2010.  The Union Square Chronicles.  here.
Kilgannon, Corey. 2010. “Normal Bob Chronicles a Park’s Oddballs.” The New York Times. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/26/nyregion/26union.html?_r=1 [Accessed December 3, 2010].
Acknowledgements and thanks
The photo in the upper right corner is from Normal Bob’s website.  I have used it without permission.  If Mr. Hain has any objection to my use of it here, I would be pleased to take it down.