Through tactical observation and secondary research we chose to maximize an existing system of social interaction within Bryan Park. This interaction was of one of individuals feeding the birds. It should be mentioned that this is also an activity prohibited by park rules. Never the less, people were documented and observed feeding the birds on a regular basis. They enjoyed this activity and did not seem to believe they were doing anything wrong.
This page is part of a segment, an iteration in the design project Instruction Sets for Strangers. If you’ve found yourself on this page, you are now more then likely part of this project. We’d like to thank you for your participation.
We have attempted to document these plans and their variations from the beginning, but on this page we will give you only the “gist” of what we’ve hoped to accomplished. To see all of the notes, precedences, videos, interviews, photographs, and bits and peaces of this project please see the links that follow this synopsis. We are creating a single download of all documentation which will soon be available here.
Our approach to this interaction between individual and environment was two fold in the begining:
1. We first wanted to expand the activity to others; by providing the opportunity to feed the birds – would more people chose to do so?
2. If people were going to feed the birds despite the strategic rules prohibiting it, would they be more comfortable feeding them food that more closely resembled their natural diet? (less guilt for feeding them Doritos? What a great side effect for our secondary user group.)
From our research we decided to prototype out first test and probe with the brunch crowd. They seem to stay in the park a bit longer then morning rusher and also appeared to be more relaxed: not on or checking their cell phones as much, body posture more relaxed, they leaned back in their chairs, slower walking pace, watched others more. They were also the largest group to already be feeding the birds. Studies have shown that people are more likely to adopt a new behavior when it is practiced and accepted in their social group.
We wanted to create a new affordance in Bryant Park for our user group. We poured 1 cup each of natural birdseed into 100 brown paper bags stamp with the word ‘feed’. These bags where then placed around the fountain and on the tables of the north west side of the park. The reactions were great and our test was a success. More people fed the birds and more strangers interacted with each other then was perviously observed.
Some of the results were unexpected and exciting. We learned a lot for this iteration. Unfortunate we were asked to leave Bryan Park, that we were “inciting people to break the rules” We could not argue with that, it was after all what we hoped would happen. And I believe this says a lot about the desires of the park participants.
From that point we had to rethink our approach. But we still ened up with a two pronged user test.
After some constructive feed back and interesting suggestions we decided to try a different prototype/prob of the Bryant Park instruction set. Incorporating the semantics of American slang we can up with a “catch-phrase” for our second iteration. Are You For The Birds?
1. Playing off of peoples natural curiosity and hoping to attract people to answer this question without explanation. We agreed that question might be intriguing to a wider varity of people because of it’s layered meaning and ambiguity then simple asking if they liked to feed the birds. In other words, we wanted to get your attention first.
2. At the same time we will hand out these postcard to people in Bryant Park. Again we agreed that keeping the card ambiguous might garner a better online response. And look, here you are. :)
Our hope is to engage the strangers in Bryant Park in a way that carries their responses and actions outside of the confines of the physical park and enters into the realms of a virtual park. Inciting people to engage in a dialogue about feeding the birds, not just in Bryant Park, but in all the parks of New York City. Another outcome of this instruction set we are hoping accomplish is to make space in the minds of stranges for bird watching. If just one person notices a Clark’s Nutcracker or a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, or any bird that they may have never seen before, then we will have accomplished our goal. Or even if you find yourself looking for birds more then usual after coming to this we page, please let us know.
A great thanks also goes out to everyone in Bryant Park, from the folks who call it their office, to those who stopped by for one short moment in their lives. We’d also like to thank New York City Birds, where most of our bird research grew from, and all the sites, pages and blogs online that enhanced in our work.