On Monday, Scientific American published a fascinating set of videos from an anthropologist named Andrew Irving, a researcher who spent part of 2011 documenting 100 random New Yorkers' inner monologues. Irving, a professor at the University of Manchester, stood on street corners and asked pedestrians to put on headsets and narrate their streams of consciousness out loud. What the videos demonstrate is at once awkward and intimate--a woman breaking down over a friend's cancer diagnosis, a man wondering about the virtue of having kids--and collectively reveal a deeper vein of thought traffic rarely witnessed on our stoic, "I am master of the sidewalk" faces.
Andrew Irving/"New York Stories: The Lives of Other Citizens"
Irving told the Voice that this particular project arose out of work he had done in Uganda, trying to understand the thoughts of those who had been diagnosed with HIV. Irving used to capture what he called "performative ethnographies" in the '90s, in which he'd ask sick people to walk around their neighborhoods and speak their minds aloud.
"It's a very simple thing really--writers have striven to try and understand streams of consciousness that mediate every day existence. And yet scientists have done a very bad job of doing that, because they tend to be laboratory based," Irving said.More »