Public transit and I have rocky but passionate relationship. Though it’s anonymous, you become a member of a temporary community whether you like it or not.
You can make a million a year or live paycheck to paycheck but when you are stuck you are all stuck.
It appeals to my sense of fairness. You get to share collective groans or sneak a smile at someone when something hilarious happens. Occasionally, you witness a meaningful exchange that wouldn’t have taken place save for the fact that two random people are on a train. Last week, a guy in his mid-forties hopped on the train wearing a baseball cap. A older man in his seventies asked, ‘Is that a Brooklyn Dodgers cap?’ It sparked a lovely 5 minute exchange about baseball, college life and history. The older man ended the conversation by saying with a tinge of nostalgia, “Wow…Brooklyn Dodgers. When I saw that hat, I just had to say something.” And just like that the curtain closed. Everyone went back to reading, headphones and staring into space. But for five minutes we were all there with two people and a conversation.
Most of the time I wonder what’s happening with folks who ride the trains. I make up stories. I wonder what people think about me? I think about my ‘commuter community’ most when I tavel to and from Rikers. I try to guess how many people are getting off with me at 21st Queensbridge and taking the Q100 to Rikers. Are they volunteers? Are they visiting family? Do they know what its like to be in jail?
Mei-ling Wong and the creative team at Specular have created an amazing experience that explores this very idea. The project is called Blackout and it’s on Kickstarter.
A Documentary Set In a Fictional Environment
Who are these strangers?
The people in Blackout represent a snapshot of a single subway car in New York. Since this isNYC, our group includes an illustrious international cast of underground performers, artists, educators and scientists.
The project began with in-depth interviews with a group of 27 people for our virtual train. Their stories and observations interweave to create a beautiful documentary portrait of a crowd of strangers struggling to find their place in the city.
Today more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the world’s cultures are displaced and newcomers flood urban centers, it is urgent that we not just educate ourselves, but empathize with the lives of strangers that surround us. Through immersive technology and raw documentary stories, Blackout shows how one stranded group of city commuters has more in common than they ever imagined.
What makes this project even more dope is the fact that it’s a virtual reality film. As a viewer you get to be on the train and explore 27 real stories. One of the stories is about a yoga teacher who teaches at Rikers Island (hint, hint). She talks about what it’s like have to protect yourself and your soul. I hear she’s cool.
All jokes aside, I love what Specular has done. They’ve found a way to take technology and humanize it. So often our experiences with technology take us out of the moment and into the land of self. Blackout does the opposite, it uses VR so people let go of ego and explore another person’s viewpoint. This is revolutionary. In a world that is being ripped apart, a group of creatives are finding ways to draw us closer together.
It gets me thinking….none of get out of this thing called life alive but we have a shot to make it a better trip.
Check out the campaign and get a peak at my thoughts.