Jeanne Kelly

Assignment 5: Instruction Sets for Strangers: The First Test

In Collage, Fall 09 Archive, Major Studio Interface on October 27, 2009 at 11:09 am

I’ve been waiting to post all this so we didn’t give everything away to early.  So the test was very interesting and we learned a lot about the Bryant Park, the folks that work there and the people who visit it and use the park.  Unfortunately I do not think we would be too welcome to do anything else in that park except sit there and behave ourselves.

We arrived at 10:00 am, after the morning rush and before the lunch crowd arrived.  I started by having a set and watching the crowd.  I was a bit nervous and about disrupting anyone that I wanted to just check things out before I started doing anything.  I had some coffee and waited a bit.


I decided to start by placing a bag on each of the tables around me at the fountain.  I still was not comfortable disrupting strangers mornings, so I only places feed bags in the center of the empty tables.


After waiting for my courage to muster I started to walk around and put the birdseed bags on the tables in the predetermined area.


That’s when the fun started.
1.  The first person to notice the bags was a security officer for the park.  He only walked over to it glanced at it and then walked away.  I continued to put them out and over by the game courts a man watched me for a few minutes and when I came back to the cart he walked over and asked me what I was doing.

sparrow_supriseI explained to him the idea of giving people the opportunity to feed the birds if they wanted to do so.  He thought it was a nice idea, but he didn’t believe that there were any other birds in the park besides the pigeons.  He wanted to see a finch for himself.  He took a bag and threw out a small handful of the seed and the first bird that came was a small bright green little bird.
little_greenHe was happily surprised.

2.  I continued to place bags on the tables and when I was done a couple of women stopped me to ask what was in the bags. They also loved the idea and mentioned how difficult this time of years is for birds.  🙂  They asked how people were suppose to know that they can use it … we talked about adding the drawing to the bag and they agreed that it would help.

There were several more people we spoke with, all of them loved the idea of being able to feed the birds.  There were also the people whom we didn’t speak with but had still participated in the instruction set…

3.  A woman walking through the park noticed the bags and opened one to check it out.  She then rolled it back up and put it in her backpack. She then took the birdseed from two other tables and put those in her backpack and left the park.  I’m hopeful she will use it.

The first notice we got was from security.  They asked what we were doing and we explained.  They told up we were not allowed to feed the bird in the park.  I explained that we weren’t feeding the birds that we were just giving away birdseed.  I asked if there was any rule against giving away birdseed and one of them actually laughed and said “there’s no rule against that.”  I said okay and promised not to feed the birds and they left.

4.  Another fellow (he had watched me put the bags out) stopped at a table and opened a bag. He took one handful of seed and tossed it to the birds.  He rolled the bag back up and then walked to the next table and did the same thing.  Was he leaving some for others?

man uses bag

5.  As I was placing bags on the tables behind the game courts I asked a family if they would like some birdseed.  They were looking a map of the city and their son was harassing the birds (chasing them around and trying to grab them) and when I asked they did not speak english.  I showed them the contents of the bag and they where thrilled.  I thought their reaction was a bit much, but the the mom call the son over and gave him the bag.  when I looked again, they had taken another bag and the mom and son were feeding the birds (his relationship with the wildlife changes from antagonistic to friendly) and the father was taking pictures of them both.  Their experience of Bryant Park completely changed.


6. One man was not pleased to have the birds feed in the game court and asked if we could move to another area of the park.  He had asked one man who had been feeding the birds to please feed them on the sidewalk.  They laughed at something and the man tossed seed into the sidewalk so the birds would leave the game court.  We started to gather up the bags of birdseed and noticed that many of the bags had been tossed in the trash.  I saw the guy that was doing it and asked him why.  He explained it was his job, that he was just doing his job.  I asked if he could leave them and that we would not leave a mess for him, that we would pick them all up before we left.  He was fine with that.

We were over by the fountain when Umut noticed a cop.  When he got to us he asked what we were doing and we again explained.  We were told that no one is allowed to feed the birds in the park.  I explained again that we were not actually feeding the birds, but he wasn’t having it.  He told up that we were inciting others to break the rules and they we had to stop.  I asked if he thought it might be a silly rule if so many people enjoyed feeding the birds and are so willing to break it.  He said he had no problem with the birds, but that the park (like it was it’s own entity) saw the birds a nuisance.  He told us that Bryant Park is different from the other parks; it’s very tightly run and that there are other places in the city that people can feed the birds.  He said we should go to Central Park … like now.   That was our cue to leave.

We recovered the bags that had been tossed (that stuffs not cheap) and headed back to the lab to discuss the first test.

Here’s some of the footage of our first day of testing …


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