CURRENTLY: New York City, NY

Semi-Philosophical Disagreement about AA2.0

More in the Philosophy, Pre-Trip

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The following conversation occurred in the forum of a social networking site called Grasshoppers. The individuals involved had some very good points about AA2.0. It started with one contributor bringing up Around America in 2.0. Others responded, and eventually I jumped in as well. Might be an interesting read for those who want to know a bit more about the project.

Although I disagree with the literal necessity of ever using a phrase such as “making experience transactions equitable.” I acknowledge the point and find the concept rather intriguing. I simply question which group in this conversation is not thinking broadly enough. Nevertheless, again, this is an interesting semi-philosophical conversation about the project.

Person A:

Okay, this is a bit offbeat. There is this guy who wants to travel around America (the U.S.) for free and video blog the experience.

Excerpt from his website at http://www.aroundamericaproject.com/about/

At its foundation, this is an experiment about human interaction and whether relationships formed on digital platforms can transcend into the physical world. The project, seeks to answers to three questions:

1. What level of trust can be carried from social networking and video sharing platforms to the physical world? Are digital relationships condemned to a life on the Internet?

2. Is a cultural flattening phenomenon occurring among America’s youth?. (i.e., Is Joe Brooklyn really that different from Michael Wyoming?) If so, has Web 2.0 contributed to it and how?

3. And, the basic question: will people give their time, money, and effort just to connect with a person they only know digitally? Meaning, are online users actually interested in meeting the individuals that contribute to the deluge of profiles and video clips that comprise Web 2.0 or is their interest founded in the safety of anonymity and geographic separation?

Seems like a unique task and one people around the country could help with… just a thought.Person B:

My immediate question when I heard about this guy was “why would I want a dude like this sleeping on my couch”? I think it would be far more useful if he presented himself in a more reciprocally helpful/useful nature - like the guys on the side of the road who hold signs that they will “work for food”. What’s the advantage of being on his video blog outside of vanity? I’m a big advocate for unconditional charity and my door is generally open to stragglers, but when it looks like his intention is driven by being the next internet starlet - I generally question his motives. How does this help anyone?

Would you trust your house with this guy?

Person C:

It doesn’t meet the sniff test - too self-serving. Needs to be more creative and interesting.

Person A:

Good points.

I don’t know this guy any more than I know anyone on Grasshoppers. Always wise to be wary.

I can’t imagine that his efforts would help anyone else, but then again who knows what the project will do…

I do know that if I was in his shoes, I would definitely be wary of the motives of those offering assistance. But that’s just me and my suspicious nature.

Thanks for the comments.

Me (Matt - Around America in 2.0):

Person A, B, and C-

Hi. How are you all? It’s super hot in New York. Hope it’s a bit cooler where you are.

Anywho, I saw what you wrote. I think you all raise very interesting points. It does come across as quite self-serving. And, to a certain degree it is. I mean, I get to meet all the wonderful people that are going to participate in the project! However, if you read the “about” section of my page at www.aroundamericaproject.com/about, you’ll get a better sense of why I’m doing it.

Rich, when you said, “I do know that if I was in his shoes, I would definitely be wary of the motives of those offering assistance. But that’s just me and my suspicious nature,” you illustrated my primary purpose for creating the project. I believe suspicious natures are running rampant throughout the United States. I also believe that these suspicious natures are for the most part unwarranted. Personally, I feel that suspicion and a lack of mutual trust and understanding are the causes of many of the world’s most horrendous atrocities. Why exactly do you not trust people? Why don’t I? And, more importantly, what is the cause of this mistrust?

Personally, I believe it’s mainstream media outlets’ focus on fear. Think about it. Whenever you pick up a paper, watch the news, or listen to a news program on the radio, you’re immersed in information about individuals dying or being harmed in some way by others. Seriously, think about that. So, if you spend 1 out of your 14 waking hours a day total reading, watching, or listening to news programs about death and violence, it’s only natural to become suspicious of others. Frankly, I think that sucks. So, one of many of my goals is to show that trust can and should exist between strangers. Sure, bad things happen in this world. There are even more than just a few bad guys out there, but I feel that there are far more sensible, caring individuals than bad. However, they are all shaking and biting their finger nails locked away somewhere in their houses thanks to the media’s push on fear.

I realize I may not look it, but believe it or not I’m a newspaper reporter and researcher for a very large paper. And, one thing I’ve come to fully understand, not necessarily through my paper though, is that “if it bleeds, it leads.” However, I’ve always questioned why that is. For instance, why is a story about feeding the homeless less important than a story about three people dying in a car crash?

Anyway, just some thoughts on a very late night. I find that I’m straying a bit far from my point, so I’ll try to add some more thoughts at a later date. My main point is that I think the world needs to regain a sense of trust and community that we seem to have lost quite a long time ago, AND I believe web 2.0 can assist us in that. Again, you all raise some interesting points, and I sincerely appreciate any feedback.

Thanks,
Matt
www.aroundamericaproject.com

Person C:

You are presenting an experience transaction, where by each party gains in an exchange of new experience. It is self serving in that you get more from the transaction - financial support, proof of concept, new place, film, etc. You offer up a net societal benefit, but I don’t see it. I don’t think you are purposefully presenting a “con” , but I think in practice it might come close. In experience transactions you should provide something besides just your presence. Are you promising participants to be in the film? Are you promising them an invitation to the opening? Are you promising to wash the dishes? What is your responsibility? How do you make the experience transaction equitable?

http://electrichands.com/artexperience.htm

If it was a guy or gal who stays a couple of days, cooks for a party of 6 (you and friends) and films the process, would it work better? A designer who’ll redecorate your house during the week he stays there? These ideas raise even more doubts and questions, but do they make more sense?

I have to say, I dismissed the idea for many reasons, the main one being that I don’t live in the US :)

Person D to Person C:

philosophically, he is exploring the experience “space” that artists have started exploring the past few years. He is connecting it to Web2.0 by conjecturing that such technology/culture enables more experience/material sharing. It makes sense if you embrace the expanded definition of a transaction that leads to productive results. My only qualm with this is that the transaction does not seem equitable. He will benefit significantly more than the participants - which I think he should balance.

Me (Matt - Around America in 2.0)

I make the experience transaction equitable by creating tangible evidence for any of the viewers that services and commodities can be as freely traded and donated by the national collective as ideas and information are now being aggregated and dispersed on sites like Wikipedia. Why limit ourselves to the pursuit of an accumulation of the world’s knowledge? Why not actively pursue an accumulation of the world’s goods and services for the benefit of individual adventure, education, and experience?

I understand the project is self-serving. And, that’s the point. Think in a broader context about what the trip will mean if I’m able to pull it off. Yes, the trip is self-serving because I get to take it. However, anyone can do what I’m doing, and by providing evidence that a trip like this is possible I will hopefully get ideas flowing about what else is possible if we, the American Internet community, come together to help one another to reap the benefits of unification in the name of individual prosperity.

In addition, I feel that the connectivity that has been occurring on sites just like this one is fantastic. However, I believe there is a certain degree of isolationism that comes with web 2.0. Connectivity = great. Isolationism = bad and, in my opinion, dangerous. A site like Couchsurfing.com is not only an amazing example of what is possible if we pool our services and goods together to help one another, but it works also as a great example of how we can help bring this connectivity that I’ve mentioned to a physical reality.

I simply am trying to take these ideas a bit further as well as test the boundaries of trust. So, what exactly will the people that are helping with the project receive in return for helping me? They will receive a good friend and the benefit of knowing that they are helping to test the limits of how we perceive trust and social interaction on the web. Maybe that sounds a bit too prolific, but I’m quite serious about this topic.

In addition, one thing that I should say is that as of now I have absolutely no intentions whatsoever of making a penny from this project. In fact, quite the opposite. I have already spent $3000 of my own money and will unfortunately probably be draining every last dime I have on AA2.0. If truth be told, I will most likely have to sleep on friends’ couches when I return until I’m able to save enough for my next apartment. I also should say that I do not believe in fame in any way shape or form. Sure, I’ve been featured in the videos I’ve been creating so far. However, it would literally be next to impossible to get individuals to participate if they did not get to know me and my personality at least somewhat in advance.

Anyway, Joseph, you present some wonderful points that I should explore further. I can appreciate your thoughts and urge you to question the project a bit more. I’m trying my best to develop and maintain a solid project. However, after all is said and done, this is something that I am also doing for fun and for the experience of seeing what is possible if we think outside the box. If you would like to speak further and live in New York, let’s get off our computers, benefit from the connectivity of this social network, and chat in person over coffee and a cookie.

Matt :)

Person C

beer is better, but cookie and coffee will do - where and when?

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