By Paige Buzzetti
The Humans of New York project is a pop culture occurrence that explores identity and the relationship between the virtual and real world. HONY as the project has become known by is a collection of photographs taken by Brandon Stanton. Stanton accompanies the photographs he takes with a brief caption or quote that he receives from the subject of the photo. HONY took full advantage of being active on Facebook and now has 3.2 million likes.
What’s interesting about the HONY project is that it has layers of identity. Stanton’s collection of photographs on Facebook has taken the real identity of the subjects and the city of New York and simultaneously created an online identity that can be seen by millions. Unlike virtual worlds like LambdaMOO that are spreading across the Internet the HONY project originated in the real world. In the past many people thought that there was “offline” and “online” worlds that could not be occupied at the same time. Stanton’s HONY project has shattered that notion. The subjects and the city of the project exist beyond the Facebook account. The individuals and the city involved are straddling the line of real and virtual. The online world of the HONY Facebook account is reconstructing portions of the real world identity and sharing it throughout cyberspace.
Donna Haraway’s definition of a cyborg is more of a blending between man and machine. She expresses that the cyborg age is upon us now and we have the tools of technology to thank for its development. Stanton’s HONY project has taken the real world and bit by bit recreated a new social sphere in a virtual setting. Facebook is the perfect platform for constructing an identity. Part of expressing identity is being active rather than passive. Facebook gives Stanton the power to specifically build the identity he wants for the project. He actively is selecting images to share and questioning the subjects to help gather information that may impact the overall product. The project has become such a success that a book capturing its development has been published. The identity of the HONY project is now being spread among various platforms and consequently disrupting the dichotomous notion between “online” and “offline” worlds.
The HONY project is unique in its ability to capture the essence of not only people but also a city. The project has been assembled through the blending of the real and virtual worlds. If it was not for Facebook the project would not have found such success with so many. Participating in the Haraway defined cyborg age has given HONY the ability to take many pieces of identity and form a new compiled version to be shared. Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York project proves how technology and man share a relationship that is reframing identity.