Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Caine's Arcade: The Kindness of Strangers

You may have already seen this adorable short film/documentary on Caine's Arcade, since it's been going around the Internet over the last couple days. If not, then it's a short story about a 9-year-old boy who spent his summer creating an elaborate, incredible, FUNCTIONAL cardboard arcade inside his father's auto part store. He had no customers until finally, one day, Nirvan Mullick walked in looking for a part. After buying a "Fun Pass" and playing with the games, Mullick asked for permission to make a short film about the arcade. And then he did something magical. He recruited people through a Facebook event to create a flashmob to come to Caine's Arcade (without Caine knowing).

Caine's Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

This is what I love about the Internet - when people from all over join together just to make someone's day. Mullick said people from all over were commenting on the page, saying how much they wished they could come if only they weren't so far away.

This TED talk (Jonathan Zittrain: The Web as random acts of kindness) is from 2009, but I love it. Here's a quote that struck me:
"So what we see in this phenomenon is something that the crazed, late traffic engineer Hans Monderman discovered in the Netherlands, and here in South Kensington, that sometimes if you remove some of the external rules and signs and everything else, you can actually end up with a safer environment in which people can function, and one in which they are more human with each other. They're realizing that they have to take responsibility for what they do."
This is similar to an effect I noticed in real life a while back when a stoplight was out down the road. It's not a huge major intersection, but it gets a ton of traffic. And yet, when the light wasn't working, there were no crashes. In fact, people suddenly seemed to understand the concept of a four-way stop far better than I usually observe at a real four-way stop. Traffic didn't get backed up. In some ways, it seemed to be moving better than when the stoplight was working.

So next time you feel like there's no hope for humanity (it's easy to get this feeling when reading YouTube comments or these Twitter posts from people who didn't know the Titanic was a real event), watch Caine's Arcade. Watch this TED talk. Smile at someone, and see if they smile back.

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