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The urban walking trend continues: a professional walker (seriously) meets the sociologist who walked all of New York City’s streets.
I was, therefore, amazed to learn that there was another person walking the five boroughs: a thirty-something man named Matt Green. Green isn’t a sociologist; he’s more like an inexhaustibly curious visitor. He, too, has walked more than six thousand miles within the city limits. Unlike Helmreich, who records what he sees in his capacious, near-eidetic memory, Green takes photographs with his phone. He posts the photos to a blog, ImJustWalkin.com. Before he decided to walk all of New York City, Green walked across the United States, from New York to Oregon. Helmreich commutes into the city from his house on Long Island. Green, by contrast, has no apartment or job. He walks full-time and stays with friends. His venture is funded by donations.
Obviously, we had to introduce Green and Helmreich. The film that resulted, directed by Riley Hooper, touches on many subjects: nature, race, identity, gentrification. In some ways, it captures the difficulty every New Yorker faces in comprehending a city which is always beyond us as individuals. It’s also a classic New York romance. These two big-city wanderers are kindred spirits. Now—with a little help—they’ve found each other.
A nice little story. The film touches on some of this but I would want the two to compare walking notes in an academic way. What had they each noticed? How much did their interpretations align or differ? How do their field notes compare? Putting their heads together, I’m guessing they could come up an interesting back and forth on both NYC’s famous and less famous areas. This could end up as a good example of group qualitative work – maintaining the rich detail of the methodology but limiting the subjective bias of an individual researcher – that came about serendipitously.
See these earlier posts on the sociologist who published a book on his efforts and gave tours based on his knowledge.