Culture and New Media — Possible Spaces of Engagement and Discussion

If you use Facebook or are a fan of photography you’re probably familiar with Humans of New York — a documentary blog project launched in 2010 to bring the stories of New York’s diverse residents to life.

The Facebook pages has more than 9-million likes and the project’s Twitter account 137-thousand followers.

humans of new york

Humans of New York front page.

Humans of New York — or HONY — features an image of an individual, or sometimes several people, above a quote about their lives. The stories range from the every day to the profound.

Recently the project’s founder and photographer, Brandon, partnered with the United Nations to document the agency’s 8 Millennium Development Goals. So far the partnership has taken him to Iraq and Iran.

HONY’s images from the “world tour” are no different from those taken in New York — except that the physical location is different and the circumstances in which the subjects live are different.

Humans of New York has spun off a number of different sister projects, including Humans of Iran and Humans of Mumbai.

All of the projects have a similar goal — to give viewers and readers a glimpse into the every day lives of the people featured in the images.

How much discussion or engagement such projects ultimately produce is unclear. What they do accomplish, however, is provide access to stories that might not appear in mainstream media.

Every day stories are not the focus of the blog Sociological Images. Instead, writers there tease apart complicated ideas with a lay audience in mind. The blog is published on Tumblr, a platform which highly values the ability to share posts — and so the sociological writing there is meant to be easily understood and, hopefully, worth sharing.

Art is at the heart of Inside Out — its website is interactive and meant to get the reader/viewer involved in the process of creation. The documentary follows a French artist “as he motivates entire communities to define their most important causes with incredibly passionate displays of giant black and white portraits pasted in the street.” Part of the project has included taking portraits in photobooths all over the world.

If documentary photography is something you are passionate about, the Open Society has a project aimed at getting people engaged with global human rights issues. Videos and images produced by project grantees are highlighted on the project’s website.


One chapter from Hollow.

One website that showcases the potential for interactive, digital storytelling is the home of Hollow. A documentary about the lives of people living in McDowell County, West Virginian, the site gives viewers a peak into the county’s past, its present, and ponders what the future will be for those living there.

These are just a handful of the new media projects we’ve come across that appear to be creating spaces to learn about, and sometimes discuss, culture. Some of them might be useful as we begin the new school year.

What projects or websites are you a fan of? Which are you using in your classes this fall?

Links to projects:

Humans of New York

Sociological Images

Inside Out

Open Society Documentary Photography Project


You can follow us on Twitter: @FramingGlobal.