Inner monologues — out loud

At the Brainwaves blog, Ferris Jabr writes about a fascinating project. Anthropologist Andrew Irving talked random strangers on the streets of New York City into putting on a headset and speaking their inner monologue out loud as he followed behind them with a camera. The result is something that approximates what it might be like to be able to hear someone else's thoughts.

A woman worries about where she can find a Staples and contemplates her relationship with a friend who has cancer. A man deals with his emotions over two close friends (or, possibly, roommates, or lovers) having a baby together. Another man flits between internal discussions of totalitarianism, speculation about other people on the street, and his own attempts to figure out which direction he's heading. In general, it's all a mixture of engaging and mundane, swirled together.

There are other videos in the series, as well. You can watch them at Brainwaves.


  1. I’m skeptical whether the things people are saying are the same things they would have otherwise just thought silently. Putting somebody on the spot often causes them to behave differently, especially when they know they’re being recorded. The desire to entertain often takes over, resulting in verbal diarrhea.

    1.  i suppose a certain amount of that is unavoidable in this kind of a project, but the genius thing about this particular video is that following a walker while navigating their environment forces more of a stream of consciousness that is absent in the other videos where the subject is seated.

      i really enjoyed this.

  2. I agree with kmoser– the very act of saying your thoughts aloud changes the thoughts and makes them more conscious. Still interesting, though.

  3. Sooky Stackhouse’s daily nightmare… on film.  Even with Eric thrown in as a bonus, I never envied that character.

  4. I call BS. first of all walking down the streets of NYC – one does not focus on 1 topic. Just while following her, I saw at least 6 things that would be in my mind. “Omg get that scooter off the sidewalk” “ohh he has a cute butt” “How many more blocks until I find a staples” “why didn’t i get coffee at that shop 2 blocks back” “20% chance? what does that even mean?” ” oh CRAP Gum” “ohh look at that cute baby. I need to have a baby” etc etc.. 


  5. Aren’t inner monologues a film/tv convention? The act of drawing awareness to thoughts changes them. I no more think in complete sentences in my head than I think how to cross my arms. Un-self conscious thinking is more fluid and conceptual in my experience, not “ooh, look, a cat…I need to get my bills paid…look at that ass”.  Most of the time it’s like a TV flicking between several stations – any that are consistent are usually emotionally driven by something that I either want or want to get away from. Honestly, it’s hopeless in here.

  6. Christ, I have enough trouble keeping my inner monologue to myself at the best of times, never mind with someone ENCOURAGING me to burble my perambulating brain-farts to the world at large. I talk to the frying pan, for god’s sake. Do that outside? Fuck, no. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

  7. Assuming the Via Spiga she passes is at Broome and Broadway, the woman in the first segment is REALLY FAR (by the standards of walking around Manhattan: which is to say something like 8ish blocks) from a Staples.

  8.  Pardon me while I have a strange interlude. Why, you couple of baboons!
    What makes you think I’d marry either one of you! Strange how the wind blows
    tonight. It has a tintity voice, reminds me of poor old Moslin. How happy
    I could be with either of these two if both of them just went away!
    Here I am talkin’ of parties. I came down here for a
    party. What happens? Nothing. Not even ice cream. The gods looked down and
    laughed. This would be a better world for children if the parents had to eat
    the spinach.

  9. This is effin awesome. Agreed that the process of speaking your thoughts and being followed by a camera will change the thoughts a bit, but let people do it long enough and they’ll fall into their usual NYC frenetic thought groove. I hope they keep exploring this.

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