Life on the Roll

The Lost Wallet: Intervention Reports.

In autumn 2005 I stuffed 17 wallets with fake money and personal artifacts and dropped them on the streets, in coin laundries and subway systems to see how people would respond to the dilemma of promised wealth and codes of expected behavior.

PROJECT ARCHIVE
reportWallet reports

Between September 6 and November 19, 2005 I caused a total of 17 wallet dropping incidents in San Francisco, Osaka and Kyoto. Nine wallets disappeared for good.

Coin Mosaic

UC Berkeley student spends 20 minutes interacting with passerbyers and contacts found inside the wallet

reportINTERVENTION #17
Time: November 19, 2005, Friday, 15:00 p.m. to 15:55 p.m.
Conditions: Outdoors on a cold autumn day (foliage season has just began). Busy with tourists checking for red maple leaves (momichi).
Place: Thatch roofed gate of Hounen-in Temple, Sakyoku, Kyoto.
Intervention: Walked through the landmark gate and left the red purse on the threshold in the coverage of a a big crowd.
Response: Tons of people could simply not ignore the abandoned red purse as they crossed the threshold. Same story like yesterday, but at closing time of the gate the temple ward picked up the purse and brought it to the temple.
Note: I repeated the exercise from the day before to improve the angle of the camcorder. When I picked up the bag from the ward he uttered his discontent about the obstruction of the purse which was on the gate "forever" as he put it... Even the temple authorities noticed the purse and did nothing about it even though it was an eye sore for all the photographers...

reportINTERVENTION #16
Time: November 18, 2005, Friday, 15:10 p.m. to 15:30 p.m.
Conditions: Outdoors on a cold autumn day (foliage season has just began). Busy with tourists checking for red maple leaves (momichi).
Place: Thatch roofed gate of Hounen-in Temple, Sakyoku, Kyoto.
Intervention: Walked through the landmark gate and left the red purse on the threshold.
Response: Tons of people could simply not ignore the abandoned red purse as they crossed the threshold. But only after 50 people have passed the spot. Generally people seemed really amused about the little visual interruption I left on the gate.
Note: There is something like "collective lethargy". Just not getting involved, leave-me-alone kind of attitude.

reportINTERVENTION #15
Time: November 18, 2005, Friday, 11:50 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Conditions: Indoors on a cold autumn day.
Place: Cafeteria of Zokkei University of Art, Kyoto.
Intervention: Sat on a table unpacked my bag and left the red purse.
Response: Many lunch people come by, notice it but nobody takes action. The table remains abandoned.
Note: There is something like "collective ignorance". Just not getting involved, leave-me-alone kind of attitude.

reportINTERVENTION #14
Time: November 15, 2005, Tuesday, 18:25 p.m. to 18:35 p.m.
Conditions: Underground entrance with staircase access, next to SOGO department store.
Place: Subway station Shinsaibashi, Osaka.
Intervention: Walked upstairs, laced my shoe and dropped the wallet in my hand in the middle of the entry way.
Response: First a young man picked it up, investigated its contents, and put it tidy down next to the wall. Second a woman picked it up after initially ignoring it: a follower prompted her to pick it up after all and hand it over to the campaign staff of the next door department store.
Note: People don't like to get involved in something lost but obligation makes them respond.

reportINTERVENTION #13
Time: November 15, 2005, Tuesday, 18:00 p.m. to 18:08 p.m.
Conditions: Underground.
Place: Subway station Shinsaibashi, Osaka.
Intervention: Sat on waiting chair at platform, unpacked my backpack and forgot my purse.
Response: Picked up by mid-aged woman after consulting older lady who arrived first at the scene.

reportINTERVENTION #12
Time: October 28, 2005, Wednesday 12:10 p.m. to 12:20 p.m.
Conditions: Fair and sunny.
Place: Stairway entrance of Zokei Fine Art University in Kyoto.
Intervention: Sat on stairs, unpacked my backpack and forgot to take with me the purse.
Response: A student sitting in my back got up and brought it down to me.

reportINTERVENTION #11
Time: September 28, 2005, Wednesday 17:40 p.m. to 18:00 p.m.
Conditions: Fair and sunny.
Place: On UC Berkeley campus in front of Dwindelle Hall on Sprawl Plaza.
Intervention: Sat on chairs in front of Dwinelle Hall, unpacked backpack and forgot the wallet as I walked off shortly afterwards.
Response: Several people noticed the wallet (and camera) but didn't interfer. Eventually a young student investigated the wallet, and appeared to call contacts on the business cards (optician, restaurants) contained in the wallet. He spent at least 10 minutes with the found item and engaged others in conversation.
Note: The more clues the lost item contains, the more narratives can evolve.

reportINTERVENTION #10
Time: September 28, 2005, Wednesday 17:25 p.m.
Conditions: Fair and sunny.
Place: In front of UC Berkeley on Telegraph and Bankroft Ave.
Intervention: Crossed street and dropped black wallet in the middle of Telegraph Ave.
Response: Person on the other side notified me about the mishap. Meanwhile street traffic got green light and a car ran over the wallet.
Note: Constraint people flow makes for instant response.

reportINTERVENTION #9
Time: September 21, 2005, Wednesday 19:40 p.m.
Conditions: Twilight, overcast.
Place: San Francisco Mission District, Public laundry, 985 Valencia St.
Intervention: Black wallet dropped and lost in alley between washing machines.
Response: The lady behind me noticed it right away and I picked it up.
Note: Crowded situation.

reportINTERVENTION #8
Time: September 21, 2005, Wednesday 19:10 p.m.
Conditions: Twilight, overcast.
Place: San Francisco Lower Height, Launderland, public laundryl 1130 Oak St. (Divisadero)
Intervention: black purse dropped and lost in alley between washing machines.
Response: The attendant picked it up, investigating it and brought it to the staff room.
Note: Little people and attentive staff with principles.

reportINTERVENTION #7
Time: September 19, 2005, Monday 8:50 a.m.
Conditions: Fair weather.
Place: San Francisco CalTrain Station, 4th / King St.
Intervention: Black leather purse set out on platform preceding the arrival of train.
Response: Picked up by service personal who was escorted by transit police.
Note: The police officer prompted me to close the intervention: "no video-taping here!".
Interestingly the service personal and transit police didn't establish the connection between camera and set out object.

reportINTERVENTION #6
Time: September 19, 2005, Monday 8:37 a.m.
Conditions: Fair
Place: San Francisco CalTrain Station, 4th / King St.
Intervention: Black leather purse dropped and lost on platform of arriving train.
Response: Picked up and returned by passenger walking behind me.
Note: Followers in a loosely associated group of people usually respond and return.

reportINTERVENTION (invalid)
Time: September 18, 2005, Wednesday 20:30 p.m.
Conditions: Twilight, overcast.
Place: San Francisco Mission District, Public laundry, 985 Valencia St.
Intervention: Woven purse dropped and lost in alley between washing machines.
Response: A woman just put it on top of a washing machine.
Note: Mishap with video documentation, which didn't run.

reportINTERVENTION (invalid)
Time: September 18, 2005, Wednesday 19:30 p.m.
Conditions: Twilight, overcast.
Place: San Francisco Lower Height, Launderland, public laundryl 1130 Oak St. (Divisadero)
Intervention: Turqoise purse dropped and lost in alley between washing machines.
Response: A man just finished his laundry and sacked the purse without asking.
Note: Mishap with video documentation, which didn't run.

Coin Mosaic

Thorough investigation of the red wallet on the BART plaze of Mission and 16th Street in San Francisco

reportINTERVENTION #5
Time: September 8, 2005, Wednesday 14:00 p.m.
Conditions: Foggy overcast weather, hangout crowd.
Place: San Francisco Mission District, Mission/16th Street.
Intervention: Red purse put out and forgotten on blue steel bench.
Response: First a man looked inside the purse and put it back. Soon another man picked it up and sacked it while walking by.
Note: Some people like privacy when investigating a found object...

reportINTERVENTION #4
Time: September 8, 2005, Wednesday 12:20 p.m.
Conditions: Foggy overcast weather, lunchbreak crowd.
Place: San Francisco Downtown, Intersection Market/Montgomery/Post Street
Intervention: Turquoise purse dropped while running to the flashing light of the pedestrian crossing.
Response: Attentive person walking behind me immediately picked up and returned the lost purse encouraged by other attentive bystanders.
Note: Here we had the first group effort not visible in the video feed.

reportINTERVENTION #3
Time: September 8, 2005, Wednesday 12:10 p.m.
Conditions: Foggy overcast weather, lunchbreak crowd.
Place: San Francisco Downtown, Intersection Market/Bush Street
Intervention: Turquoise purse dropped while walking through frame.
Response: Attentive person walking nearby immediately picked up and returned the lost purse because he saw the video camera
Note: Usually the open video documentation remains unnoticed until people are looking for clues.

reportINTERVENTION #2
Time: September 6, 2005, Labor Day Monday, 14:00 p.m.
Conditions: Fair weather, big crowd.
Place: San Francisco Pier 41 Waterfront (next to Alcatraz ferry terminal)
Intervention: Turquoise purse dropped while walking through frame.
Response: Attentive person sitting nearby immediately picked up and returned the lost purse.
Note: What happens if something is forgotten vs. lost (dropped)?

reportINTERVENTION #1
Time: September 6, 2005, Labor Day Monday, 12:30 p.m.
Conditions: Fair weather, big crowd.
Place: San Francisco Powell Street station (cable car access)
Intervention: Turquoise purse placed and forgotten on floor (on divider wall).
Response: Several people checking contents and putting it back. After 20 minutes two deaf women looked inside the purse for an ID, saw that it is fake and noticed the video camera where they returned it to me...
Note: What happens if the purse contains valuables?