Online tales of everyday heroes
New website seeks to inspire kindness by promoting past good deeds.
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“Recognizing other people … is not really part of our day-to-day activities,” she says. “Hero Reports makes me question what I can acknowledge somebody for, and that’s a great way to think about the people around us.”Skip to next paragraph
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Wright also sees her project as an attempt to reclaim the notion of heroism.
“The word ‘hero’ is used for firefighters, policemen, Iraqi soldiers,” she says. “But if heroes are necessarily people who are trained and professional, it becomes easier to pass the responsibility on to them. Your personal accountability is reduced.”
“The Take Away,” a morning news program from WNYC and Public Radio International, has broadcasted several of the site’s audio segments. John Hockenberry, the show’s host, says that the most powerful feature of Hero Reports is the website’s ability to digitally map where the good deeds took place. People who share their stories can type in where the event occurred and the site will highlight that area on a special Google map of the city. This allows for a spatial relationship between ordinary heroes and their New York City neighborhoods, he says.
“It’s intuitively clear to our listeners that they should report heroic activities because that’s one way in which to value their communities,” says Mr. Hockenberry. “But the information they submit is given added value in the way that it is graphically represented. It’s not just about a website anymore, it’s about seeing whether there have been heroic incidents on my block. The technology lets us reshape the way we think about our local society.”
In addition to user-submitted pieces, Hero Reports aggregates good-news articles published by mainstream media outlets and scours the blogosphere for additional stories with a positive urban outlook.
“There’s so much bad news in the world – on the news, on radio, TV,” says Paruz. “Good stuff happens, but that doesn’t get promoted.”
Wright adds that the ability to aggregate news content according to a theme gives it more meaning.
“I don’t believe that technology will save the world,” she says. “But technology does have the power to bring things together. Information about good deeds is out there in the newspapers and blogs. But you only notice it when you put it all together.”
By doing so, Wright is helping people reach across their online and offline social networks and engage in a dialogue across time, space, and media. And, by using technology to enable, archive, and reclaim heroism, Wright has done something heroic enough to report on.
Hero Reports is located at: www.heroreports.org