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Brandon In The Passenger Seat by Brandon Singh

"Brandon in the Passenger Seat" is an exploration into the social context of Uber rides. The internet has given rise to some of the most revolutionary mobile applications that have integrated themselves into our daily lives. Without Uber, a lot of people would have trouble commuting places, myself included. Uber is one of many apps that efficiently solved so many problems for people. Need to go somewhere but don't want to pay those absurd cab prices? Get an Uber. Got a car and want to make some extra cash? Drive for Uber. Uber has succeeded by bringing people together over a necessary task.

While Uber itself is essentially a method of transportation, it presents much more than that. It's time you get exclusively with another person. Whether you're the driver or the passenger, this is a potential connecting point and could be the start of something greater. At the very least, it's a good conversation most of the time. I, myself, have had some interesting experiences in Uber rides and became fascinated with the art of connecting with your driver. I often pride myself in being able to have a good conversation with my driver and often get to points where drivers are actually telling me more than surface level small talk. I learn about their life, their past, their goals and interests. Each one of them is different and intriguing.

For my project, I went on Uber rides as I normally would throughout a three week span and this time, I tried to connect with each and every driver. Sometimes maybe I have a ride where I'm just not down for talking, but for these rides the priority was to get as much conversation out of the driver as possible. "Brandon in the Passenger Seat" is me sharing those conversational experiences. The goal of this project is to tell the stories from these drivers and comment on the blurred social lines that exist in Uber rides. When most people get into an Uber, it presents a cab-like atmosphere. Functionally, it's the same, but the question is almost always whether you should make conversation with the driver. Unlike a cab, there isn't a professional construct surrounding this experience. You're not even in an actual third-party owned cab. You're in someone else's car. I find that a lot of people are hesitant to really make conversation with the driver that expands more than just small talk. From what drivers and other passengers have told me, it's usually the common exchange of pleasantries. You hop in the car, "Hey, how are you doing today?" then you're off on the ride without much else being said. I don't blame people for being quiet in an Uber. Sometimes, it's that kind of day. After all, there isn't an established social code that people should follow when they get into the car. Nor do drivers hold it against passengers that choose not to speak. Personally, I love making conversation with the driver because you never really know who that person could be and what stories they can share. I want people to see this project and think about their Uber experiences more and potentially connect with their drivers. Ultimately, I wanted to encourage more human interaction through this project.

Taking Ubers was the easy part. Finding the appropriate way to share the experiences was the real challenge. I initially wanted to record the audio from each ride and play it on a web space. Though, that idea sank quickly as most drivers seemed understandably reluctant to give permission to record. I chose to tell these stories a few different ways. One of which is a video, where I sit down and reflect on these rides. I wanted to combine the elements of a narrated monologue with stand-up comedy in a way that not only achieved the goal of sharing these stories but also showcased my personality and maybe in the slightest way was funny here and there. Inspired by the comedic, yet educational and relevant stylings of Hennessy Youngman and the in-the-moment exclusive Happenings of Allan Kaprow, I sought a middle-ground to capture the moment via monologue and my natural, easy-going semi-comedic ways. Additionally, I did a series of Tweets where I told the stories of these rides as well. Twitter is more short form content and it's a platform I engage a lot with. I like to think I have a unique Twitter voice and thought that doing a series of Tweets before filming a video would not only be the best way for me to think about how I would act in the video but also to amplify the element of the internet in this piece. The third piece of this project is a written reflection on each ride. These reflections are a little more formal than my video or Tweeting but I wanted to actually tell the story in a written way to complete the story and bring everything together. The reflections include a screenshot of the ride receipt as well to add a documentational aspect and for the reader to get a peek into what the driver looks like and how the ride might have been.

Ultimately, the internet has found more and more ways to connect human beings with one another. Uber is one of those ways. It's not as direct of a "connection" as say, LinkedIn for networking or OkCupid for dating, but at the end of the day, you're in a confined space with another human being. That connection is what you make it.