Feeling manipulated by the subway ads, Wright started Hero Reports to balance what she saw as a message of fear with her own online message of hope.
New York-based writer and blogger Nubia Duvall, whose observations of city-dwellers at their best have been featured on the website, believes that Wright’s project is timely.
“Since 9/11, there’s been a negative emphasis on observing what’s going on around you,” she says. “You’re on the lookout because something bad might happen. But conversely, good things happen, too.”
Hero Reports started as a tool of action as well as observation. Wright labels her project as a “technology of empathy,” because it acknowledges the little deeds of others – giving up a seat for a pregnant woman, helping an old man with his groceries – while encouraging people to perform their own small acts of kindness.
Tikva Morowathi, a designer who has contributed several audio reports to the website, says Hero Reports provides the rare opportunity to acknowledge others.
“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.”
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.”