Thursday, October 20, 2005

Focal Points

Back to the discussion of Thomas Schelling and his Nobel Prize, one of his key game theory insights was about the use of focal points (which Merrick discussed in her comment last week). Here is the explanation of the basic concept:
Schelling again offers a framework for analysis by offering powerful evidence for the existence of focal points in social life. People who may never have met are nonetheless capable of coordinating their behavior under some circumstances. Perhaps even more surprising, certain open-ended questions can elicit a high amount of agreement. For example, in one experiment Schelling asked his subjects what they would do if they were simply told to go and meet someone in New York City on a certain day. Out of all the possibilities for when and where to meet, a majority, trying to intuit where and when other people would expect them to be, would have converged at the information booth in Grand Central Station at high noon!
Today, Tyler Cowen wrote a post that considers whether Grand Central Station is still a focal point in NYC.

What do you think would be the focal point in NYC? If you had to meet someone in New York City, but you only knew which day -- you did not know what time of day or where -- where would you go and what time would you be there? I think the fact that some of you have been to New York and others haven't makes this even more interesting to see. You also have to assume that neither of you have the use of a cell phone...

What if instead you had to meet another student (could be any student in the high school) at Walker? Where would it be and what time?

(Just posting an answer here does not count as a thoughtful post for this week. It would count if you post reasons why some places work and others don't)

16 comments:

Jessica said...

If I had to meet another high school student at Walker without knowing a time or place, I would meet them at the entrance to the third hall in the upper school, at about 7:50. In order to get to school that day, they would most likely have to pass through that entrance at about that time. It is easily accessible and a place where a lot of students naturally congregate in the mornings. A focal point would need to be a place that people can recognize and stands out, not like a random classroom.

Sam Ulrich said...

Well many things have changed since Schelling did his survey. One of those many events that changed was 9/11 which would be the centerpoint of most people's stay in New York and the time of 12 o'clock noon being the most common time frame. This place being more accesible than the statue of liberty, more known than the staton island ferry, and much smaller than times square. If I was to meet another student at Walker it would be in the courtyard on the brickwall in front of the lunchroom, and the time would have to be dependent on whether it was a school day or not. If it was a school day then it would probably be around 3:30 PM, if it was not a school day then noon would be the preferred time again. This is a better spot than the main office since the main office is out of the way and not where most walker students walk through.

Anonymous said...

I've never been to New York before, but I would say that if I had to meet someone somewhere in NYC, it would be at the top of the empire state building and at noon. This is mainly because this is the main tourist spot I know of. No one goes to NYC and doesn't go to the top of the Empire State Building.
For Walker, if I had to meet someone somewhere, I agree with Jessi that the time would be around 7:50 because everyone has to enter school by 8, but I would meet them outside the doors of the second hall instead of the third hall because not everyone has a locker or their first period class in the third hall.
-Emily Freebairn

Anonymous said...

I've never been to NYC but if I had to pick a place to meet someone it would be in Times Square, just because everyone I know that has been to New York passes through the square at least once. As for the time I would say 12 because it is the most comon time to meet someone. As for at walker it would depend on what day it is. If it is a school day I would say outside the main door to the second hall around 7:45 because everyone is coming in around that time. If it wasn't a school day I would say on the brick wall outside the lunchroom courtyard around 12, because that way you see everyone who enters and leaves and its the first thing you see as you walk into the upper school. John Garrison

Anonymous said...

In New York City, if i had to meet somewhere, i would meet on the top of the Empire State Building at noon (just like in sleepless in seatle)(except not at noon). If i had to meet someone at Walker, i would meet them in the cafeteria at noon because students go there frequently everyday.
-courtney allen

Anonymous said...

Although it is pretty big I would have to say Central Park at noon for New York. For Walker I would say in the circle at 7:45.
Brian Berkowitz

Anonymous said...

For New York City, I would meet under the big clock in Times Square at noon. Its really easy to get to and it would probably be easier security wise. For Walker, if its the whole school (like Lower school and middle school) I would think the gym would be the most logical place at 3. Everyone will be out of school by then and it is a place in common with the entire school. If it was just the entire high school i would say the entrance to the second hall because everyone walks through there on the way to school.
-kelly

Anonymous said...

If I had to meet somebody in NYC, I’d probably meet up with then in the center of Times Square at noon since pretty much anybody who goes to New York visits Times Square at least once. Noon is a good time since it’s easier to remember, and Times Square is a top tourist attraction. If I had to meet another person at Walker on a school day, I’d meet them at the Circle at about 7:50 since pretty much everybody walks through there at that time. On a non school day, I’d meet up with them at noon in probably the same place.

-Ravi Bhatia

Anonymous said...

I was originally going to say I would meet someone at Central Park but then I realized just how large Central Park is... So i would meet some one at noon under the clock in Times Square because its kinda of in the middle of Manhattan. If I were to meet someone at Walker and it was just the highschool i would meet them at 3 in the courtyard between then dining hall and 2nd hall._Kristen Henderson

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ravi, I would meet someone in the middle of Times Square at noon because Times Square is a central location in New York and noon is a pretty standard time. I remember from my trip to New York that we passed through Times Square many times, so I would get to Times Square at 11:30 because even if the person you are meeting is not planning to stop there, they might see you standing there and stop.

I also would meet a person from Walker at 7:45 on a school day in the courtyard outside of the dining hall. Most people get to school between 7:30 and 8:00 and just about everyone goes in the door to the second wing. On a non-school day, I would meet them at 2:00 in the afternoon at the East Cobb Avenue. Every time that I go to the Avenue, I always run into someone from Walker. I also might meet them at Walker at noon in the carpool circle.

- Jessica Monk

Anonymous said...

in new york i would meet at times square at noon. Times square is a central location in New York that is close to everything and easy to get to. It is one of the big places people visit when they go to new york and it is already a common meeting place.
At Walker I would meet at the area outside the lunch room where the picnic tables are at 3:00. Everyone congregates outside at 3 after school so it is likely the person would be there. Also everyone has to go out that way to get to the parking lot at the end of the day so they would have to walk by you. Students always sit outside at the tables when they have free time and before and after school. so it would make sense to meet someone their.
erin clay

Anonymous said...

New York City today has many more publicized landmarks that have, in a way, seemed to mask the Grand Central Station Clock (Central Park, Empire State Building, Ellis Island [Statue of Liberty], Rockefeller Center, Broadway, NYSE, and Times Square). However a good meeting place needs an exact location, and all of these places, including Grand Central Station, are very broad. Many of these cannot be narrowed down much further. Which part of Broadway, the NYSE, Times Square, or the Empire State building is most notorious? Central Park and Rockefeller have that famous spot (the ponds/ ice skating rinks). Still these areas are large. We have all been seperated from a group in a stadium or store the size of these places; we need a still more exact location. The Statue of Liberty is large, but it is famous and it has a destinct entrance unlike a building which may have many. The only problem is that its an island and not too easy to get to. Grand Central Station is still famous enough today to be recognised as a landmark, and it has a famous point inside to meet at (the clock). All the subway tracks converge at this one place so you are bound to pass through. Plus how can you get a more exact location than the clock? A few steps either way and you can see all sides of the stand. Grand Central is still today the perfect meeting spot. The time will be unanimous for noon, no matter the year.
For walker i would meet right in front of the high school circle. Everone passes by this spot by car or walking regardless of which building they are to enter. The time would be 7:45 b/c it is when the majority of people get to school so they have a few minutes to prepare for class.
- David Hale

Anonymous said...

I'd say Central Park at noon. I've been to NYC before, but haven't spent enough time there to be really familiar with places people go everyday, so I'd stick with the ones that everyone knows, like the Empire State building, Grand Central Station, Times Square, Central Park, possibly Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, maybe even Wall Street. Since the easiest to access, in my out-of-towner opinion would be Central Park, and the default mental meeting time seems to be noon, not a difficult time to meet at, that's where I'd try to meet someone. Parks are built for people to engage in activities other than business, and, to a lesser degree, tourism (even though I bet a lot of tourists go see it), so meeting someone there seems logical. This is similar to Schelling's conclusion that Grand Central Station was a focal point because it's function was to move lots of people rapidly and at the same time.
As far as Walker goes, I don't think it'd be anytime before school, since people are rarely there early and sometimes run late. So I'd say between 3:10 and 3:30, and it would be in the courtyard between the cafeteria and the halls.
-Andrew Gelly

Anonymous said...

I agree with David. I think that many of the places (including Times Square, which I chose before) are too broad. For example, Times Square is so big and crowded that you could be standing at one end and the person that you are meeting could be standing at the other end and you might not even see them. So, I would like to change my answer to under the clock in Times Square at noon. Also, I think that Central Park is even broader than Times Square. According to Central Park’s website, Central Park is 843 acres (which is 6% of the total acreage in Manhattan) and a full loop around the park is 6.1 miles. So, if you were going to meet someone there, you are better off going to a specific entrance or landmark within the park, but you are still faced with the decision of which entrance or landmark is more important than the others.

- Jessica Monk

Elisabeth Bentley said...

If I had to meet someone at Walker, it would most likely be at 8:00 on the couch at the main entrace to the middle/highschool becuase it's comfortable and right in the eenter between the lower, middle, and high school.

In New York, I would most likely meet someone at 12:00 pm. at Ground Zero, because 9/11 is the most memorable event in NY's history to me.

Kind Kimberly Burky said...

If I were to meet someone in New York City, I would most definitely meet them at Times Square under the HUGE coke ad. Even though Times Square is most definitely a large area, I feel as though that would be the only logical place to go, as it is in the center of New York City. Also, the coke ad site is a common landmark. If I wanted to be original, however, I would probably meet at the OG (olive garden for all you suckas who don't know) and sit by myself enjoying the unlimited salad and breadsticks in a homestyle Italian atmosphere. You wouldn't even need to meet up with a friend. For the time, I would probably meet around noon, simply because that would give me the greatest probabilty of finding the person I wanted to meet.

If I were meeting a person at Walker, I would meet them at the first tree that is benched in in front of the middle school carpool circle. This spot must be passed to go anywhere on the upper school's campus. If I were meeting someone on a school day, I would probably meet them around 7:45. If I were meeting them on a weekend, I would probably meet them around 3 in the afternoon because that is after my lunch date and before my dinner date and it still would give me plenty of time to get ready to go out that night.

HAVE AN AWESOME SUNDAY NIGHT/MONDAY MORNING!