Broken stair theory, but literally
March 29, 2022 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Years ago I saw a video of a city subway exit with one uneven stair and multiple people tripping on it. The point was that each person who tripped probably thought it was their fault (I’m clumsy), and lacked the perspective to see it was a systemic issue that needed to be changed (the stair caught my toe because it was incorrectly built half a centimetre higher than the stairs in the rest of the staircase). Can anyone identify this video?

I think it was in NYC, and shot from above, looking down into the stairwell as commuters climbed up to street level.

I think you only saw the commuters’ backs, and there were wave after wave of them with about half the people tripping in the exact same spot.

It was NOT related to the “missing stair theory” describing how abusers are permitted in group dynamics (although that theory is life-changing and everyone should read & think about it!).

This video was more concrete (ha) and illustrated & discussed how the built environment can contain flaws that it’s not held accountable for because each person only sees their own interaction with it.

I think it was intended to nudge the viewer to think more insightfully about systemic harm by analyzing deeper patterns and trends instead of staying at the shallow level of looking at single occurrences.

Any guesses? Thanks!
posted by nouvelle-personne to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This one?
posted by subocoyne at 10:52 AM on March 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure if this is the specific video you're thinking of, but it's likely that it's at least of the same stairs: the 36th street station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I remember it because, this used to be my stop, and I tripped on these stairs all the time. Fun fact: after the video made the rounds, the MTA actually fixed the stairs.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:53 AM on March 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There was a mefi post about this! This is the video posted by the filmmaker who made it.
posted by misskaz at 10:53 AM on March 29, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Yep, it was a viral video for good! As Richard says, the MTA fixed it almost immediately.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:53 AM on March 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I use a comment from that mefi thread to teach this point all the time
posted by knapah at 12:51 PM on March 29, 2022 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: That was exactly the one! The thinking about how we tend to personalize the systemic was, I guess, my takeaway from reading that exact MeFi thread. Thanks everyone!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:55 AM on March 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

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