Confessions of a location scout: why the New York beloved of the movies doesn't exist any more
There is surely no other city we know as completely from cinema and TV as New York. Yet according to film location scout Nick Carr, what he is often asked to find is anything but the reality of the Big Apple

Nick Carr, a movie location scout who writes the popular blog “Scouting NY,” explains in The Guardian (London) why he gets a "small-town” vibe throughout The Bronx, and thinks it’s “the friendliest borough in New York”: 

A few summers ago, I was hired to scout for a movie being shot entirely in the Bronx. If you believe its Hollywood portrayal, the Bronx is hell on Earth, a lawless Gomorrah of sin and vice where crime runs unchecked and if your car breaks down in the Bronx, you better run like hell. 

I knew this wasn’t the case, but I was still a bit nervous when I first started scouting. We were shooting in some of the more dangerous neighbourhoods, and walking the streets with a big stack of neon flyers and a $5,000 camera around my neck, my mind kept returning to … well, the movies. 

Sure enough, on my first day, a tough-looking guy came right up to me as I was walking down the street. “Nice camera,” he said.

This was it. A scene I’d watched a million times over. I knew exactly how it was going to end.

“What kind of lens you got?” he asked.

“Canon 24-70mm L-series,” I replied.

“Cool. I’ve been thinking of getting one myself.”

With that, he walked off down the street and disappeared.

Just like in the movies, right?

For the rest of my scouting gig that summer, I had more casual, friendly exchanges like this with people on the street than I can count. In New York City, random conversations with strangers are usually to be avoided like the plague. And yet the Bronx reminded me of my travels in the midwest, where a visit to the grocery store might lead to a five-minute conversation with a clerk you’ve never met before about your recent vacation to Hawaii. There’s a wonderful, almost small-town spirit that permeates much of the Bronx, and I can easily say it’s the friendliest borough in New York. 

Of course, you’d never know it from watching the film I worked on. Once again, the Bronx was treated as a desolate hellhole. I’m not even sure if the director had ever set foot there before. But he had seen it in the movies.

Once you accept that music is an input, a factor of production, you’ll naturally seek to minimize the cost and effort required to acquire the input. And since music is “context” rather than “core,” to borrow Geoff Moore’s famous categorization of business inputs, simple economics would dictate that you outsource the supply of music rather than invest personal resources — time, money, attention, passion — in supplying it yourself. You should, as Google suggests, look to a “team of music experts” to “craft” your musical inputs, “song by song,” so “you don’t have to.” To choose one’s own songs, or even to develop the personal taste in music required to choose one’s own songs, would be wasted labor, a distraction from the series of essential jobs that give structure and value to your days.

Art is an industrial lubricant that, by reducing the friction from activities, makes for more productive lives.

—  Nick Carr on the latest iteration of Google Play Music.
Internet executives like Mark Zuckerberg like to argue that “privacy” is an outdated concern. But when people talk about privacy, what they’re really talking about is freedom: the freedom to be in charge of their own information. Guaranteeing the freedom of information online entails not only questions of flow but also questions of control. Frankly, it sometimes seems like Silicon Valley is more interested in the freedom of data than in the freedom of people.
Scouting NY
My name is Nick Carr. I work as a movie location scout in New York. My job is to stare at the city. This is what I see.

Useful Resource

Scouting NY is a fun blog run by a location scout in New York. Nick Carr posts about all sorts of fascinating locations he comes upon while searching the area for places to film and he occasionally has in-depth looks at the locations used by individual films. His article on The Godfather was a particular delight.
RoughType: “Me tweet pretty one day”

Just because we can do things a certain way doesn’t mean we should

The lesson might be: Let’s place an even bigger stress on “sentences from books,” particularly in education, in order to ensure that, in an age characterized by the mass consumption of updates, tweets, and snippets, we maintain our capacity for more sophisticated thinking, writing, reading, and, yes, remembering. Surely, we wouldn’t want to throw out five thousand years of cognitive gains — however “anomalous” they may be — and allow ourselves to drift back to “pre-literate communication.” But that’s not the conclusion the scholars come to. A third member of the research team, Laura Mickes, from the University of Warwick, says, “Writing that is easy and quick to generate is also easy to remember – the more casual and unedited, the more ‘mind-ready’ it is. Knowing this could help in the design of better educational tools.”


Google Does Not Make You Dumb and Other Thoughts

Google is not making us stupid, as Nicholas Carr argues in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” but it is teaching us how to adapt to new technologies with a new form of literacy as Clay Shirky claims in his response to Carr. However, Safiya Umoja Noble seems to agree with Carr in her article, “Missed Connections.”

Carr states that our minds are trying to catch up with the speed that the Internet distributes information: “in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” The new pace is definitely faster and in the form of small bits of information, but I would like to argue that this is a much more efficient way of finding information. Like Shirky argues, nobody is actually trying to read War and Peace – it is way too long. Yet now we have the ability to find the main themes and importance of the novel with the Internet without reading the entire book.

Often, I relate Shirky’s main ideas to that of getting through college. I never understood how some students could spend hours and hours in the library reading and studying for class, staying up all night only to go to class exhausted. Classmates were dropping like flies as the flu spread and immune systems needed to be repaired. Honestly, the Internet could have helped many of these students. I am not advocating that students completely forgo reading for a class or doing an assignment, but the Internet can help tremendously. For example, I needed to know the background of a peace treaty for a history paper, but did not have the time to go through books and articles to read about it. Wikipedia was extremely helpful and allowed me to focus on what the actual assignment was about – not finding past information but discussing the actual event.

Although the Internet can save time and be more efficient, it also has its cons. As Noble finds in her classroom studies, search engines provide extremely biased results. The top links in the results are those that paid to be there, and relate to the searcher’s demographics. Noble finds that searching “black girls” brings up porn sites rather than information on black women from a feminist perspective. Noble might agree with Carr that the Internet is blocking users from all the information out there, and only provides biased results. However, I argue that the user needs to educate themselves on how search engines work and what to watch out for. For example, not automatically trusting the first link in the search results. Also, search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing should have some more filters and value to certain words as Noble suggests. Finally, in our digital age, technology companies need to begin considering the ethics and morals behind their products and services due to the relationship they have with their users. Some regulation needs to happen. 

Carr bids adieu to the IT department

Nicholas Carr first gained notoriety within the corporate IT world in 2003 with his provocative Harvard Business Review article “IT Doesn’t Matter”. In the article, Carr argued that companies could no longer gain any strategic advantage from IT investments as its ubiquity had made IT simply another cost of doing business.Carr is now back with another book that is sure to raise the hackles of corporate IT types yet again.

In “The Big Switch“, Carr compares the trend toward grid or cloud computing with the development of the electric grid more than a century ago.Carr agues that much in the same way that stand-alone electric dynamos disappeared with the rise of national power grids, today’s islands of corporate IT resources will be made irrelevant with the shift to utility computing. And as the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centres into the cloud, the traditional IT department is set to go the way of the Dodo.Carr does make a compelling argument for the ascendency of utility computing and he is certainly quite right about the general trend lines – witness the rapid rise of on-demand and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions as well as web services from the likes of Amazon, Savvis, and Google. However, I think it will be quite some time before most enterprises will fully embrace the utility computing model & completely abandon their internal IT resources.

In the small business arena however, cloud computing is set to make a more immediate impact. The vast majority of small businesses do not have internal IT departments with vested interests to protect.

Innovative on-demand services and emerging web technologies are making it possible for small businesses to deploy powerful IT tools and processes that were previously limited to large enterprises with deep pockets.This shift to cloud computing is set to create vast new opportunities for agile small businesses and is a topic you will be reading a lot more of in this blog.