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Great Moments in Psychological Experiments: the car dealership on the site of Tiger Stadium

Nov 12, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT


This is somewhat amusing. A college student who lives near the site of old Tiger Stadium in Detroit conducted a psychological experiment in which he put up a banner advertising a forthcoming auto dealership on the hallowed ground at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, inviting people to go to a website for more information and to submit job applications.  Then he put up a comments box to see what people thought.

Benghauser left plenty of clues for the devoted Tigers fan that his sign is fake. The name of the dealership, Navin, comes from the old name of the concrete and steel stadium built in 1911. The name of the architect listed on the sign, George Bennet, comes from Bennett Park, the name of the first stadium built on the site in 1895 by Detroit Tigers owner George Vanderbeck. Vanderbeck’s name is also referenced on the sign.

He got some angry comments and it’s not at all clear what kind of academic paper that would create.  But the good news is that he is using the experiment as a means of raising money to erect an Ernie Harwell statue on the old stadium grounds.  The website he used for the phony car dealer actually goes to a Kickstarter page for that purpose.

The last real plan for the site — headquarters for the company that operates holiday parades in Detroit — is still pending. In the meantime you can still go and play there like I did this past summer.

  1. historiophiliac - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    If he gets credit for this, then I am even more depressed about education in America than I was before. (And, yes, I am a snob.)

    • historiophiliac - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:29 AM

      Seriously? People think he should get credit for that?

      • roverkarlthecannedham - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:53 AM

        I will not presume to speak for the others clicking on the thumbs but I shall give you the first in the other direction there. I do not inherently agree that this work is not worthy of credit but I do find it a bit soft at this point. To what end is this student carrying this out? Erecting a statue? Given the rather poor state of the city in general, a statue is not all that worthy unless one is pigeon with nothing to shit on.

        Now as a focus point for community activism, preservation of a cultural heritage site, and a useful place for sport and recreation, well then this project would have merit. I would be interested to see the student’s thesis topic and research questions. We do not really know enough about the ultimate goal here. Also, I am reminded of some wise words by Nietzsche-

        “…when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”
        Beyond Good and Evil

        Many a student began a project intending only to gain the credit and move on but instead found a lifetime of useful work therein. We should give this one some time, I think. It may yet bear some better fruit than a statue.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 12, 2012 at 12:45 PM

        Seriously? People think he should get credit for that?

        Quoting per the article:
        “I wanted to see if something negative would translate into people doing something positive,” he said Saturday while visiting the field. It’s the project part of his senior thesis

        Do we know what field his senior thesis is in? Is he studying behavioral psychology? He’s not doing this for some kicks on a friday night.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 12, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        Ok, clearly people did not read the article in full or didn’t understand. He’s in an art/design school. What about that sign is particularly impressive as a design project? If he’s wanting to use the statue for his senior project instead, I think not being up front with his fundraising is sketchy. In fact, if he was actually pursuing a psychology degree, he would be bound by ethics rules that would require panel review for a project wherein he accepts funds from subjects (unless his school was really sketchy) — and I doubt he’d get the ok. If running a Kickstarter campaign gets you college credit, we should not wonder why we have fallen in international rankings. If any of the students in my history class wanted senior project credit for getting a statue raised for some local historical figure, I wouldn’t do it. It’s not academic — and as a contribution to bettering our society, it ranks pretty low. Now, if there were an educational program attached to it, that would be different, but I’m not in design either.

      • roverkarlthecannedham - Nov 12, 2012 at 2:35 PM

        You mean read the linked article, do you not? Guilty as charged. I did not read it. Given that he seems to be raising money to erect a statue, I think our young student might do a little better than that.

      • dowhatifeellike - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:39 PM

        Critical thinking, people. If he’s in art/design school, he’s researching the subliminal impact of linking an advertisement with the historical significance of the location in which the ad is displayed.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:54 PM

        In which case, he should not actually do the project (fundraising) because of the ethical issues. He can do the psychological impact study without raising money to build an actual statue. If he’s actually after putting up a statue, it crosses the line and is not a legit research project. If he was in a rigorous social science program, this would not be okay. I think he’s pulling a CYA move here, for what it’s worth. BTW, it doesn’t sound like he got enough of a response to get a sample you could make sound conclusions from anyway.

      • joebenghauser - Nov 13, 2012 at 3:02 PM

        I agree that running a Kickstarter shouldn’t get me college credit, but what about engaging the community in a discussion about the use of space, ownership, and heritage? Not only has it provoked people to voice their opinion/concerns about the future use of that space in particular but also other places in the community.

        I’ve been reading a lot of comments saying, “$10,000 would be better off spent _______.” I agree. I am fully aware there are a lot more pressing issues here in Detroit. Regardless if the Kickstarter is successful, if this project was able to inspire people to start their own community-based projects (or participate in existing efforts) then I feel it will still have been a worthwhile project.

        That said, I do believe that public art is beneficial to the community.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:35 PM

        I’ve tried to post this a couple times today, but it wouldn’t go due to the heavy traffic.

        I’ll do you one better — I think public art is NECESSARY for the community (not just beneficial), but that wasn’t the issue. My objections were to your method, hazy focus, and questionable academic rigor. Honestly, I think your adviser let you down here. The root concept was good and had potential. The execution was problematic and messy. But, you are not my student, so there you go. I just put out my opinion — and maybe this illustrates the difference between social sciences & art programs.

    • sportsdrenched - Nov 12, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      You know that Bud Light Commercial that says: “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work”?

      That applies to real life more than it does sports. Think about all the break throughs in just about any industry. When an idea starts, it’s almost always weird, and it almost always draws the criticism from the snob establishment. 99 times out of 100 it doesn’t work. BUT, that 1 time it does it changes the world.

      As long people, and kids especially, are creative, and allowed to be creative I will not be depressed about education in America.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 12, 2012 at 1:43 PM

        What kind of awesome end result is he going to get? A statue? Really?

  2. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    Detroit tested, Milgram approved.

  3. Detroit Michael - Nov 12, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    I’m a big Ernie Harwell fan, but there’s a nice statue of him prominently displayed in Comerica Park. I can’t see the point in having another statue of Ernie.

  4. Francisco (FC) - Nov 12, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    you can still go and play there like I did this past summer.

    I know what you did last summer…

    • historiophiliac - Nov 12, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      C-Squared = Jennifer Love Hewitt

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