gentrification – communication – dislocation

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 – Week 4:

Tom Angotti‘s New York for Sale outlines the importance of community and communication in the changing landscapes of real estate and urban landscapes. In many ways New York, here, acts like a case study for the global climate. The central theme that is outlined within the Chapter, and in much of the book, is the role of community in this shifting landscape. Some question(s) that it leads to is: How can the shift in community be defined and how does that definition re-engage with the city? Furthermore, these questions rely on three presumptuously under defined terms: gentrification, communication and dislocation.

Communication is the crux to understanding how these terms have redefined our engagement with the urban landscape and how we understand how gentrification and dislocation define the city. In 5 Things to do About Gentrification, Angotti speaks about the importance of communication to understanding how gentrification directly effects New York. Globally, however, communication takes on another role and meaning. As the global landscape becomes smaller and commerce shifts out on greater scales entire industries define new cities. This transnational city phenomenon has defined much of Asia’s development in the last few years. These cities build overnight, as if rolled out of a LEGO box, cannot communicate – community, culture, self-identity, etc. Langfang in the Hebei Provence of the Peoples Republic of China, lends itself as a case study for the redefinition of communication in the public-private partnership paradigm. While the private industrialization of this provence has established a “modern” city overnight, it’s lack of true public engagement has created a hollowed space. On this large scale, the privatization of the city has disassociated the entire public space as a another construct. So, how does the shifting space for communication re-define community?

Is that the cost of gentrification? Why do we often personalize gentrification? As a relatively new term it informs too much our understanding of the urban landscape, but does not actually hold the meaning for everyone affected by it. In cities, like New York and San Francisco gentrification directly defines how the city is reshaped within it’s borders, but what if those borders inflate and expand? Mexico City, DF in Mexico exemplifies how expansion assumes the privileges of technology’s new commute. Gentrification in Mexico City has redefined the core of the city as the blight; or in other words the shift here is not presumptuously where the opportunity is, but out to where land can be “owned.” This case study of the urban landscape is not limited to Mexico (expanded reading: The Endless City: The Urban Age Project by the London School of Economics and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society [Ricky Burdett, Deyan Sudjic]) , but this sprawl is the the more commonly practiced side effect of gentrification than New York. This re-organization of the city and re-definition of the city lines also changes the assumptions of the private and public city line. While the city’s ownership attempts to pull residents into it’s center, it’s lack of organization and public interest leaves it in chaos.

This chaos is very different from desertion and dislocation. Cities like Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and New Delhi, where expansion is defining the re-population of suburbs is in direct contrast to not only London, San Francisco and New York, but moreover for cities of desertion like Camden, NJ and Detroit, MI. These cities represent how dislocation redefining the lines of gentrification. Here the shift in communication is re-defining re-engagement with the city. Detroit as a ghost city, while undefined, exemplifies how communities are defining the lines of public and private. In addition Detroit questions the third undeniable sphere of influence – governing authorities.

These “cities” local, national or global are defining these terms of engagement for the spaces we inhabit. How do we begin to identify with out new spaces? And what can we learn from our ghosts, ruins, and definitions?

Intro – Week One

The readings for this week posed a basic overview of the current housing predicament, by presenting factual data and defining the types of affordable housing. The CUP booklet presents a detailed account of all the different types of affordable housing, including their history, budget, number of units and current status. The booklet is accompanied by an interactive toolkit, which allows community organizer to collaborate with an audience to physically map out the data, rendering it as a more tangible and relatable crisis. The Huffington post article presents a series of maps and graphs detailing the progression of rent and affordable housing in NYC. It leaves the viewer with a strong understanding of the dire situation many New Yorkers are faced with today. We thought the third article by Christine Cress on What is Service Learning, provided a more pedagogical thrust to the previous data driven articles. This pedagogical approach will help frame our in-class discussion.

We think it’s important to personally situate ourselves as part of a pedagogical approach to understanding the crisis of affordable housing and our role in possible solutions. Based on our personal experiences and after reading these articles, we have organized our progression of understanding as such:

1) predicament
2) news/media
3) data
4) visualization
5) interactive
6) service learning

Understanding the interplay of these 6 layers will allow us to formulate an action plan. For example, the Huffington post article would be considered mainstream media, which is readily consumable and presents easily accessible data. If we compare it to the CUP article, which is more pedagogical due to its interactive component, we can begin to qualify best practices in community based learning.

Is data visualization effective enough for collective learning? What is our role? (intentions)

When analyzing data driven material, it is important to step back from the collective generalization and celebrate areas of personal intentions and values. While data visualization is a useful tool it needs to present a keen awareness of specifications to avoid stigmatization. A designers, how can we find a balance between personal values and collective intentions? How does the visualization of data spur activism and create solidarity?

– Sinead & Monique