THINGS THAT MATTER: STANDING UP FOR PP

•March 27, 2017 • 1 Comment

The pro-choice vs pro-life argument has taken place long before our current political climate, and so has the fight for female reproductive rights. It wasn’t until the 1960s that birth control became available — and even then, it wasn’t always accessible due to states opposing the sales of birth control pills. Women like Margaret Sanger advocated for birth control and a better way for women to take charge of their own health, strongly supporting the use of birth control so that women could control unwanted pregnancies to have have better and healthier lives. Sanger opened her own birth control clinic, and fought for women’s reproductive rights through lobbying for the legality of birth control in the US. More famously, the Roe v Wade decision of 1973 famously declared that state bans on abortion were unconstitutional.

Despite all this progress, Trump and Congress have pushed more and more votes and bills in an effort to repeal Obamacare and, in effect, defund Planned Parenthood by stripping all federal funding for the organization.

There is a common misconception here. Federal tax dollars do not go to paying for abortions. Instead, it goes to reimburse Medicaid claims, preventative medicine, cancer screenings, HIV tests, as well as to birth control.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would take away access to health care from patients who depend on Medicaid (60% of all Planned Parenthood patients do!). This is especially important because the majority of Planned Parenthood patients are people of lower income groups. In many cases, there aren’t enough other medical care providers, especially for reproductive health services, to replace Planned Parenthood in the event of defunding.This is not the first time that disadvantaged people and communities are placed in an even more disadvantageous position. In “Nuclear Wasteland”, Valerie Kuletz describes nuclear waste affecting indigenous peoples, writing that although it is an issue that affects all people, this “price we pay for our freedom…is paid by those with disproportionately less power” (Kuletz 95).

Defunding Planned Parenthood matters because access to healthcare should be a universal and basic right.

Safe access to birth control and abortions protects women. In an article about repealing the 8th, Leslie Spillane, an Irish women, wrote “Abortions happen, everyday. Making them illegal doesn’t stop woman needing, or wanting them, or inflicting them on themselves — there will always be coat hangers, broken bottles, painkillers, stairs to fall down, fists to hit, medicines to swallow” (O’Shea). Ireland is one example of what shutting down Planned Parenthood would do (SHUTTING DOWN not defunding).

Planned Parenthood has an estimate of 2.5 million patients. This means that one in five women in the United States visits Planned Parenthood at least once. The sheer number of people they help requires us to stop and re-evaluate the importance of this organization.

Planned Parenthood EDUCATES. For teens and children growing up in this country, Planned Parenthood often works to educate the public on their reproductive rights as well as sexual education. This helps to decrease the risk of unplanned pregnancies and prevents the spreading of STD’s and HIV. In “Greetings From the Salton Sea”, Kim Stringfellow investigates the Salton Sea issue, writing that “perhaps a better understanding of these interconnected processes will allow us to make much more informed political decisions regarding the environmental and ecological concerns of today and those of the future” (35). Similarly, Planned Parenthood spreads accurate information to voters and potential voters and actively promotes access to health care.

Works Cited

Haberman, Maggie. “Trump Tells Planned Parenthood Its Funding Can Stay If Abortion Goes.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

“How Federal Funding Works at Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Planned Parenthood|. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Kuletz, Valerie. The Tainted Desert: Environmental Ruin in the American West. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Stringfellow, Kim. Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005. Chicago: The Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago, 2011. Web.

Advertisements

East Broadway . com

•February 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

          My ecology focuses on East Broadway in its transition to an ethnic economic enclave. It exists not as a performance of oriental for outsiders but lives and functions to serve its own community. This can be seen in the visual language of menus, store-fronts and business landscapes. The produce is sold in cardboard boxes littered along the street with produce signs sloppily strewn with Han characters. As building ownership and rent for businesses spike to replace old tenants with higher end retail, the space becomes unaffordable for Fujianese business, let alone tenants. Its immediate neighbors that form the collective whole of Manhattan’s Chinatown face similar pressures as the area becomes highly coveted for market rate housing for young professionals. At these pivotal moments of shifting geographic politics, the ability to adapt and cater to wider audiences becomes crucial to survival. This transition is observed within long established institutions like Wo Hop’s gradual development to cater to non-asian palettes and ABC’s (American Born Chinese). This restaurant culture guides Chinatown’s modernization, appealing to the foreign masses and serves as an definitive contrast to East Broadway’s highly internal functions.

          Nomwah.com embodies this reworking of Chinatown’s narrative. As one of the area’s oldest tea parlors dating back to the 1920s, it found revitalizing life introducing dim sum to mainstream culture. The site’s very existence speaks to the flexible nature of this traditional Chinese business to attract a younger, traveller audience. The experience is clean and elevated with long scrolling pages and full width galleries. The user is immediately entranced by food. Overlaying these images are navigation areas for easy, efficient browsing. The interface is overall friendly and tidy. The site hosts a blog page to engage more intimately with their audience and introduces collaborations with clothing companies as well as promoting SoHo shops. Nomwah.com and arguably Nom Wah neglects its own community. While Wo Hop, like other restaurants have begun to expand menus to attract outsider business, it’s online site offers Chinese translations for its menus. On the other hand, Nom Wah’s site also does not advertise traditional dim sum delicacies like braised chicken feet, but popularized dishes like egg rolls and shrimp dumplings. In the “About” tab, it evokes stereotypical mystique of opium dens and gang warfare. In its very first introduction, it cites its historical location as the “Bloody Angle,” nicknamed from the street’s sharp corner that warring gangs took advantage of. This extracts Chinatown from the reality of generation’s of immigrant working class families and instead revolves it towards an other worldly fantasy.

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 3.25.36 AM.png

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 3.37.31 AM.png

          The Wells template on Squarespace functions as a commercial site as well as a photography portfolio. I was drawn to this template because it spoke to a patient navigation that I hope to emulate. This may be in part due to dispersed concentrations of negative space and denser blocks of text always left or right aligned. The layout draws closer parallels to editorial photography publication spreads, where placement and design feels more intentional. The template also offers a sticky vertical navigation menu continually on the left which eases the experience of a long gallery scroll. The gallery is displayed as 2 image wide interlocked stacks but incorporates responsive design. The gallery page adapts from 2 image wide to single stacks. When selecting a specific image within the gallery,  the site transforms into a carousel gallery. The cursor becomes an arrow to the west, north, or east depending on which edge of the photo you linger on. This feels incredibly intuitive, like flipping pages in a book. The north arrow pulls you back to the stacked gallery. It’s blog function affords designers to produce a more in depth photo essay. The page structure places text descriptions in columns and features pull quotes similar to a magazine grid.  This template is smooth as it is natural, drawing inspiration from analogue media.  

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 12.15.50 AM.png

6c67b4348447bc018f9d91b82fabb320--portfolio-layout-portfolio-ideas.jpg

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 3.31.00 AM.png

         O-R-G.com, on the other hand, is mysterious and its design demands full attention, not in its dazzling but in its baffling. On the landing page you find a bold black circle on vast white desktop with lines ticking to mimic the movements of a clock, daring the user to make haste and find safety in information that lies somewhere else. When hovering over the single blue asterisk in the corner, your mouse reacts- you are saved! But how you have mistaken. A block of text runs down the left of the screen while the clock has stalked you and remains to your right, reminding you that time is of the essence. This “About” page depends entirely on hyperlinks.

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 11.52.52 PM.jpeg

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 2.13.20 AM.png

          Links take you to cryptic walls of text done entirely in italics with phrases like “setting fire to dollar bills,” and “the demise party” scattered along its body. You have found information but not the satisfaction you were looking for. The plain and dense arrangement of texts alerts users to stay sharp. These remind of outdated websites prowling with viruses waiting to pounce or obsolete pages stripped down to its remaining code. This design is enchanting in the way ruins are haunting. The site feels as if it was never meant to be found.

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 3.32.34 AM.png

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 3.16.28 AM.png

           Acting as a portfolio for an organization of collaborators specializing in design and software, this site is unusual, inefficient and frustrating. It potentially deters clients in its awkward, bulky design but it is graceful when observed in its own context. In a way, it was not meant to be found. The site is a memorium of sorts to the disbanded society that once set out to form a metaproject on the organization of a design practice- carefully staged and self-consciously produced. It does not prioritize design as a commodity- as celebration to the dissolution of the Catalog,the proceeds from five years of operation were given away ($20,000 in cash!!!). They purposely inconvenience navigation to perform for their target audience, individuals who critically engage in unorthodox design. The navigation menu is hidden and must be actively pursuited. Defying best practices of UX, O-R-G stores even introductory information deeply into the 3rd or 4th click, and uses ambiguous signifiers, ignoring the accessible value of visual icons. O-R-G succeeds in the way it serves its purpose. It is experimental, avoids falling prey to the “usual succession” of things, and attracts the right vigilantes to fulfill its mission of challenging the established in design.

          Because of the closed nature of East Broadway in terms of an authentic experience, I hope to offer a website that engages the user to develop more intimate attachments and point of views. Initially, my target  audience focused on the cultural outsider, any person without a Fujianese background. After engaging with interviews of a handful of Fujianese community leaders and second generation Fujianese Americans, I realize the site should also function as a space for cultural insiders to reckon with an area so central to their identities. The decline of Fujianese economy and livelihood on East Broadway is transparent to any community member regardless of how removed from cultural rituals they are. But recognizing does not promise a development of respect for the value in chaos. This is observed in the management style of Nom Wah and its corresponding website- withdrawn from its roots to the point of inaccessibility for its people. Modernization will be inevitable but every member participating in the transformation of their community should engage in development that is self consciously produced, like the philosophy of O-R-G, and remember to relinquish the area with dignity.

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 5.16.53 PM.png

          In an effort to produce a website that elicits a similar reflective quality, I will gravitate towards layout and functionality inspired by editorial booklets. This form of layout, as appropriated by the Well’s template, is built for slow consumption. I will also experiment with “bad design” to the extent it requires users to meaningfully examine the site and its functions like O-R-G. This hopefully will draw users away from an efficient but shallow consumption of Chinese culture, as Nom Wah’s site generates, and instead encourage a more honest, whole, and thoughtful engagement with cultural narratives. Full wireframe: https://wireframe.cc/zDboUD 

(Blog Post 2)

Website Design

•February 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The first site I’m going to critique is a parallel to my ecology. Because I’m exploring the affects of Hudson Yards as a development, it only makes sense that I dissect their website.

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 6.32.38 PM

Above is a screen shot of the home screen. What appears to be a hero image is actually a hero video. This would be a rather effective piece of media if the shots were steadier and less rapid fire. The rest of the home page is rather clean, and is broken down in a way that’s easy to digest and encourages further exploration. Overall the site makes a very uninhabited space feel booming and flush with activity. The layout isn’t very consistent from page to page but otherwise I’d say its a well built site.

Now, time to analyze one of my favorite unconventional websites.

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 6.33.07 PM

If you’ve ever shopped online at Zara, you’ll notice that they do not care in the least bit if their layout looks extremely broken. There’s no acknowledgement of the grid here. The menu spills into hero images, which spills into sidebars, that spills into pricing conventions. If you click on specific product categories (note the insane amount of category choices on the left), images of the clothing will be all different sizes and are often misaligned. One of my biggest qualms with the layout of this site is that the bold choice to have menus overlap images, sometimes happens over darker images, and you literally cant find or read the menu to navigate the site. Also the extremely granular categorizations is very overwhelming, especially for an ecommerce site. I usually end up emptying my cart and scooting out of there.

Moving on to my last analysis, let’s look at a website template.

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 6.33.36 PM

When I first read about this project on the assignments tab, I imagined my site would be broken down in a similar fashion to blog posts. So I actually found this template very early on as a way to organize and display information. The gallery seen above actually scrolls horizontally by itself, encouraging users to click on one of the articles. The rest of the site below the fold actually didn’t work in the preview, so thats a glaring error. I like the simple layout and definitely think a similar theme could work for some of my pages, but not all. The search functionality probably isn’t as useful for me, because my site visitors won’t yet have context on what to search for.

I think that my ecology site really needs to be a choose your own adventure of sorts. I need to guide users through the site, and feed them information bit by bit to create a narrative. This may mean getting rid of the navigation all together, and making them follow a wikipedia esque link journey. Or simply utilizing a “next feature” may be the best path. Either way I need to find a method to parse bits of information in a digestible way and keep readers engaged. I would like to stick to a simple interface with a clean design that lets the content be king. I feel like I am speaking to inner city residents with my ecology site, but that could change.

Finally, here’s a quick wireframe of what my gallery page will look like. I want the images on both sides to be JQuery galleries, quickly flickering between images of my affected and affecter sites.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 4.21.51 PM

Disharmony in Flushing

•February 21, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Ecologies, synonymous with ‘environments’, are the complex interaction between the bodies that both act in, and create the environment as a whole. Then, when we talk about such bodies how should they be examined or observed? Should they be viewed in a “objective” way, such that we talk about what we soley “see”? Well, here I am standing in the middle of Flushing (Crocheron Ave to be exact). I look around. What do I see? Well, I see a road. I see trees. I see some cars that has been parked. Nothing special. Surely such objects are nothing unlikely you would expect to find in any road in NYC. But then there’s THAT. I look up, and I see it. Well, to be exact, I see waves of them continuing on for blocks after blocks. I see Korean. Korean written for the name of the stores. Korean written for advertisements. I see Korean written for the menu. The road signs and the location displayed on my Google maps ensures that I am indeed in NYC, United States of America, and yet I seem to see more Korean than English.

And this strange phenomena makes me think… and most importantly, ‘feel’. I feel a sense of disharmony, to see so much of my home country language in a foreign country I came to study. I feel like I’m back in Korea, seeing the familiar characters, hearing the familiar language. And yet at the same time I feel like I’m at a completely different place. Why so? I ask myself. And I trace back my thoughts, as it feels as I have arrived at the conclusion of “feeling something off” but is not quite understanding how I got there. This probably happened instantaneously – so fast, and intuitively that I did not even realize it. So I trace back the process. What is making me feel this weird…. Uncomfortness?

I look around me again. I observe the environment, the ecology I stand in. And I realize. Ah. It was this. No, it’s not the particular name “Jeju Island” (the name of a korean restaurant I happened to see), nor was it the barely visible remains of what once surely had spelled “bank” scrapped off to reveal “은행”. No. It was all of it. From the sky to the trees to the street to the car to the people to their conversation to the Korean characters to the asphalt road to the advertisement on the floor. THIS. Everything I was looking at was radiating a form of… something like a message, creating an atmosphere. Some “thing” that made me FEEL. These bodies surely have more to them then just what I see. They have… power. A presence. A… hmm an affect. On me. I’m sure.

 

Works Cited

Jane Bennett, Preface, Chapters 1 & 2 in Vibrant Matter, 2010
Matthew Fuller, Introduction to Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture, pp.1-5

Blog Post #1

•February 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I became aware of the affect of my ecology before I even reached Harlem. On the subway ride there, as the street numbers climbed, I noticed a shift in my surroundings. My whiteness became the racial minority within the train car. It wasn’t something that disarmed me, but rather my awareness of it spurred an anxiety that I was intruding on a space that I had no right to encroach upon. I felt out of place and self-conscious. But with these feelings was an important reminder that I was there to explore this culture, one that felt genuinely somewhat foreign to me, and the ways it has been exploited and pushed out through de facto segregation. And I think I had a fear of somehow perpetrating the pattern further with this project.

I got off at the 110th Street stop and began making my way towards 1st Avenue. The walk to Hajji’s was about four blocks. Even with my deliberate mindset from the train still fresh, in any event, I was cautious to be in a new neighborhood at night. I made an effort to combat any nervousness or paranoia I had. The feeling was familiar to going out at night in the city during the first few weeks at NYU–there was a fear, but also an understanding that the fear was unwarranted.

I reached Hajji’s and found street-art spanning the side of the brick building. There were two wall murals–one was a white piece of paper, rolled like a scroll, with a poem written out in black; the other was of two candles next to a tarnished, older looking scroll that had a similar message. I felt the impact of irony that the lines were the same on both, but the words of the newer scroll had been blacked out/censored in red. The feeling of invasion returned. These poems about Harlem’s culture and their final line–“Cause these is modern times, all I see is dollar signs”–exempify, as Matthew Fuller says in “Introduction to Media Ecologies”, one of the powers of art “to cross the planned relations of dimensionality–the modes or dynamics that properly form or make sensible an object or a process. As it does so, other worlds gently slip into, swell across, or mutate those we are apparently content that we live in.”

The legendary bodega sits right on the street corner, as so many do, and its lights and signs looked identical to essentially all of the other bodegas I had passed or been to over the years. I walked inside and was almost let down at the extent of ordinariness–from the flattened cardboard on the floor to soak up water and dirt people tracked in, down to the stickiness of the door when you tried to open it. The walls were lined with refridgerators filled with sodas, energy drinks and beer. There were wooden shelves of snack food that constructed a sense of flow through the small space. I stood next to a guy waiting to order and the cook peaked out from behind the display of deli meats. “Chopped cheese?” He asked instinctively. “Nah. I want a turkey and cheese with lemon juice” barked the guy next to me. The cook turned to me. “Yeah, I’ll take a chopped cheese, please!” “Coming up”.

With my foot long chopped cheese in hand, I paid my four bucks with glee. I couldn’t remember getting anything that big for that little money except maybe $1 pizza (the more famous New York legacy).

From what I gathered, there was no distinction between Hajji’s and any other bodega besides the fact they were the inventors of the authentically New York sandwich. Then again, this creation has been considered to represent the culture of New York itself. What Sarah Kember and Johanna Zylinska describe as a creative revolution in the “Creative Manifesto”, this ordinary bodega reclaimed creativity in a creative revolution of sorts by producing a material object of cultural authenticity. Yet Jane Bennet would argue the gentrification of the chopped cheese mediated the sandwich as a commodity of status and materialist thing-power.

I took my first bite and was blown away by the cheeseburger/deli sub fusion. The warm onions and melted cheese blended with the crunchier lettuce and tomatoes textures–the result: taste bud heaven.

 

Work Cited:

 

Bennett, Jane. “Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things.” Duke University Press, 2010.

Kember, Sarah and Zylinska, Johanna. “Creative Media Manifesto.” Life after New Media. The MIT Press, 2012

The Thing-Force of Trash and Airplane

•February 16, 2018 • 1 Comment

P1070593.JPG

I went to the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on a Sunday afternoon. It was raining heavily, quite an unfitting time that I picked for a relaxing promenade in the park, as I stepped into yet another sloppy puddle for the third time and looked down on my mud-splattered jeans, I thought to myself.

As the 7 train swooshed pass above me with its recognizable, rhythmic noise made by metals clashing together, I am standing under the railroad bridge, looking ahead. Were it not for the aid from Google map, it is difficult to tell that before me lies the entrance of the park. It occupies an expensive piece of land, which is predominantly composed of lawns, rows of trees and roads that spread out into branches. Rather than the tranquil scenery a park is expected to render, I was struck by a sense of bleakness, if not desperate tone from what I saw: the trees are still bare and naked with their dark, thin branches stretching out like an old witch’s hand, the grass are imbued in the color of withered yellow, the black lamposts only intensifies the affects. The rain was still pouring down relentlessly, accompanied by strong winds that tried to blow away my umbrella, so I grasped on it more tightly, and glanced at my white-knuckle hands: my fingernails turned into the color of bluberry because of the coldness. I think this is when Breenan’s concept of affect comes in, as she claims that it is “a vehicle connecting individuals to one another and the environment…connecting the mind or cognition to bodily processes.” The physical, bodily sensations I was experiencing translated into apprehensive states of affect, which is why I can’t point my finger to a specific object that made me feel the way I was feeling at the moment, in that it was the overall vibe sent off by the park to me that I received, and made me exhibit signs of uneasiness.

I walked further for several minutes, but the feeling of insecurity never ceased to haunt me, which is totally bizzare considering the location I was in is not the middle of nowhere, yet still close to that of an abandoned land. I stopped in front of a small pond and leaned in, there was:

one crashed red-bull can covered in dirt 
one black trashbag almost indistinguishable from a cluster of dead leaves floating around it 
one bright orange plastic barrel with mysterious white, shell-like spots grown on it 
one brandless plastic bottle 
P1070594.JPG

 

Now, the list does not end there, as the pond is crowded with all kinds of trash one could imagine, and all were clustered towards the sides, as if that would brush them under the carpet. They floated in the pond, slightly swinging in up and down motion as the water got irritated by raindrops splashing on the surface. Curiously, these inanimate, lifeless objects emanated a sense of determination, a persistent will to remain where they are till the end of time, or when finally somebody gets them out. I saw, as Bennett did when she describes how she too, was struck by the “thing-power” exerted by the trash, in which “objects appeared as things, that is, as vivid entities not entirely reducible to the contexts in which (human) subjects set them, never entirely exhausted by their semiotics.” Indeed, trash is the remnant of human products, as they litter carelessly because it’s no longer of use to them—they are dead, nay, merely objects that people take for granted everyday. But what they don’t realize is that all matters, including trash and clothes and all the other “inanimate” things, are vital actants that could trigger chains of events that eventually come back at them. You throw away an empty can into the pond, it stays there, inviting more people to follow, and then trash accumulates to the point where they become an eye-sore, and eventually destroys the environment because they cannot be decomposed, which poses serious harms on both the environment and humans. It’s a perfect negative feedback loop.

I took the camera out and captured these moments, which was quite readily for me because the trash was peacefully lying there as if waiting for me to shoot them. As I was captivated by this process, somewhere faraway in the sky, a whooshing sound emerged, and got louder and louder as the object was approaching me. Instinctively I raised my head, trying to spot the airplane, but the sky was too foggy and raindrops soon blurred my glasses, so I had to rely on other senses. It was not hard, for the noise transformed from a low humming to a high-pitch scream as it flied right over me. I flinched a little because of the volume, but soon realized that this must’ve been a regular occurence to people who frequent the park and those live nearby. How did they become immune to this? Or maybe they never did because they are unable to change it.

 

Works Cited
Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010.
Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004

Jackson Heights: Affect of a Multi-cultural Crossroads

•February 15, 2018 • 4 Comments

For my ecology project, I chose Jackson Heights and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens as my major area of focus and observation. Located in the heart of Queens, Jackson Heights is arguably the most culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhood in the city. Its borders are clearly defined, with the overhead train tracks above Roosevelt Avenue marking its southernmost border. Neighboring areas include Astoria, Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Flushing. As of 2015, the population of Jackson Heights consisted of 57% Hispanic, 19.8% Asian, 14.3% White, and 6.5% Black (Statistical Atlas). This overwhelming concentration of diverse ethnic groups has largely contributed to the area’s rise in popularity among New Yorkers and tourists as they can easily experience a plethora of distinct cultures within the length of a few blocks. Also, the area’s reputation for exquisite and authentic cuisine preceeds itself, as it has become one of the hottest destinations for food over the past few years.

During my first visit to the location, I immediately felt a vibe that was very different from that of Manhattan, but eerily similar to the environment I experienced when I lived in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn. I started by going down Roosevelt Avenue, following the train tracks accompanied by the occasional noises indicative of a 7 train passing through. From 60th street leading up to 82nd street, I saw signs of restaurants, storefronts, and local businesses and street vendors signifying various cultures, and was somewhat awestruck by the close proximity of their co-existence. Despite Jackson Heights’ ostensible communal amalgation of cultures, though, one of the most significant takeaways from my visit was that the neighborhood felt very isolated from the rest of the borough and the city. The many distinct actants in this tightly-knit cluster of diverse cultures serve as a sort of organism that has a strong sense of identity, and in a sense, self-serving. In “Vibrant Matters”, Jane Bennett claims that “an assemblage owes its agentic capacity to the vitality of the materialities that constitute it” (Bennett, 34).

As I walked around the neighborhood, there were glimpses of gentrification indicated by conglomerate chains, vestiges from the economic capital that is New York City. Still, local businesses and culturally specific storefronts dominated the space, and I could constantly hear multiple languages being spoken at the same time. My experience of the area was mostly positive and informative, but my research of the area, which showed a history and penchant for high crime  rates and low quality of life, hindered my overall enjoyment of the visit. Though I did not consciously think about this underlying precarity, I could detect myself trying to see through the facade of the multi-cultural commercial hotspot and look for signs of precarious indicators. As Thomas Brennan writes in “The Transmission of Affect”, a negative affective experience could stem from “the draining of energy off of cumulative environmental stresses” (6). He also defines “affect” as a “physiological shift accompanying judgment” (5). My preconceived notion of Jackson Heights has influenced my attitude towards the area and thus prevented me from fully getting an unadulterated impression. What resulted was that I had formed a conflicting image of the ecology, as on the surface it seems to be a vibrant and prosperous location representative of a crossroads of the world, but on the other hand there is high potential for harm and instability in the area as indicated by historical data.

In the coming weeks, I aim to explore Jackson Heights and Roosevelt Avenue more thoroughly and examine the neighborhood’s precarity through the lens of affect. I will attempt to document the intricate ecology of the interactivity between cultures as well as how its contrasting reputations manifest themselves through audio and visual media.

 

Works Cited

Bennett, Jane. “Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things.” Duke University Press, 2010.

Brennan, Thomas. The Transmission of Affect. 2004.

Flushing House- Affects and Emotions

•February 14, 2018 • Leave a Comment

For my ecology, I am focusing on nursing homes and senior day centers in the Flushing neighborhood to examine the impact of language barrier on the life of the Asian elderly immigrants community (especially Korean and Chinese). Nursing homes and senior day care centers both provide proper care for the elders in terms of medicals, meals, and daily activities. However, adult day care centers only provide assistance for living during normal business hours, which allow caregivers a reprieve from full-time care. There is a number of elderly care centers in Flushing, which are divided into three categories according to the ethnicities of the residents: those that only cater to the South Asian community, those that cater only to one ethnicity, for example Chinese and Korean, as well as those that cater to all ethnicities. It would be interesting to see how people in all three types of elderly care centers interact. Most importantly, I want to know if the elderly immigrants who are not proficient in English(especially Korean and Chinese immigrants who are said to be the least proficient in English) are able to receive enough care both physically and mentally. Besides, to what extent would the language barrier hinder their social abilities and prevent them from making friends with other English-speaking elderlies?

I decided to first visit one of the nursing homes in Flushing, Flushing House, which is eight-minutes walk away from Flushing-Main Street Station. It was a windy afternoon, and the temperature is around 33 degrees Fahrenheit. As I walked along Roosevelt Avenue and further away from the busy central streets, I came across more elderlies on the street who were moving slowly while dragging their shopping trolley carts along. At the corner between Roosevelt Avenue and Browne Street, which is where Flushing House is, there is a supermarket that has stalls outside that display cheap fruits. I could see a lot of elderlies picking the fruits with their trembling hands. Upon the entrance of Flushing House, there is a large brown sign that says “Flushing House, Club Residence for Adults. ” At the reception table, two people wearing blue uniforms approached me and asked me if I needed help in anything, which I responded by saying that I was trying to do a project on elderly care centers in Flushing. They were extremely helpful and provided me with two name cards of their activity leads. After that, I stood at the lobby for a while to observe the surroundings. There are not a lot of people around, but I could see some elderlies and there caretakers walking in and out slowly and peacefully. During the period I was there, I saw two White ladies and a Latino gentleman. The Latino Gentleman moved alone with his walking stick and stopped by the reception table for a seemingly cheerful conversation. In front of me there was a big painting on the pillar that shows people from a lot of different ethnicities with a saint in the middle. There is also a sentence written in the middle of the painting “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Although the painting is trying to deliver a positive message, I felt a bit uncomfortable as all the other people in the painting have solemn expressions. It was not until I turned my head to the left that I realized there were two Asian elderlies seating apart on the sofa below the window. One of them was reading a Chinese newspaper, while another one was simply leaning against the sofa and sleeping. There was an event venue further passing the lobby, where I could see a lot of pink balloon decorations, which I assumed was for Valentine’s Day event.

After the visit, I had a mixed feeling about the retirement house. Although the Flushing House is tidy and well-renovated, I still feel a sense of distance between the residents. It was probably because I did not come to the House at a more busy time(for example during one of the activities) to see more interactions between the residents. I did not feel any affection between the members, which transmitted an depressive emotion in me. This reminded me of Theresa Brennan’s article The Transmission of Affect as she says, “By the transmission of affect, I mean simply that the emotions or affects of one person, and the enhancing or depressing energies these affects entail, can enter into another” (Brennan).The pale beige color of the interior design and the spacious surrounding also gave me a feeling that it lacks some sort of positivity in it. However, the pink balloon decoration did give me a sense of warmth and festivity. These little details shaped my feeling regarding the surrounding, which reminded me of what Matthew Fuller wrote in his Media Ecologies article, that the objects “have a poetics…make the world and take part in it, and at the same time, synthesize, block, to make possible other worlds” (Fuller). Overall, I feel a need to know this place more and learn more about how people in Flushing House interact.

Works Cited
Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004.
Fuller, Matthew, and Roger F. Malina. Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and
Technoculture. MIT Press, 2005.