The Allure of Entropy

As I stood on the corner of 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, bombarded by indistinguishable sounds coming from all angles, I started to become acutely aware of the constant motion that was happening around me, the incessant flow of all things alive and inanimate. Then I detected the beginnings of a faint rumble, a sound that has become all too familiar due to the time I spent here at the hyperdiverse cultural and commercial corridor of Queens. I knew that, for the following 30 seconds to a minute (it’s really hard to tell), this whole area and its inhabitant would be engulfed by the overwhelming vibrations of the 7 train, as it unleashes its decibels from above. The irony is that, these short, but startling, spans of intense loudness are what provide momentary peace, an ephemeral release from the overflowing stimuli of the immediate surroundings.


In my experiences, I have found that people are generally attracted to entropy, or circumstances that defy structure and prediction. Jackson Heights is very much an ecology of entropy, given the fact that its cultural and ethnic facade changes from block to block, and sometimes even within the same street. Sure, affective disorientation is a distinctly possible byproduct of this diverse amalgation, but as evident in its popularity, this unique feature that the neighborhood has become known for exists as a virtue rather than a vice.

In his work The Autonomy of Affect, Brian Massumi writes about the notion of “emergence” in relation to “complexity and chaos”, stating that it “converges around the notion of self-organization…the spontaneous production of a level of reality having its own rules of formation and order of connection” (32). He regards “affect” as the “point of emergence”, and “the critical point shadowing every image/expression-event” (33).


For my project, I want to show and illustrate in different ways the affect of Jackson Heights’ organized chaos, its spontaneity and unpredictability as both forces of attraction and repellent. First, through audio, I aim to convey the constant noise of the bustling street of Roosevelt Avenue, and the looming train tracks that hover over it. I also want to show the contrast in sound between the more populated areas and the residential areas, the less talked about side of the neighborhood, where people actually live. In terms of visuality, I will focus on local businesses and street vendors, since a recent study indicated that it is getting more difficult to operate on the street,  due to “a cap on licenses for vendors and the demand far outweighs the supply” (Dulani, 1), and the plethora of regulations that one has to go through. Operatic images, statistics, and descriptive storytelling will make up the core of my ecology presentation which will bring about a full picture of the chosen location and its accompanying precarity.


Works Cited

Dulani, Jai. “Jackson Heights: Unearthing the People’s Struggle”. Open City Magazine. Dec 20, 2016. <;

Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Cultural Critique, no. 31, 1995, p. 83., doi:10.2307/1354446.


~ by alanshen21 on February 28, 2018.

4 Responses to “The Allure of Entropy”

  1. 1. The first paragraph has really strong and careful word choices that were descriptive and evocative. It reminded me of Prof. Bianco’s story exemplifying how to properly convey affect. I really just loved the wording, it was quite articulate and definitely captured the “allure of entropy”

  2. Best Overall:
    I really enjoyed how you were able to describe your ecology so vividly. Your choice of photos interacted very well with your writing style. I was able to gain a lot of information from the combination of the two. I like the idea of trying to convey chaos.

  3. Your blog informs me a lot about the affect, as I especially love how you use entropy, a recurring theme on the streets of Jackson Heights, as a literal indication of the pattern you detected from your observations as well as a metaphor for blocks of diverse cultures and ethnicity.

  4. Best overall: the title itself is enticing already. I love the bold pics and how you narrate the story.

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