Healthcare Access and Affective Design

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“The next and last stop is Main Street.”

As the 7 pulls into the station, passengers quietly exit the train and walk downstairs to the street. Bustling markets and storefronts crowd Main Street and hordes of people squeeze past each other to get through. If you take a right onto 41st Avenue from the busy street, it feels like the neighborhood unanimously hushes. There are still people coming in and out of grocery stores at the corner of Main Street and 41st Avenue, but as you continue down the road, you start to notice more quiet storefronts for activity centers, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and massage and acupuncture services. All of the signs are written in Chinese, many with accompanying English translation, but some without. When arriving at the Queens Community Center of the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC), the building is surrounded by acupressure spas, gastroenterology and herpetology practices, and pharmacies.

When I first walked through 41st Avenue, I was just exploring the neighborhood to begin to familiarize myself with the site. I knew CPC was ubiquitous throughout New York’s Chinatowns, but it never occurred to me that the area surrounding the center would actually reflect the impact of the organization. Then again, if we consider the intensity of affect, it makes sense. If there’s an accessible and local space that speaks the community’s language, understands its customs, and knows how to navigate the complexities of social services, the community will gravitate to it. Especially since one of the most common healthcare barriers for Asian-American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) is cultural and linguistic-based, having local organizations that understand these differences not only makes the process smoother, but also approachable and non-intimidating (Ko 2). This is particularly imperative for AANHPI communities where health issues are often stigmatized and people tend to avoid addressing their problems out of fear that it will shame and burden their families.

Although it’s important to note that laws like the Affordable Care Act has greatly helped AANHPI receive affordable healthcare, with the uninsured rate lowering from 13.8% in 2013 to 7.6% in 2016, it’s difficult to comprehend the effectiveness of health services because the US consensus treats AANHPI as a homogeneous group (Barnett and Berchick 3). The census doesn’t take into account the cultural differences and systemic social hierarchies among AANHPI groups. In other words, while data states the uninsured percentage of “Asians” is 7.6%, it doesn’t address the different AANHPI groups who still have double-digit uninsured rates (“Census Data Show Drop in Uninsurance for AA and NHPI Community” 1). Not only does this reveal the problems in reporting the effectiveness of public healthcare, but this generalization makes it difficult to push for macro-level outreach to AANHPI communities since these groups are all culturally different but treated as the same demographic. Through my ecology, I want to communicate the efforts of local organizations who are cognizant of these cultural differences and the ways they work with the community to provide them with the services they need.

Since CPC and Flushing are the bases of my ecology, the media produced will predominantly refer to Chinese-Americans and healthcare access. I intend to photograph and record sounds of the neighborhood CPC primarily serves, as well as videotape interviews with some of the CPC staff about their work. I will also use outside research to extend how CPC’s role relates to similar local organizations and discuss the healthcare barriers in different AANHPI communities, but I ultimately want to ensure Flushing itself and CPC are the main focuses. Thus, as far as design elements I’m interested in referencing the geometry and limited color palette of traditional Chinese art. I think this approach ultimately will create a clean and balanced design, which will allow the media and research to take the forefront of the website, instead of the web design distracting from the ecology.

As we’ve learned over the past month (wow, it’s been a month!), affect occurs outside of our control. Brennan explains affect as an ongoing exchange among multiple bodies, all of which (living and nonliving) influence each other. Thus, for our websites (and any project that involves some extent of UI/UX) it’s important to make our designs intuitive and navigable as well as unobtrusive. As Massumi states, “the body is radically open, absorbing impulses quicker than they can be received” (Massumi 29). If the website doesn’t take into account the importance of how the user interface looks and feels, the viewer will be disoriented before they can even realize that they’re confused. This not only makes the site difficult to navigate, but distracting web design also diminishes the attention the user will give to the precarity.

Bibliography
Barnett, Jessica C. and Edward R. Berchick. “Health Insurance Coverage Status and Type of Coverage–All Persons by Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin: 2013-2016.” Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, P60-260. US Census Bureau. 12 September 2017. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2017/demo/p60-260.html.

Brennan, Teresa. “Introduction.” Transmission of Affect.

“Census Data Show Drop in Uninsurance for AA and NHPI Community.” Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. 15 September 2017. http://www.apiahf.org/node/1587.

Ko, Kathy Lim. “Tackling Asian American Health Disparities.” Interview by Allison Keyes. Tackling Asian American Health Disparities. NPR. 24 May 2010. Radio. Transcript. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127091480.

Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation.

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#WeAreStillHere: Indigenous Community in Higher Education

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Palm trees. Coconuts. Lilo & Stich. Teepees. Feathers. Pocahontas.

Is this what you think of when you hear ‘Native American’, ‘Indian’, ‘Native Hawaiian?” Did you know Native Hawaiian was a thing before I said so? A race? What about Indigenous? Is that a term you’re familiar with?

Oppressive history. Rich culture. Inaccurate representation in media. Revitalization. Minority in their homeland.

This is what I think of when I hear the word Indigenous, Native American or Native Hawaiian. To be Indigenous is to “originate or occur naturally in a particular place; native,” (Oxford Dictionary) yet to those who are Indigenous it means so much more. It is a connection to the land that your ancestors were raised on, a culture so rich that years of displacement and genocide couldn’t wash away, and a respect from your environment and elders that are at the forefront of the culture.

History

The Lenni-Lenape (“Men of the Men”, “Original People” tribe have existed for over 10,000 years. In 1600, thriving off the Delaware River land (present day New York State, New Jersey, Pennsylvania), the Lenn-Lenape tribe were made up 20,000 tribal members, “three distinct dialects” (Penn Treaty Museum), and a self-governing nation of warriors and diplomats (Nanticoke Lenape). By 1682, with the arrival of English Quakers the Lenni-Lenape population dropped to an astounding 4,000 and after a series of land treaties and colonization, the Lenni-Lenape were displaced, forced to migrate West, and eventually losing their community to disease and poverty as well as their dialectal languages and practices.

This story of displacement and genocide represents just one tribal nation and community in Indigenous history. This is not a unique situation that only the Lenni-Lenape tribe endured. This is evident in all Indigenous histories.

LenapeDelawareForcedMigration.jpg(Credit: Delaware Nation of Oklahoma)

Role of Mainstream Media… and Universities

Yet, this interpretation of who Indigenous people are as a community is influenced by who or what you come in contact with throughout your life time – whether that be Disney’s Pocahontas, or meeting me, probably one of the few Native Hawaiians you’ve ever met.  What media outlets you consume or who you communicate with, is how you learn about any given topic. What if there were a place you could learn about these unknowns? About Indigenous lives and activism?

Columbia University identifies as “a leader in higher education” (Columbia), and is an educational center that can serve this purpose of learning about Indigenous lives and activism. Indigenous studies deserves to be included in higher education.  Mainstream media may limit who we see on television or what we see in movies, but higher educational institutions have the opportunity to provide education on Indigenity.

Proofs

Within this project I hope to make an affective argument through establishing various perspectives and proofs. I will interview the Columbia Native American and Indigenous Students Group on Campus, research the history of the Lenape people, the present-day Lenape population and their precarities, as well as quantitative census data and Columbia University student demographics. In “The Autonomy of Affect”, Brian Massumi gave the example of President Ronald Reagan and the lack of affect he had on those with aphasia due to his off-beat body language. But in essence, his means were affective, and his confidence translated into a affective action, even a “capturable life potential” (42). His confidence in what he believed in was its own form of ideology, his ideology.

I’m hoping that in a positive virtue, my passion and affect for Indigenous rights and education, will translate in to an affective argument – one that will you will hear, and realize that, “Wow, my current media consumption and educational environment does not allow me to learn more about the Indigenous community.” The issue of Columbia University installing a Lenni-Lenape plaque ( that is hidden behind a coliseum of a past campus president), is not one based in anger but is one based in a need for education, specifically Indigenous education. By the end of this class, I want to measure affect of my project based on whether my peers learned something new (and were shocked by what they found out) about the Indigenous community, because the ultimate goal of my website is to show that while few in numbers, the Indigenous community is not part of the past, that #WeAreStillHere.

Works Cited
“Indigenous | Definition of Indigenous in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English. Oxford Dictionaries, n.d. Web.
Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. N.p.: Duke U, 2002. N. pag. Print.
“Our Tribal History.” Our Tribal History… The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape, n.d. Web.

Showing Rather Than Saying

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

overgrown_sidewalk

As soon as I got off the subway, I felt out of place. As a result of this new atmosphere, I immediately felt my heart beating faster. As Teresa Brennan describes it, the feeling was “social in origin but biological and physical in effect.” I had done my research before visiting. I knew the demographics of Hunts Point going in: 76% Hispanic, 22% Black, 1% Asian, 1% White, and 1% other. I knew that Hunts Point was the third-poorest neighborhood in all of NYC. And I felt very aware of the fact that I was a white woman carrying an expensive camera. As I walked to the Hunts Point Cooperative Market – at one point on sidewalk nearly hidden as a result of overgrown grass and trees – I felt somewhat unsafe. Between me, the trucks on the road, and maybe two other people I’d seen out walking, I felt like an easy target. But there was something else that affected me the most of all. I felt insincere. How would me taking pictures of the market and telling the class about the high rates of asthma as a result of diesel pollution help anything? How would me disapproving of the fact that lower-income, diverse (non-white) communities are put in harm’s way in disproportionate amounts affect any real change? And I couldn’t help feeling aware of the fact that after I finished taking my photos, I would return to my dorm room in Manhattan and fit in again. I never had to worry about me or my family members getting asthma as a result of the pollution. My biggest fear was that I’d get another weird look.

It was this trip to Hunts Point that made me realize my voice isn’t enough. I can’t go into Hunts Point, record some media, return to Manhattan, and affect change. It’s not fair to the residents of Hunts Point for an outsider to come in and paint a narrative of who they are without ever talking to them. I want people to hear the sounds of idling trucks just as I did, and I want people to hear the voices of the people who live with that reality every day. I want people to care about the people of Hunts Point not because I told them to, but because they feel as if they themselves have visited. I need to make people realize, just as I did, that the residents of Hunts Point are more than just statistics.

Brian Massumi’s “The Autonomy of Affect” mentions the “primacy of the affective” in image reception, and the ways in which matter-of-factness, descriptions, and qualifications of emotional content can either enhance or dampen affective intensity. My goal is to allow my media to speak for itself to a certain degree, to allow the residents of Hunts Point to have a voice rather than making my point on their behalf.

Works Cited

Brennan, Teresa. “Introduction.” The Transmission of Affect, Cornell University Press, 2004, pp. 1–22.

Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Parables for the Virtual, 2002, pp. 23–45.

“New York City Community Health Profiles.” Profiles, NYC Health, 2015, www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/data/data-publications/profiles.page.

Flushing and Chinese Immigrants

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I am considering discuss the difficulties faced by Chinese immigrants in Flushing. I found most people working there are working classes. Language and culture barrier prevents them to find jobs in Manhattan. I will Focus on the experience these working class/poor folks have with limited opportunities for employment (and thus survival) as immigrants with language and culture barriers. My goal is to raise public awareness of the difficulties faced by these immigrants. According to Massumi, “the simultaneous participation of the virtual in the actual and the actual in the virtual, as one arises from and returns to the other. Affect is this two-sideness as seen from the side of the actual thing, as couched in its perceptions and cognitions”. I will focus on the affect in my ecology. Massumi further on emphasise the apparent gap between content and effect when it comes to affect, suggesting that an image alone – potentially on an affect level – can be perceived at a far different intensities depending on the package it’s presented in.

Teresa Brennan defines the term ‘transmission of affect’ as “a process that is social in origin but biological and physical in effect. The origin of transmitted affects is social in that these affects do not only arise within a particular person but also come from without. They come via an interaction with other people and an environment. But they have a physiological impact”(Brennan 3). I will observe the relation between Chinese immigrants and Flushing and the how the environment there affects them. Flushing is not a good place for making progress in English because most people living there speak mandarin. Chinese workers there speak mandarin for most of their time every day. Most restaurants in Flushing are Chinese restaurants and Chinese people are the main customers of the restaurants . So the language that the workers use to communicate with these customers is mandarin. Because the workers have few chances to speak English, the longer they work and live in Flushing, the harder it becomes for them to find jobs in elsewhere and overcome the language and culture barrier. This might be the potential precarity in the ecology of FlushingIMG_2780

Blog Post 2: Woodside, and its OFW Population

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Woodside, Queens, otherwise known as Little Manila, is a portal to the effervescence of Filipino Culture. It is an environment that has been imbued with the spirit of OFW’s. Filipino fast food chains like Red Ribbon and Jollibee, as well as Homestyle restaurants like Tito Rad’s and Krystal’s Café, add to the nostalgia that many OFW’s flock to for a remnant of home. Various remittance centers and other Filipino businesses are scattered throughout Woodside, so that many OFW’s can send their remittances – which are sums of money sent via mail – to their respective families back in The Philippines.

 

There is however, an interplay between these two cultural aspects of food and remittances, for the former is symbolic of the energetic atmosphere that is home, while the latter is synonymous to the duty to one’s family back home. Both of these aspects interact to further heighten Woodside’s identity as a cultural hub for Filipinos. This community allows Domestic OFW’s to enter in a social space, particularly the catholic church, in order to enter in an environment similar to group counseling. Bear in mind, these domestic OFW’s spend their days working in isolation; away from their own families in order to take care of another, while living under the house of their own employer. It is this very isolation that energizes Woodside, as it allows for lone Domestic OFW’s to temporarily escape this seclusion, and enter into an environment that is filled with familiarity and puso, which is heart in Tagalog.

 

In terms of communicating Woodside, as well as its community affectively, this website will aim to exhibit the stories of Domestic OFW’s through intimate interviews, while also creating an immersive guideway to Woodside’s environment via personal vlog curations.

 

In regards to the affectiveness of interviews, the audience will be able to peak into the lives of an already hidden community, as their lives are rarely relayed to the Western audience. Not many know about the complexities and sacrifices these women go through, as employers do not necessarily communicate with them about their families back home.  By telling their stories and opinions through an interview format, (perhaps even the inclusion of the voice as an affective platform) the audience will be provoked by the intensity of their stories and experiences. Portraits of the subject will also accompany these interviews, albeit a manipulated version that censors their faces for privacy reasons, alongside creative additions that are in line with the tone of their stories.

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 12.39.53 AM

While this side of the project is more oriented towards a serious and dark tone, the vlog approach to examining Woodside allows for a more intimate, and lighthearted peek to what Woodside offers to Filipinos. Growing up in the Philippines, I am more attuned to the puso of Filipino culture. It’s quite natural for me to spot and converse with OFW’s, and I hope that this is more fully illustrated in the incoming vlogs of my visits to various Filipino restaurants and businesses in Woodside. In this form, real emotions and interactions with other fellow Filipinos will further a positive and ‘feel-good’ transmission of affect to the audience. This more free-form side of the project will balance out the heaviness of the interviews in the former segment of my website. In doing so, I will be able to most affectively show the audience about the energy and vitality of the Filipino spirit, in the face of dilemma and mistreatment.

 

By the end of this project, I want people to not only come out of my website with awareness and empathy for the hardships of being a Domestic OFW, I also want them to feel the infectious energy that all Filipinos have. I want my audience to know how much this means to me, as it is my duty to tell the hidden and often forgotten stories of my people.

Blog Post No. 2: Environmental Injustice in Hunts Point

•September 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It is hard for us to think deeply about our trash even though we create so much of it. For most of us, our trash simply vanishes; it is bundled into bags and left out on the curb, hauled away by the armada of garbage trucks that rumble in the night.

Where those mountains of  black plastic garbage bags go no one seems to know.

Below is an image from the Christmas garbage strike in 1981:

trash-strike-nyc-1981.jpg

The strike lasted 17 days. Mountains of garbage covered the sidewalks and spread into the streets. Building owners piled their trash in vancant lots and burned it. The holiday shopping  ruined.

The sanitation workers’ strike in 1981 illustrated how much garbage New York produces, and what happens when the waste removal machine breaks down.

Every year New York City produces 14 million tons of garbage–equivalent to roughly 1.1 million school buses loaded to maximum capacity. Where does this mind boggling volume of trash go?

Since the closing of Fresh Kills in 2001 (the world’s largest garbage dump at the time),  New York City’s trash is exported to landfills in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky, or incinerated across the river in New Jersey. A great deal of our recyclables are shipped to countries in the developing world, where third-world labor markets repurpose them into ingredients for Western consumables.

But before it is taken to these distant places by boat, truck, or railcar, our trash is first brought to a Solid Waste Transfer Station for containerization. There are more than 50 waste transfer stations in New York. Nearly all of them are zoned in just four working class communities of color. The site of my ecology, Hunts Point in the South Bronx, is home to 27,000 people and 9 waste transfer stations (in addition to several recycling plants and a sewage treatment facility).

The goal of my project is to change our patterns of consumption by showing the affects of our trash on communities that most of us will never see. I hope to illicit empathy, and in that empathy provoke real behavior change (i.e. Bring Your Own Fucking Coffee Cup To Starbucks) in the audience.

I believe the most affective form of communication is story telling. Stories humanize data. They allow us to experience life from another’s perspective, to relate to one another in a way that transcends boundaries of race and class and other distinctions that keep us separate. However, the power of story telling only works when it is authentic, and authenticity is only achieved when the individual is allowed to be the author of her own story.

The goal of my project will be to bring the stories from Hunts Point–through images and testimony–to the affluent consumers responsible for generating most of the trash, starting with us here in this classroom. I hope that by hearing these stories, we will realize that our trash–something that we have been conditioned to ignore–has a very real impact, and that by participating in the current economic paradigm of consumer capitalism and planned-obsolescence, we are directly contributing to the ecologies of injustice that so many of us complain about so often on facebook.

Latin America in the L.E.S.

•September 26, 2017 • 6 Comments

Having grown up in South Florida, I have always felt completely immersed in Latin American culture. A prime example of this immersion is my mother. My mother moved to Miami from Barranquilla, Colombia when she was nineteen years old. She has now lived in South Florida for thirty-three years and still finds it hard to fluently communicate in English. This occurrence is solely due to the fact that for the past thirty-three years everywhere she goes it is just as easy, if not easier, to communicate in Spanish than in English. Miami bursts and explodes with people from all across Central and South America. Miami is full of cafecito here and cubanos over there. I was born and raised in a city that not only acknowledged, but also celebrated Latin heritage and culture.

I lived my entire life in South Florida and moving to New York City for college was a culture for many different reasons. What makes New York City unique is that it is the epitome of a melting pot and while it celebrates everybody, it sometimes lacks the individual. New York brought me the mixture and the familiarity of people from all around the world, but not so many from my little corner of the world. I missed the warmth of my Latin American people and though I tried to find someplace to resemble home, I would always come up short. One day as I was walking through the L.E.S. in Alphabet City, I came across a little garden that drew me in. I was first intrigued by the wall murals and paintings and then the more I saw, the more it felt like home. I couldn’t explain what it was about the garden and the paintings, but something screamed out at me home. I came across a man that was working on one of the murals and I asked him who maintained this garden and why. The man went on to tell me the gardens origins and how it was kept up by the gardens surrounding Latin American elders. The man told me that they donated, fundraised, and supported local artists’ to paint murals relevant to the Latin American culture. His answer did not surprise me, I knew something pulled me in and I knew that something was a little piece of home. Ever since then I have frequented this garden many times in the last two years, and almost every time end up in an interesting conversation with another stroller. I once talked to one of the women who maintains it and she told me that the reason behind her support is because of the devastating occurrences happening in her native country, she felt as though this was a safe place to express, communicate, and grieve. The more times I go back the more I see the heart and the hurt of these people for their displacement and their disconnect to their home countries, but also the happiness that this habitat provides for them.

For these reasons and many more I have decided on this garden in the L.E.S. to be the ecology of my description for this blog post. The displacement is the actant in this ecology that moves those in the community to act. It is the yearning for home and familiarity that transcends and works affectively and changes the behavior of these peoples lives. For these reasons, that are all very dear to my heart, I have chosen to discuss this ecology.