Brian’s Week 2 Response Post
In my opinion, I felt challenged the way I thought about environments and houses. because of our natural inhibition to look at things in our perspective or as to how others and the world see it, it never came to mind that I look at things in the view of “places.” Gaston Backhelard, a philosopher speaks of his transition of being very rational and logical, towards being someone who focused on imagination and phenomenology. When he begins to describe the house, he speaks in the first person point of view of it. And in order to understand what memories can be attained within the house, we have to disconnect all realities that the world or even ourselves think of the house in physical terms. Because we have been taught archaeologically, financially, and through pleasures to look at a house under these terms, we lose the the perspective that the house may have towards the outside world. Thinking of things in this context only made me think, “What is significant by looking at things this way?” It was very difficult to relate in this way because I feel so detached with my house and only see it as a physical object with more things inside it. But through this understanding that Backhelard brings up, a house is more than just a physical object, it is a storage of memories and a place of imagination, thought, and restoration. A house is more than just an object but it relates directly with our emotions and mind.
The main thing that stuck to me about Christian Norberg-Schulz’s writing was of the poem. At first I had no idea what this poem was about, but in relation towards how we can relate ourselves to the outside world, he connects this to how houses are connected with people and the world. This perspective was interesting because this disconnects how are independent mind may see things. By detaching our minds to what we know and then try to understand other things such as a house, we then begin to become more open to our surroundings. This can make us more sensitive to other individuals and their lives as well as issues involving other inanimate objects such as animals and nature.
Elizabeth- Week 4 Post
The article On Language Memoir from Displacements Cultural Identities in Question by Alice Yaeger Kaplan spoke to me the most out of week four’s readings. First, since my other major is Spanish, I found the author’s comment “I have always heard it said that people learn languages “in order to communicate” and “out of empathy for others” sparked questions in my own mind about what motivates me to learn this second language. The two authors that she refers to in her piece, Richard Rodriguez and Alfred Kazin, both felt that they had to learn a new language: English as immigrants to the United States in order to fit in. I read Rodriguez’s book Hunger of Memory last year in a Chicano Autobiography class, and it was nice to revisit it through this reading in the context of home and displacement. Language plays a huge role in whether one feels at home in a place or not. Whether the location is temporary or a permanent move, not knowing the common language can lead to feeling isolated from society. But, at what cost does learning that language harm the cultural identity of the individual? In my video, my friend Sonja discusses her impending move to Seville, Spain. She will be teaching English in an Elementary school for a year but she herself only known very basic Spanish, her degree in college was in French. Part of her experience of feeling at home will be related to how she interacts with the Spanish language and in turn the culture and people. Perhaps the whole experience will make she reflect on her own cultural identity in relation to being an American abroad. I am interested to hear stories about how the experience plays out and changes her perceptions of home. I also found Kazin’s experiences relatable to my experiences growing up as a Jewish-American and being forced to go to Hebrew school. My grandmother’s first language was Yiddish, and when I lived with her in Miami a few years back, it definitely still came out occasionally although it was by no means her main language anymore. When Kazin writes “Hebrew means mechanical memorization in order to be confirmed at synagogue,” I definitely felt the same way growing up. We went to class to memorize prayers and prepare for our bar/bat mitzvahs completely missing the opportunity to actually be able to communicate in the language. I strongly believe that would have been much more meaningful for all of us. Back to my own experieces and motivations for learning Spanish, I have 1) always simply liked the beauty of the language and the personal feeling of accomplishment when holding a conversation with someone. 2) Since I want to become a nurse, my hope is that I will be able to better serve the Latino community as a care-provider and a medical translator. 3) As a person who suffers from wanderlust, it has opened up a lot of opportunities to communicate with a lot of people in a lot of different parts of the world. Perhaps those reasons fall under the categories of communication and empathy or perhaps not. Either way, analyzing the power of language in relation to home and identity, or lack there of, is extremely meaningful in regards to self-reflection.
the Korsakow system (and the interactive film I tried to show you the other day)
So, here’s the link to the main site for various projects made using Florian Thalhofer’s Korsakow system — software for creating interactive video projects.
I actually got the online version of the 13th Floor project to play in Google Chrome, so give it a try!
Also check out the other videos. There’s some awesome stuff in there.
On a related note, Google suggested the Korsakoff Syndrome when I was searching for this, and I wonder if that’s why Florian named his software that.
Brian’s Week 6 Response Post
This week’s readings were interesting because it focused towards a minority group and living standard that many people don’t think of. Because our society and media focuses so much towards the American dream and attaining happiness, we don’t focus much on the living standard of the homosexual and homeless lifestyle. Having read over the article that shows how society and media doesn’t give attention to the poor, gave me insight towards how America strives to see it’s country be. Because I am so blind in seeing what is going on with a “low” class minority group and so focused towards my own life, I and others were not able to see. However, the homeless and the least expected can also have lessons to teach as well.
It opened my eyes in seeing the homeless community fight for their own living but they can’t communicate towards society with what’s actually happening with America’s economy. Because America continues to bring living standards up, the homeless community continue to get larger. Not only is the homeless community getting larger, but prisons as well. An interviewee argues that the solution isn’t is to make more prisons and stuff these people away from society, but instead they should have their addictions fixed and then to perform within society again. These homeless people are becoming more ignored. America is seeking a vision that is aside the homeless people.
Aside from these problems, I felt that interviewing these people was a good step towards seeing their side of the story. Because this happens, steps can now be taken towards considering them. Homeless people don’t have the resources to have a voice and importance to make themselves known. But with people that do and care for these people, a change can make and hopefully a more harmonious environment can take place.
The other reading focusing on the social mapping of how homosexual people live to survive was intriguing because of how they live in a society where they are oppressed. Being around people that oppress you can be hard. Because this happens, these people create a society and living where they can communicate with each other. This can stretch towards certain areas have more homosexual people more populated. These articles has opened my eyes in seeing a more segregated society where we are less accepting of those that are less appreciated and more accepting of those that benefit us. Minority groups are forced to be pushed aside to fend for themselves. That is until their voice is heard, action can take place. These interviews help give their point of view and is a great approach towards getting their voice heard without the resources.
Week 6 Response -Sam
While reviewing the readings for this week, and reflecting on the class as a whole, I began to reflect on the number of ways we have seen and learned about various ways to use first person accounts and interviews. I particularly thought about David Kerr’s essay, “We Know What the Problem Is,” in the context of the multimedia web programs we viewed over the past few weeks, such as “Out My Window” and “The Places We Live.”
Kerr analyzes his CHOHP oral history project and discusses his interactions with the homeless people in the project and how the homeless, interviewed or not, interacted with the project along the way. A multimedia website, such as “Out My Window,” is a good way of telling a multitude of stories about a subject. You can hear their voice, see where they live and the view out their window, watch some video, and read explanatory text. It is a broad collection of content. While there is a breadth of content there is not a breadth of access. This isn’t to say the subjects won’t be able to access the website and see themselves - even if they don’t have a computer there is always an internet cafe or a helpful aunt with a computer. Policy makers, urban planners, government workers, other people living in those communities - it is these sorts of people who likely will not be reached by this project. Throughout the quarter I have wondered how our teacher has found these websites. Perhaps some multimedia project search engine?
These projects cannot be tagged, cited, and added to a library search engine, nor can they be disseminated through a wide variety of means like a radio program or a documentary. There is still a great amount of power in broadcast media.
Internet/multimedia projects can still be quite helpful. Imagine Gavin Brown’s “Queer Maps of The City” with an interactive mapping feature to overlay the different maps on top of one another. This brings to life the project in a way that feels more accessible and easier to understand than a simple collection of figures.
Clicking through and exploring a web site or project in a non-linear way is a new way of disseminating information. It seems like a subject rife with possibility for critical analysis. Maybe it can be embraced as a way to break out of the standard discourses of the academy and present information in radical way. For now, it seems too new and inaccessible to be disseminated widely, either through the academy or society at large. That being said, the creators of this content should think about ways of getting their ideas out there and putting forth the idea of multimedia as a new media.
Elizabeth- Week 6 post
Listening to Queer Maps of the City: Gay Men’s Narratives of Pleasure and Danger in London’s East End discusses home in the context of a city for a marginalized population. I’ve been concentrating more on the concept of home on the individual level rather than as a specific community within a larger space. Gavin Brown appears to want to appeal to the idea of geography not on a physical level, but rather a measure of the embodiment of lived experiences. In the context of queer identity in London, the norm was to share and map stories of predominantly gay bars and baths, but Brown began to dig deeper to find a wider array of experiences for the gay community. Seeing that a city or any form of a home is not going to have one static identity, Brown also wanted to incorporate and adapt the cartography being produced of the city into a dynamic piece that responds to the experiences of those involved In the project. Paying attention to the methodologies used in this piece to begin thinking on a larger scale of home can become very useful. Recognizing the value of collective oral histories to mold a working project can bring it in a direction not previously conceived. I found his use of interview to find both positive locations for the gay community as well as potentially harmful and dangerous spaces to be especially important in regards to the work Brown was trying to accomplish. Both private and public spaces are considered in this project, and are analyzed for restriction and/or availability for being as a gay individual or as a part of the gay community.
In We Known What the Problem Is: Using Oral History to Develop a Collaborative Analysis of Homelessness from the Bottom up, oral narrative in relation to homeless communities living in Cleveland were compiled to analyze another marginalized population’s experiences. Previous work done in this field, as is laid out in the piece, did not actually get input from the homeless to be able to have record of what they feel about their current situations. Simply gathering statistics and demographics at a distance does not really benefit anyone. Collecting data from the populations that could be most helped or hurt, in this case the homeless themselves, is more likely to bring up ideas thoughtfully conceived to help those most a stake: themselves. The author of this piece, Daniel Kerr, illustrated what it was like to create a video project to collect voices and experiences from the homeless and then enable to creation of a grassroots platform for them. Bringing agency to those who want to evoke change in their own lives is extremely valuable. Although I’m not sure bringing about agency is directly related to my project, I think the idea of how powerful voice and collection of voice can be helps me realize the potential of this project and possible future ones. Oral narrative is a great way to directly think about ways that collective experience could one day influence the induction of change.
Katy July 25 (week 5?)
This week’s readings detail the struggle between public and private space and offer an interesting layer to the literature about personal exploration, memory, and auto ethnography. In what ways can/do disenfranchised members of society explore I memory and ideas of community? Brown (2001) describes this as a “central tension” in gay life - law and society putting boundaries upon what can be expressed in public space (p. 50). With diverse public space, there seems to be an argument for increased oppression of certain groups and it is interesting that so many gay men benefit from the increasing gentrification of their areas. This seems to indicate that privilege, race, and social capital are more qualifiers than sexual orientation; past studies has perhaps “overemphasized…sexual orientation” (p 53). Brown’s article reminds me of the 1980’s documentary, “Paris is Burning,” which offered a glimpse into the world of gay, black and Latinos - men who’s pageantry mimicked/ interpreted the privledged, white world. Their maps would show a general lack of private and safe, public space with the exception being the private space they create together.
If, as the article states, people “exaggerate stories…[with]…lies” then how important is self-representation? Brown states that in the “post-gay” world, some people can avoid crossing their public and private spaces like Sean, who lacks a positive, gay public space (p. 53, 57). This reminds me of the idea of the glass elevator (or is it escaltor?) - a phenomenon where gay men represent themselves as straight but the public recognizes them as gay. With political battles and changing social movements - like equal rights and gay marriage - i wonder if personal business enters more into the realm of public space.
I really liked the Kerr piece and his statement that his thesis was less important than the social changes it has sparked. It has been difficult for me, before this class, to see the full connection between other disciplines and creating/making change in a policy arena. I see investing stakeholders as ‘actors’ is a method of inspiring authentic change. I created a policy brief for my last fall quarter on the homeless situation in Washington - specifically the Alcohol Impact Areas (AIA) and wet houses. In the countless hours of policy, literature, and legal research, only one person - head of downtown shelter - talked about the importance of including the homeless in deciding what is best for them. I find it interesting that so many arguments are made for assessing the homeless from an economic standpoint - cost to the city/state - although it doesn’t make any sense to qualify human life from it’s potential benefit to society. It’s regularly argued that homeless should be productive members of society. But who says they need to be producers? - at the least, they should be offered the opportunity for participation in society.
Blog post 5: Working with (Karl Benitez)
Reminiscent of Doreen Massey’s thoughts on the symbiosis of space and multiplicity, authors Gavin Brown and Daniel Kerr in their respective works, “Listening to Queer Maps of the City” and “We Know What the Problem Is,” highlight the necessity of community input when dealing in a sociological realm. Both Brown and Kerr offer accounts of projects and research where subjects, or rather “participants,” are directly and crucially informing the content of the work. While this concept may seem painfully obvious, the inclusionary process is pivotal in properly shaping the certain kind of work sought after by Brown and Kerr. Polling, surveying, or querying a cultural group on the goings-on of everyday life is one thing, but directly involving that group with direction, control, or agency in the formulation of the research is a delicate but substantially uplifting act that recasts the frame in which the work is seen; no longer is the subject matter something that is subjected, but rather the portrayal of a social environment is an inclusive process accurately (according to them) reflecting the functional workings of the space.
The importance of reflexivity and relationship building with the community at hand is also pointed out in the text and shows to be another key component in the documentation and analysis of a cultural group. The authors are firmly entrenched in the oral history-gathering process. Brown and Kerr do not just report the news, but rather synthesize the accounts of the people involved, redirecting and refocusing the opinions of the participants. It is in this way that Brown and Kerr do present themselves as ethnographers rather than journalist or surveyor. Taking an approach described by one UW professor as “deep hanging out,” they embed themselves within the culture and make efforts not just to relate to their group of focus, but to understand in the best way possible the struggles and issues that the group faces. In each regard, Brown and Kerr create a two-way dynamic where said group of focus is included in the creation of content, rightfully validating the opinions of the participant as well as going straight to the source for subjective information. While this type of report can be colored in a certain light to reflect only what may be most subjective, it is in the subjectivity where import lies and, through working with each cultural group, Brown and Kerr attempt to de-objectify the plight and relay a sense of lived perspective of each unique culture.
Week 5 - Being homeless is to live in black hole and totally sucks
Home is all about control, and when a person becomes homeless, a part of the struggle is gaining or retaining some form of control in their lives. We, the housed population, can control the temperature of our homes, what and when we eat, who shares our space, and a myriad of other experiential conditions. In contrast, the homeless can control very little. When a homeless person can find a bed in a shelter, the environment of the shelter can be just as dangerous and unlivable as sleeping on the streets. When they want food, they often have to travel outside of easily accessible areas, much like in Seattle where the only approved place to serve food to the homeless is under the freeway on James Street, outside of the “free ride area” of the Metro bus lines. I feel that while there are honest efforts to help the homeless, many of those spending the time and effort to help them are doing it for selfish reasons, like the alleviation of guilt. My reason in thinking this is that there are very few organizations that exist to help the homeless population, who also employ homeless individuals in their own program. The Kerr article is structured around the idea of bringing the population into their own sense of agency, which in turn can make opportunities of advancement more realistic. The overarching problem with reducing the amount of homeless people is that “we” see “them” as abject: “Extremely bad, unpleasant, and degrading”. Julia Kristeva describes the abject as: “A “something” that I do not recognize as a thing. A weight of meaninglessness, about which there is nothing insignificant, and which crushes me. On the edge of non-existence and hallucination, of a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me.” (Kristeva, “Approaching Abjection”, pg. 2) The abject is uncanny and unsettling, something that is feared without mitigation or true recognition, much like death and scenes of overwhelming gore. The abject is something that rattles our bones, though we might not know exactly why. We, the housed population, regularly refer to those without homes as existing in “abject poverty”, as they are often seen as dirty, crazy and on the cusp of degradation that “we” choose not to engage with. The way this is accomplished, which I am guilty of within this response, is a verbal separation of “we”, which denotes nothing as every person lives on a single spot of a cyclopean spectrum, and “the homeless”, which easily encapsulates a group that lives on that same spectrum. In regards to our understanding of home, and control, we can think of everyone that lives outside of our homes as representing the abject in some manner, as the outsider can inhibit the expression of complete control, as decorum and social convention often dictate behaviors that should not be enacted in the open. If this is true, then the average person on any class level tries to limit emotional bonds with others, so as to maintain a level of comfort and control in their life. This limitation of engagement in respect to “the homeless” is all the easier as the homeless often represent not just an intrusion into daily routine, “Can you spare any change?”, but an intrusion onto our senses (hygiene). This desire to maintain control and comfort, or to maintain the sense of home, reaffirms the lack of control and comfort for those that are homeless, as they are seen as a frightening other. Those experiencing homelessness are probably less likely to experience their own important sense of comfort and control because they are not allowed to advance their own developing sense of agency. Through, as Kerr describes in the form of the Cleveland shelter, there are situations in which homeless individuals can claim ownership of their lives, and are granted chances to shake off the shackles of abjection, and claim a real semblance of home. To alleviate not just the amount of people who are homeless, but the experience of being homeless, we as a collective spectrum of “human” need to remove the lens of abjection from people we see as “the other”.
amalia week 6: queering geography
With their emphasis on oral histories, I am thankful for the foundation these articles give to our work with video and audio. I especially appreciate the way that Brown’s piece spells out the practices of narrative interviews and cognitive mapping as means to queer geography; they open spaces to intersectional analyses of history and experience, allowing for a “more nuanced social record”.
While I have often noticed, felt and considered the ways that positionality shifts with context, Queer Maps of the City does a powerful job of making that dynamism visible in space, showing sexuality as site-specific in a very precise, marked and geographical way. This reminded me of a project I encountered with emotional maps of an area; triggered memories connect to physiological reactions connect to emotions, mapped out to show the incredible intricacy of our experiences of the most familiar places.
I interpret this approach to queer geography as active, as healing, and as an awesome shift in power relations. It challenges the production of knowledge and the location of knowledge, both spatially and cognitively: how ideas, facts, experiences are isolated or included in a wide web of perspectives, interpretations and feelings. Kerr takes continues this trend by working with audio and video, explicitly stating this choice as a means to get off of paper and out of the traditional exclusivity of academia, to collaborate directly with what would be traditional “subjects”, and to make materials with homeless people as the primary audience.