Course Notes

*Notes in bold are my thoughts after changing the focus of our project to transportation in the city, but most of my notes from before are still relevant.  

The Street by Ann Petry

  • Multiple perspectives in the city
    • Within this novel, Petry gives us the perspective of multiple characters, which helps the reader come to understand the story and city better.
      • I think multiple perspectives about each part of D.C. would provide even greater insight into the nature of Washington. I could ask local citizens for their take on the area and incorporate that into the Instagram posts.
  • How the city contributes to conflict and division? What obstacles does this create for the poor?
    • The city contributes to conflict and division, for example: through rent payments, who controls the money, and the connotations of each area to locals as well as outsiders.
      • I could examine how these divisions have manifested themselves in each area of the city and write about it.
    • This tends to isolate the poor to certain neighborhoods where they can afford to live, such as Anacostia.
      • Where are the poor and marginalized located in D.C.?
    • Within the city, the public transportation system is a clear way to see the division amongst the citizens. For example, on the bus or metro system, many people tend to keep to themselves and do not socialize with one another. This is usually due to the varying types of people one will encounter and it illustrates the sad fact that social and racial disparities still take effect today. 

“The Lost Beautifulness” by Anzia Yezierska, “The Fortune Pilgrim” by Mario Puzo, and “Christ in Concrete” by Pietro di Donato

  • Do people in the city acknowledge difference? Do people in the city handle difference well in the face of assimilation?
    • Having lived in D.C., when I walk through the city I tend to notice differences amongst people of varying economic classes, races, etc., but I have never seen people acknowledge this difference. I feel that difference is somewhat of a subdued idea and feeling that people in D.C. tend not to acknowledge in public very often.
      • Then again, I am only speaking from what I have seen and know from my experiences, so I should look for places where I see difference on my explorations and see if it something that people ever acknowledge.
    • People today silently acknowledge difference in the public transportation system in my opinion. As I mentioned above, many people tend to not interact with one another in the varying methods of public transportation in D.C. due to the differences that exist within the city, such as race, economic status, and age. 

Professor King on Beirut and The Ideal of Community and the Politics of Difference” by Iris Marion Young and How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis 

  • Differences come from something/somewhere and why is it such a source of conflict?
    • Comes in part from battles for power
      • Difference is definitely a source of conflict in D.C., especially in some of the poorer neighborhoods or gentrifying ones, for example, Shaw. Difference has arisen from the invasion of new, wealthier people into the formerly impoverished, violent neighborhood that once existed causing people to seek power.
        • When I instagram I should note if there is an obvious “difference” in the locations and if so, how has it manifested itself?
    • Differences I have witnessed in the public transportation system are that most of the workers are from the lower class and tend to work multiple jobs in order to meet their economic needs. After interviewing multiple workers, it is the social disparities within the city that cause many people from the lower class to turn toward the poor paying public transportation system for work, as well as a source of travel due to its low cost, as opposed to owning a car. In my opinion, I think that public transportation is a prime place to observe differences amongst people within in the city. 
    • Another example of difference and conflict in D.C. is Uber vs. regular cabs
      • Most cabs tend to think that Uber is putting them out of business 
  • Who has access to property, public space, and the right to have a voice?
    • Who in D.C. tends to live in the property, occupy the public spaces, and be speaking up? These are all things that I should also be noting in my instagram’s. When we went on the exploration from Logan Circle to Dupont Circle, I took note of the types of people sitting on the benches (typically all white families) and who were walking through the neighborhoods.  It is examples like these that demonstrate the character of the different neighborhoods. It would be very interesting too compare all the people occupying the different public spaces around D.C.

The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu

  • Is gentrification a natural part of the city? How can a small city like D.C. have such a wealth gap?
    • I think so- think of Zukin’s idea of “shedding the past”
    • If you venture outside of NW D.C., the more affluent area of the city, there are extremely run down and impoverished neighborhoods such as Petsworth, and areas of D.C. down by the Anacostia River. This is just a natural part of growth within cities.
      • 14th street for example recently has been rebuilt and is now a higher end part of the city
  • Does living in a city for an extended period of time change your views of the city and how does your relationship with the city change?
    • Yes- having lived in D.C. for an extended period of time, I tend to find the typical D.C. attractions and activities very lackluster now. Just as the protagonist Mr. Stephanos no longer feels an excitement from the monuments, I sadly have become the same way.
      • This project will hopefully be a way for locals who have become immune to things like the museums, monuments, and other famous D.C. places/activities to find new things to do while receiving a local’s point of view. Hopefully my relationship with D.C. will allow for other people to relate.
  • Idea’s/thoughts from Dr. McCabe’s visit:
    • Reason’s why cities gentrify:
      • Neil Smith’s rent gap theory: when the rent gap is really big, then cities tend to gentrify
        • Gap = rent now and what it will be in the future
      • David Ley’s cultural explanations
        • Example: wanting to live close to work or near a commercial area; preferences
      • I could conduct basic research on rent in the varying neighborhoods in D.C. based on Neil Smith’s theory and also make observations about the “cultural” aspect of the neighborhoods and what might draw people towards it according to Ley’s idea.

Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd”

  • In this short story, the protagonist follows a man all day, but we, the readers, will never know what is going on in his head and the man he is following never senses that he is being followed. This suggests that sometimes people can live together in a city, yet never connect
    • Reminds me of Mr. Stephan’s’ thoughts while riding the G2 bus throughout D.C. in the book The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears
      • Question to answer: does D.C.’s public transportation inhibit interaction amongst the citizens?
        • After having rode the bus from Dupont Circle to Georgetown University this past weekend, I noticed that people were fairly reserved and spoke only with other people they knew.
          • First hand experience of the quietness and divisive powers of the city (think: city of feeling)
  • Idea of walking as an act of place: walking creates a sense of place
    • Also evident in The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears
      • Having walked throughout many neighborhoods of D.C., it is a great tool in becoming acquainted with the city. Some of my favorite times in the city have been walking: to the monuments, around Georgetown, down 14th street, around Chinatown with my family.
        • Walking (or riding a bus or bike around D.C.) are the best methods of transportation because they allow for you to absorb your settings and submerse yourself fully in the culture of the city. It helps you to take note of the differing people and sentiments among the neighborhoods.
          • For example: the quietness of the NW Washington D.C. suburbs that are extremely residential versus the constant noise of Georgetown or Chinatown
            • Note the varying levels of noise and chatter within the city

“Introduction” to Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places 

  • Speaks of how New York is constantly shedding the past when new, more upscale places are being built, which forces people to move due to their inability to afford to live in the neighborhood
  • Does this “shedding” strip away the authenticity of the neighborhood completely or does it build a new one?
    • With this also comes gentrification, something that has been occurring in D.C. as well
      • Must identify in what neighborhoods gentrification has taken place

The Practice of Everyday Life: Walking the City (Chapter 7)

  • You need to get down on the streets in order to get the perspective of the city as most people see it
    • As a local to the city, I feel that I have in fact gained a lot of perspective having walked many parts of the city throughout my lifetime. As a true D.C. native, I am avoiding the “holistic” perspective and focusing in on varying areas of the city individually
    • Most forms of public transportation take place on the street and are a great way to gain perspective of the differing areas of the city, as well as the differences amongst people. 

Let the Great World Spin

  • Does someone who’s lived there longer have more credibility?
    • Do I as a “lifer” in D.C. have more credibility to comment on the culture of D.C. despite my young age?
      • Need to add a personal touch and my own thoughts while tying it to my experiences in the city in order to give myself credibility


  • Do the physical structures or the people define the city?
    • Both?
      • D.C. is obviously known for the physical structures such as the White House and Washington Monument, but the people also play a key role
        • Expose how the people of D.C. (from all social classes) contribute to the spirit of the city
  • Spirit and culture of people
    • How to the people of D.C. contribute to its culture?

The Lost Tiki Palaces

  • Themes of waiting and recognition
    • One of the reasons I am writing about D.C. culturally is because I feel like D.C. is not known for its culture, despite its very vibrant one. I feel like D.C. is on the verge of becoming “the” city in America and not just for its historical and political presence in the country, but for its culture and diverse population
    • D.C. is waiting for recognition
      • My job is to help promote D.C. and help it get gain momentum in working towards becoming better known for its cultural and thriving population
    • This short story partially takes place on a bus where a homeless man is waiting for the other people (most of which are from higher social classes) to recognize him, which causes him to lash out in an inappropriate manner. This is due to what he believes is his “invisibleness” due to his social class and inferiority to the other riders. Public transportation in this story becomes a prime place for people to witness disparities within the city, but also the lack of attention that people from the lower class receive from people of the upper class 
      • Ties to Jacob Riis’ “How the Other Half Lives”

Bronx Morning

  • The city itself as a character
    • How the culture of D.C. is similar to a character
      • Multi-faceted like a person
      • Full of emotion
  • What do we get from images that we do not get from stories?/”A picture is worth a thousand words”
    • You can gaze many ways at a picture
      • A picture is open to interpretation by the viewer, which can be a challenge with an Instagram due to its sole use of photos as representations of the city
        • Need to be specific with my experiences in writing and use geo- tags, hashtags, and tag other businesses to narrow in on how I want the reader to interpret the photo
    • Depends on where you are coming from
      • How would a D.C. local view the photo vs. someone who does not live here?
        • Need to make this a universal Instagram, that outsiders can easily follow

City of Feeling vs. City of Fact

  • Culture = city of feeling
  • City of fact
    • Reminds me of the political side of D.C., which I am trying to stray away from, so maybe could speak to how the political side of D.C. dilutes the view of the city for outsiders
      • Through TV shows, novels etc.
    • Facts about public transportation vs. feelings of the workers/riders 

Representations of the City Notes:

  • Impressions of the city from personal experience
    • How my personal experience effects my view of the city and how it serves as a lens into the culture of D.C.
  • Diversity within the City
    • Diversity in culture in D.C.
      • Within varying neighborhoods, people etc.
    • Diversity found within the public transportation system

Sister Carrie

  • Illustrates the multidimensional identity of the city
    • Maybe the Instagram could not only feature photos of physical places, but could also delve deeper into other layers of the cities. This could be done through an Instagram photo of a local citizen with a short biography of the person
      • There could be people of all sorts that are interviewed between students, adults, high schoolers, etc. with their take on and position within D.C.
        • We are interviewing people who work for the public transportation system in D.C. to get their take on this network of travel within the city that ties many people together. 
    • Another multidimensional aspect of the city is the varying neighborhoods. D.C. is not just solely the Smithsonian, monuments, and political buildings, but has many different neighborhoods- some very wealthy and others facing extreme poverty.
      • I could travel into the varying neighborhoods in order to expose the disparity of people and culture within the neighborhoods and territories of D.C.
      • Suburbs vs. inner city

Manhatta Film

  • Uses images to display the experience of the city and focuses on the aesthetic features
    • An Instagram is solely photos, so these photos need to capture the experience of the city and need to be aesthetically pleasing to the viewers so that they continue to follow the account

Chicago by Carl Sandburg:

  • Insiders see the good parts of the city which lead to the pulsing energy of the city
    • Connect to D.C.- local citizens like myself tend to see the positives of the city, which leads us to see the city as a thriving place and the culture of D.C. leads to that very “pulsing” that I feel in D.C.


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