Is gentrification good or bad?
My view of gentrification has always been tainted by my experience. It was the reason why my family and I was forced to move out of our cozy apartment in the Mission District of San Francisco. So, I’ve always held an inherent bias towards the aforementioned question. Yet, I have used this class and opportunity to really uncover the facts, myths and inner-workings of gentrification.
The Marriam-Webster dictionary definition is:
(noun) gen·tri·fi·ca·tion \ jen-trə-fə-ˈkā-shən\
the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents
The bare definition may seem very simple, yet the concept is much more complex than mere renewal and displacement. It is a term thrown around a lot, but it’s often oversimplified as a kind of neighborhood revitalization.
Stacey Sutton, a professor at Columbia University, thinks much more deeply about society’s common misconceptions around gentrification. In an enlightening talk, given in November of 2014 at TEDxNewYork, urban planning scholar Stacey Sutton shares the true costs of gentrification.
A main component of Sutton’s underlying thesis was awareness and consciousness. Many people move into neighborhoods or universities that have rebuilt and displaced natives. For instance, University of Southern California’s new housing and shopping complex, The Village, is no exception. But I have come to realize that it is more than living in an area that gentrified a neighborhood; it’s what one does once they get there.
If you come into someone’s home, do you immediately start rearranging it and moving furniture in?
No, of course not. You get to know each other, decide if you get along, and, once the host has decided you can stay, you ask politely where to put your stuff.
Why don’t we act with the same type of common courtesy when it comes to neighborhoods?
Gentrification Coming to a Hood Near You
Gentrification is a difficult concept to easily depict via pictures because the it is not widely known and is pretty abstract. So, it was initially difficult to think of what image to manipulate to depict the topic. Yet, when I was driving to my friends’ apartment, I passed by a warning road work ahead sign and something clicked! Subconsciously, I was annoyed by the sign because that meant upcoming traffic and congestion due to some new apartment complex or hipster bar. What is being built now?
What I failed to notice initially was that this was the exact feeling that overcomes me when I see gentrification take over a neighborhood with rich culture. So, it seemed almost natural to manipulate a road work sign to say a satirical slogan about gentrification. Because the altered meaning still evokes the same sense of feeling that one associates with the original sign, while bringing making them aware of an issue that is not widely talked about.
Here is the photoshop manipulation project I created:
It originally started out as these two photos:
- The rehabilitation and settlement of decaying urban areas by middle-and high-income people.
- What happened to my home in the mission
Gentrification is a phenomenon that strikes very close to home because it was the reason why I lost my home as a child. Growing up, my family and I lived in an apartment in the Mission District of San Francisco, but were forced to move out of the area once tech industries and big businesses prospered.
Buzzfeed featured a teenager named Kai who also faced the same struggle with gentrification in the Mission. He took the audience on a tour of his neighborhood, and showed just how much it changed since his family was evicted. From the immense loss of culture to the sharp division between the natives and newbies, Kai shared his personal experience with gentrification. His tour was interwoven with various facts and statistics.
For instance, the Ellis Act, a California law which enables landlords to evict tenants in order to retire or go out of business, was introduced. This was the law that allowed for the eviction of Kai and his family. Newsweek reported that “In 2013, Ellis evictions grew 175 percent from the year before.” Also, “Between 1990 and 2011, the Mission District lost 1,400 Latino households…and during the same period, the black population of the city was cut in half” (Julia Carrie Wong).
Furthermore, I chose this Buzzfeed short on Kai as my first form of research because as I was rummaging through the abyss of information online, I seldom found a perspective of someone that had recently faced it (let alone around my age). For example, The Dictionary of American History doesn’t depict any negative connotations until the last paragraph (and nothing like the aforementioned statistics). So, it was refreshing to hear from a story that I could connect to, and see Kai stand up for the neighborhood he loves.
Something SMELLS fishy: Using the SMELL Test with Trump’s Alternative Facts
The new information landscape is as vast as the Sahara, but full of mirages. You can look up almost anything on the Internet nowadays. But most of what’s offered is really trying to sell a product, service, or point of view. As technology has evolved drastically and crowdsourcing has taken over, fake news has become prevalent. It fills our social media feeds, everyday conversations and even plagues the mind of the President of the United States.
Yet, there is a tool for vetting news and information in the digital age. The “SMELL” test won’t make you foolproof, but it can help you become a savvy information detective. The acronym SMELL stands for source, motivation, evidence, logic and left out:
- S stands for Source. Who is providing the information?
- M is for Motivation. Why are they telling me this?
- E represents Evidence. What evidence is provided for generalizations?
- L is for Logic. Do the facts logically compel the conclusions?
- L is for Left out. What’s missing that might change our interpretation of the information?
Now, more than ever, the SMELL test is needed to decipher all of the fake news and ‘alternative facts’ circulating throughout the digital sphere. The Los Angeles Times reported that the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer even stumbled when addressing Trump’s unproven claims of widespread voter fraud. Yet, even that article is not objectively telling news. Rather, Michael Memoli was selling a biased point of view on President Trump’s latest egregious act.
Although Memoli is a tenured political journalist that has spent the last 11 years covering national politics, it appears that his motivation lies somewhere between content designed to inform and principled persuasion. He included a video and wrote in such a manner that gave transparent facts, which presented all relevant sides.
Yet, he consciously decided to end with a quote that painted the picture in a certain light. Memoli writes, ““These are not ‘alternative facts.’ They are corrosive lies without any evidence,” [California Secretary of State Alex Padilla] said in a statement, referring to Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway’s formulation Sunday about the administration’s false claims about inaugural attendance.” The article ends on a note that does not align with the President’s unproven claims and support of the aforementioned. Memoli doesn’t completely leave out the other viewpoints, but he does focus mostly about the inaccuracy of voter fraud and Sean Spicer’s inability to support it. But I believe that reliable news is not simply writing facts down completely objectively (because bias is inevitable). Rather, it is important to be aware of your bias and write in a manner relative to Memoli’s — transparent and fair.
More, when comparing the infosphere of the late 20th century to that of the early 21st, it resembles holding a child’s balloon up to a Goodyear blimp. In just two decades the Internet has become an indispensable information utility. For those who know how to search and filter it, the explosion of widely available information is exciting and empowering. There’s a silver lining in the digital cloud. For those who can’t distinguish fact from clever fiction, however, it can be bewildering and misleading. Today, news and information literacy has become a necessary skill for citizens, and it can all start with the use of your common sense and SMELL tests.
Teens and Tech: what happens when students give up technology for a day?
Ask most teenagers if they would switch off and hand over their smartphone or gaming console for a week and they’d probably look at you bemused and ask “why?”. I responded in the same way, but this media blackout assignment wasn’t the first time.
Just a few weeks ago, I was in Tahiti surrounded by hospitable natives and beautiful views. I only brought a carry-on suitcase with minimal clothes, a sleeping bag, a camera, and a notebook to Tahiti. This immersion trip was exactly that, an immersion. One which included no wifi, phones or social media for two weeks. So, this 24 hour media blackout was minuscule in comparison. Yet, I initially responded in the same way — “why?”.
It’s hardly surprising. Technology – smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles – are part of my everyday life; they’re essentially phantom limbs. A recent report by Childwise found that children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen, more than twice as much as they did 20 years ago. Technology is engrained in our lives much more than I noticed.
Was it hard? Yes. But impossible? No. I actually found it less difficult than I expected, suggesting the relationship I have with technology is less addictive than compulsive. Although I was no longer in Tahiti jumping off waterfalls and picking invasive starfish from reefs in the middle of the ocean, I kept busy in other ways. My friends and I took the Metro to LA Live (without using Maps to guide us… much harder than anticipated) and watched Hidden Figures. We engaged in more conversation about the film, but also minute details of our days and inner-workings of our minds. It reminded me of the immersion trip, I just came back from. Yet, this time I was immersing into my everyday life.
By dipping into offline life from time to time, we come to appreciate the things we often overlook. There is a spoken word film for the online generation by Gary Turk titled “Look Up” that reminded me of this project.
Technology is useful in unprecedented ways. Reclusion is also needed. But finding the balance between the two is necessary to enjoy a technological age to the fullest.