Sparked by the actions of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, students all over the world joined forces on Friday, September 20th, to school strike for climate. The worldwide strikes on the 20th took place two days before the UN Climate Summit in Manhattan. In hopes of inspiring change, approximately 250,00 people marched within Manhattan from Folley Square to Battery Park. With the sun was beaming down on the lawn of Battery Park, things were moving fast in anticipation for the incoming crowd. Police were stationed around the periphery of the area, stage crewmen were working diligently on the audio and visual displays, and early arrivers were beginning to crowd with their posters and reusable water bottles in hand. With the words “prosecute polluters” painted across her cheeks, Laguardia high school student Arwen Viramarche stands among a group of her friends stating, “we want to save the planet, it’s really that simple.” The people ranged from teens, like Viramarche, to media personnel and more experienced protesters. While politics are often ageist, the strike was filled with people of all ages who were together for a common purpose. With the encouragement of Mayor Deblasio, New York students were able to miss class without penalty. The area was littered with posters such as “the planet is screaming”. Within the crowd, was Now This News’ Snapchat story curator, Brianna. Although reluctant to give her last name for use in print, she commented that, “kids across the globe are realizing we need to take change.”
Aliana Jabbary and Elizabeth Jankovic, sophomore Muse Scholars and Media Studies majors, decided to combine forces to investigate the effects of Photoshop on self-esteem between genders. Aliana is a freelance multi-media artist and photographer. Upon reflection of her own work and creative process, she was inspired to investigate how her work as a photo editor may affect the subjects she shoots. Elizabeth, a Journalism concentration, has written many stories and conducted various interviews. She was interested in how people may react to seeing photos of themselves edited to “perfection” by another person’s standards. Their idea was to photograph one male and one female college student, edit a single photo of each, and upon reveal of the before/after, capture their reactions.
The inspiration for this project comes from the inner conflict that many artists face. Creators are judged based on their work, and therefore want to create the best works possible. Therefore, as a photographer, certain colorization and photo-retouching decisions must be made, but at what cost? When the subject receives the complete images, they are often not given the RAW original files, and therefore they are unaware of the original image. All they see is the final product. This is the final product of what an editor thought would look best. This calls to question, how would they feel if they saw the original (untouched) images? How would they feel, knowing someone edited their appearance, to fit their own standards? Would this affect their self-esteem in future photos that aren’t professionally retouched? Elizabeth and Aliana set out to investigate these questions.
Aliana worked with James Reilly and Claire Leto, both sophomore Hunter students. She photographed each of them in naturally lighting by the East River, then selected one image of each student to edit with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. (It is important to keep in mind that portrait photography in direct sunlight will highlight skin imperfections)
This is the original and edited image that Aliana picked for James:
After editing the photos, we sat down with James and asked him a few questions about the photos.
Upon his reflection, Aliana added graphical representation of his reactions.
Before seeing any of the photos:
ELIZABETH: What do you want the picture to look like?
JAMES: I want it to look good. I want my skin to look clear. I want my hair to look good… I want it to cast me in a good light, literally and figuratively. I want to look happy; I want to look confident. I don’t want it to look perfect, I just want it to look presentable.
E: What do you think the picture is going to look like?
J: I don’t know.
E: Do you like having your photo taken by another person?
J: If it’s gonna be edited.
J: Because I don’t want to put a bad photo of me out in the world.
E: Would you rather edit it yourself or have someone edit your photo?
J: I don’t edit my photos… I don’t believe in editing photos of myself because… there’s just no point to it. I’ll either take a good photo, and post it, or not post it. I won’t delete it though – I don’t delete photos.
E: Are you excited?
J: I’m excited to have the photo to put on LinkedIn.
E: Do you always post it when people take photos of you?
J: No, not always, because I don’t really do social media much.
Aliana then showed James the final, edited photograph. Initially, James laughed and said, “Why am I looking like that? What’s wrong with me?”
After seeing the edited (retouched) image:
JAMES: My eyes are crossed, so that’s something… My eyes are literally not facing the same direction.
ELIZABETH: What do you like about this photo?
J: I like the way my beard looks, and my hair, I think. I think it’s like vibrantly messy. I like the color, but that’s the edit… I like it as a photo, regardless of who’s in it.
E: Can you point out anything you don’t like/any insecurities this edit highlights?
J: Acne scars is big, that’s the big one. That’s like it, actually. My skin’s edited, obviously, because I have many more zits than that. And you can almost not see my acne scarring, almost, but it’s still there.
E: Was it what you expected?
J: She didn’t pick the pose I thought she would pick… I picked a good outfit, I looked good in the clothes.
Finally, Aliana showed James the raw file of the photo, without any editing or retouching.
After seeing the original (unedited) image:
ELIZABETH: Are you surprised at what you see?
JAMES: Not really, because I know what I look like.
E: Do you think it looks drastically different than the retouched one?
J: The only difference that I see is that my skin’s just redder, that’s it. The main edit is the resolution, honestly. It’s so high-quality that, in my opinion, anybody who is in a high-quality photo is going to look better because it just looks good.
E: What do you like/dislike about this image?
J: [I dislike] my skin, obviously. But I don’t hate it. I still would settle for this photo in the long-run. What’s funny is, because you turned clarity up, my acne scars actually look worse in the edited one. What I don’t like is the nose thing, because it’s weird-looking. I look like I’m Russian now – not like that’s a problem; it just isn’t what I look like.
Afterwards, Aliana revealed to James the specific edits she made to the photo, such as brightening the eyes, retouching skin and undereye bags, and adjustments to color and highlights. James said he didn’t even notice the eyebags in the unedited photo when compared to the edited one. He was curious about certain choices Aliana made; for example, when Aliana said she added a drop shadow underneath James’ nose and retouched his neck, he asked, “interesting… why?” Additionally, he said, “You didn’t edit my hair, which is surprising.”
Overall, James seemed curious about the choice behind certain edits but overall satisfied with the image, especially the skin retouching.
This is the original and edited image that Aliana picked for Claire:
We conducted the an interview for Claire with the same general questions as James’:
Before seeing any of the photos:
ELIZABETH: What do you expect to see? What do you want the picture to look like?
CLAIRE: I’m excited, I just want it to be a decent picture. I think we got some good angles and definitely worked well with the lighting that we had. I’m just excited to see them; I’m expecting them to be good.
E: Do you like having your photo taken by another person?
C: Not really, at all, I just am not a fan, but since I was with people that I trust, I had a fun time; I had an enjoyable time.
E: Would you rather edit it yourself or have someone edit your photo?
C: I’d rather edit them myself, I think just for the obvious point that I can manipulate anything that I want on it.
E: Do you use Photoshop to edit photos?
C: Not really. Sometimes I’ll edit a pimple out on FaceTune.
E: Do you usually post the photos when someone photographs you and gives you edited images?
C: I am not active on social media.
Aliana then showed Claire the final, edited photograph.
After seeing the edited (retouched) image:
Claire’s initial reaction to the photo was: “I like her!”
ELIZABETH: How does seeing this portrait make you feel?
CLAIRE: I enjoy it; it’s a really nice picture.
E: What did you like about the photo?
C: The colors are nice.
E: Can you point out anything you don’t like/any insecurities this edit highlights?
C: My hair definitely looks greasy. My jaw line does look kind of weak. I also kind of look like I don’t have an eyebrow, but that’s due to my own lack.
E: Was it what you expected?
C: Yeah, no, it’s definitely above and beyond what I expected. I’m SO pleased with it, thanks! Now I’m scared to see the unedited version.
Aliana then showed Claire the unedited photograph.
After seeing the original (unedited) image:
Claire’s initial reaction to the original image was: “Wow, my bags in that.”
ELIZABETH: Do you think this looks drastically different than the retouched one?
CLAIRE: I don’t think it looks drastically different, but I know that I’m obviously going to scrutinize it more than anyone else will. It’s just in the eyes that I really see the biggest difference.
E: What do you like/dislike about this image?
C: My skin doesn’t look as bad as I was expecting it to. I didn’t realize how dark my undereyes were. I’m really just shocked at the difference within the light hitting my eyes and the shadows of it.
E: Are you surprised at what you see?
C: Not really, I know I have deep set eyes.
E: Does this change the way you think people perceive your appearance?
C: I’m going to say not really, and that’s only because it’s taken me a while to sort of become comfortable with myself to a point where I don’t feel the need to be putting out a perfect embodiment of myself every time I just go anywhere… I don’t feel the need to make myself look decent for school or anything like that. But that is a really nice picture, so I might be posting that somewhere!
Afterwards, Aliana revealed to Claire the specific edits she made to the photo, such as retouching the skin, adding in contour, and retouching hair. Claire said she noticed that Aliana lightened a lot of the photo, and she noticed that her skin looks more even. When Aliana said that she darkened Claire’s eyebrows in the image, Claire said she also noticed that, and that it was “necessary.”
Upon interviewing James and Claire, we found it interesting to see how their reactions varied. Although different images, Aliana used the same method of colorization and skin-retouching on both images. What was interesting is that James seemed to question some of Aliana’s editing choices, while Claire was more trusting of the changes. They were both suprised by a lack of editing on a single aspect of their faces (for Claire her jaw, for James his hair). This highlights how they see flaws in photos of themselves that others may not recognize. Claire and James both mentioned an insecurity, but we found that Claire was more suprised by the difference in original versus edited than James was. While they both liked the images, and accepted the original ones, we found that Claire was more open with her reaction.
A New Yorker’s daily commute can be quite hectic, no matter what mode of transportation is taken. To cope, the city has been working to make the most efficient roads as possible. Although making roads safe for all types of transportation seems like a fundamental right, it is not always that way. In terms of the fifth avenue bus lane proposition, the city is not thinking of the greater good for all transportation, rather it is just improving bus traffic (Meyer, 2017). Using Midtown’s community board, located in lower Manhattan, it is evident that the proposed implementation of the fifth avenue double bus lane displays the role that the “ladder of participation” plays in citizen participation through the concepts of codes and social capital within the context of communication (Arnstein, 1969).
Fifth avenue serves as a major artery within the Manhattan. The large retail and commercial business presence alone the avenue allows for heavy foot traffic as well as many tourists (nyc.gov, 2017). Although data displays fifth avenue area as being mostly bus traffic, many bicyclists are beginning to speak out of their apparent unsafety in the area. Technically speaking, the lack of bike lanes above twenty-sixth street are making the roads a dangerous place to be for cyclists of Midtown (Meyer, 2017). The Department of Transportation argues that the implementation of the double bus structure has worked in the past in areas such as Madison Avenue (nyc.gov). Although many cyclists agree to have safe roads in all aspects of traffic, many feel as if they are feeling marginalized and ignored, which is why there have been many demonstrations (Meyer, 2017). In this past October, cyclists of the city banded together to form a “human protected bike lane” stretching between fiftieth and forty-fourth street along fifth avenue. The demonstration has pushed the Department of Transportation to face the issue more seriously, and make loose promises in regards to bike lanes in the future (Meyer, 2017).
The debate has heeded a large divide within the community and can be observed in the community board meeting of Midtown’s fifth district. The area is make up of people ranging from twenty-five to thirty-four years of age, similarly to the demographics of New York city as a county (US Census Bureau, 2010, T7). Since the residents of the area are within the average age of the entire city, the public participation within the group was high. The homogeneity of age aided conversation, but not enough. Although the attendees were all a part of the same community, there was an obvious tilt in power dynamics (Observation, October 2017). In these situations, it is often that there has been “little effort to examine culture and power in face-to-face communication” (Briggs, 2006). Within the first 15 minutes of Midtown’s board meeting, a man adorned in full cyclist gear yelled “We can’t hear you… louder!” at the board leader. This encounter was followed shortly after by a man in a navy slim cut suit yelling “Hey, be nice!” (Fieldnotes, 2017). The code confusion between these two men is best described as what is bound to happen when a heterogeneous group comes together without fully understanding each other. This confusion is an instance where a small interaction may speak for the larger power dynamics at work within the board meeting (Briggs, 2006).
To put things into scale, Midtown’s residents are some of the wealthiest. In this case, data shows that average Midtown Manhattan resident pays $3,000 or more on rent, while on the Upper East Side in census tract 120, the stats are the same (US Census Bureau, 2015, T236). While the income level affects the dynamics in public participation, it is not for the best. The dichotomy between democracy and the bureaucracy is a tension filled one (Briggs, 2006). Since the codes in which many of the participants seem to follow are economic rank based, this fine line between participation and overstepping the boundary as a participant is clear. While these professionals attempt to follow their codes, the residents that do not get as much attention, the cyclists, affect the dynamics of the meeting (Fieldnotes, 2017).
Similarly, the advancements of the allotted involvement within the meeting affects participation. The “ladder of participation” that covers all different levels of public and government participation partnerships displays how the community board has actually had the chance to affect policy (Arnstein, 1969). In this case, Midtown’s board allowed for speakers from any identity within the community, to voice their opinions on the fifth avenue bus lanes. While many cyclists spoke up for their community, they were shorty later shut down by the speakers for the Department of Transportation (Observation, October 2017). Their allowance for hearing out the other side puts them at a “placation” rank on Arnstein’s 1969 ladder. Although this ranking is a good step for the role that participation has in the community, it was affected by the power relations within the community. When speakers of other organizations would disregard the cyclists’ arguments, the cyclists threw their hands up holding flyers stating “No safety? No Plan.” (Observation, October 2017). Their lack of impact on the meeting’s proceedings displays how the “window-dressing ritual” is in effect (Arnstein, 1969). They are seen as statistics pf participation rather than citizens with voices.
In a larger social context, the reality of public participation in the twenty-first century is dwindling. Statistics show that “since 1973 the number of Americans who report that “in the past year” they have attended a public meeting on town of school affairs has fallen more than a third” (Putnam, 2000). Part of the cause of this large social change has been the inability of global, cities such as New York, to adapt to the growingly diverse community. Due to the lack of faith in government it seems as if many citizens have given up (Putnam, 2000). There is no doubt that this attitude is partially due to the lack of control that the public has in their own communities. In reference to the fifth avenue bus lanes, the actual population who has rallied together for a cause is not taken into account when voting. Instead the board listens to the Department of Transportation discuss how they have to prioritize the transportation of busses first (Observation, October 2017). While the tension is a disappointing sight to witness, the cyclists’ army of at least 30 people there to support their cause was rather refreshing. It is possible that the rise in distrust in government and the rise of young people getting involved with their governments will amount to greater participation, such as in Midtown, so that the local governments of these communities will allow for actual changes to occur (Rowe and Frewer, 2004).
In addition, the idea of the “right to a city” impacts the overall identity of each public participant (Jonas, A.G., McCann, E., & Thomas, M., 2015). This idea can be seen through the shift in income in the area at question. In the case of Midtown Manhattan, over the past decade, the community has shifted to become a more affluent once. Adjusted for inflation, the percent of households in Midtown that make $125,000 or more has increased by 3.9% from 2009 to 2015 (US Census Bureau, 2009, 2015, T56). The shift has affected the way that the community board operates. The meeting was set at a private school that had no signs welcoming the public. Due to that lack of publication, it seemed as if the community could have done more to rally participation. This may be why the majority of the non-cyclists there were people working for a government official, or some of the more affluent dwellers with something at stake (Fieldnotes, 2017).
The main issue is that although participation within Midtown is occurring, the local government is choosing to not hear all opinions of the community. By giving a false sense of fulfillment by allowing people to sign up to speak, but to not take these opinions into account, they are systematically limiting the effects of public participation. To solve this issue, the first thing to look at is the Department of Transportation. Currently, the DOT does know about the cyclists’ fight for a 5th avenue bike lane and they have tweeted on the issue saying that bike safety is an ongoing battle (nyc dot, 2017). The solution for this problem begins with two large ideas. First, big steps need to be taken to improve bike safety in Manhattan. It may be beneficial to fix America’s Surface Transportation Act that covers pedestrian and cyclist safety, but the movement is not proactive in this cause (Han, 2016). By taking the steps to keep Manhattan safe on a local level seems to be the answer. The protected bike lanes within New York have reduced crash related injuries by 17% (nyc.gov, 2014). Secondly, for the larger issue within the community’s rank on the “ladder of participation”, the locals within the community need to band together as they have started to, before seeing a change (Arnstein, 1969). The human bike lane triggered the DOT to send out a message; this is the start to change within a community based on the citizen’s request. Although it took time and effort, by coming together and voicing their opinions, Midtown’s inhabitants can creep up the ladder and eventually have a direct say in what occurs within their local government.
5th Ave (61st st – 34th st) Bus Lane Improvements [PPT]. (2017, September 25). New York City: Nyc.gov.
Arnstein, S. (1969). A Ladder of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 287-292.
Briggs, X. D. (1998). Doing Democracy Up-Close: Culture, Power, and Communication in Community Building. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 18(1), 1-13. doi:10.1177/0739456×9801800101
Dot, N. (2017, October 11). This project is not our first or our last on 5th Ave. But 75,000 daily bus riders shouldn’t have to wait. pic.twitter.com/hzGgCvecdM. Retrieved December 17, 2017, from https://twitter.com/NYC_DOT/status/917915468958195713
Han, E. (n.d.). Recent GAO Study Examines Bike/Ped Fatalities. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from https://www.enotrans.org/article/recent-gao-study-examines-bikeped-fatalities/
Jonas, A.G., McCann, E., & Thomas, M. (2015). Urban geography: A critical introduction. West
Sussex, U.K.: Wiley Blackwell.
Meyer, D. (2017, October 11). Hundreds of Volunteers Made Fifth Ave Safe for Biking Last Night. DOT Can Do It Permanently. Retrieved December 04, 2017, from https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/10/11/hundreds-of-volunteers-made-fifth-ave-safe-for-biking-last-night-dot-can-do-it-permanently/
Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital. Culture and Politics,223-234. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-62965-7_12
Rowe, G., & Frewer, L. J. (2004). Evaluating Public-Participation Exercises: A Research Agenda. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 29(4), 512-556. doi:10.1177/0162243903259197
Trottenberg, P. (2014, September). Protected Bicycle Lanes in NYC [PPT]. New York City: Nyc.gov.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Retrieved December 17, 2017, from http://socialexplorer.com.
Although New York’s public spaces were created as havens for contrasting identities to coexist, many have become exclusive areas for a select few elites. Due to the increase in cost of land and lack of space, the cultural border between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem is shifting, as it is apparent in the Monterey Public Garden. As the Upper East Side pushed the border further, the massive cultural shift in Spanish Harlem became evident due to the revalorization of the community’s public spaces. This not only transforms the culture of their public spaces, but also creates inequality as a result of the interlocking systems of oppression.
For years, 96th street had served as the de facto border between Spanish Harlem and the Upper East Side. In the past few decades, the demographics of this area have evolved into something new. As the clear divide between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem had waned, proof of the merger can clearly be seen within the local public spaces (Zimmer, 2016). This cultural evolution is explained by the shift in prioritization of these spaces in the public’s agenda. Lately, public spaces have been changing their areas financial, moral, and visual statuses (Zukin, 1998, pg.1). Financially, this can be seen through the change from locally operated businesses to the introduction of more corporate brands and franchises into the area (Jabbary, 2017). In terms of housing, because of the middle and upper-class’ search for cheaper rent, the ethnic enclave of Spanish Harlem has suffered. In 2016, East Harlem was labeled as having some of the fastest raising rent because of the 5.5% raise in median price for a single bedroom apartment (Nonko, 2016). The shifting demographics in Spanish Harlem are changing the culture of the community. Zukin argues that the culture of an area is reflected by the public spaces (1998). Recently this has shown how some cultures are being cast out of the area. This financial shift has affected the original inhabitant’s ability to remain in the area, which evidently is shaping the community’s current culture.
The case of the Monterey Public Garden is a prime example of changing financial, moral, and visual aspects of an area based on its public spaces (Zukin, 1998). Located on 96th between Lexington and Third Avenue, this public space is along the historical border of Spanish Harlem and The Upper East Side. This public space displays how private businesses have entered into the area and shaped the community. The Monterey luxury apartment building, located next to the public space, owns and operates the garden. This private ownership of the space has given the area new value and as well as a visual effect like Zukin describes. By creating a space connected to apartments with one bedroom apartments priced at $3,400 per month, an unspoken class and cultural barrier is formed (“Available”, 2017). Because of this privatization, the space is used by a select few who feel comfortable enough to use the pristine gardens, consequently creating a divide in the community.
In addition, due to the creation of the Q line, access to Harlem has been made easier, allowing for newer inhabitants to flock to the area. Kanoria states, “The presence of the 4, 5 and 6 train service make connectivity to downtown Manhattan, and the Bronx easy” (2017). Due to the close proximity to these transportation hubs, predominantly white business men and women now walk along 96th street. In addition, the types of housing, businesses, and transportation have worked to evolve the financial and cultural aspects of Spanish Harlem. The dichotomy of the two merging cultures is evident when observing the foot traffic in front of the garden. Aesthetically, the garden works to create the atmosphere of a “good” neighborhood. The well-kept planters, and clean exterior uphold certain visual expectations for the area. This and the daily sweeping of the area by hotel workers, has created an unspoken rule of who can use the public space (Jabbary, 2017). While these new developments are arising, two blocks North are the last few ethnic stores displaying the African and Spanish culture which was once dominant in the area. With the regimes of public spaces described by Zukin, this area has morphed from what it once was.
Although Zukin’s ideas work to frame how public spaces have affected their surrounding areas, Susan Ruddick delves deeper into how an individual’s experience locally can mirror a national one. Ruddick describes how the “matrix of power relations” has created the phenomena of “interlocking systems of oppression”, or “intersectionality” (1996). Varying across time and space, intersectionality depicts “how the overlapping of multiple identities complicates the experience of discrimination” (Rosenbaum, 2017). The idea is that an African American woman with long dreadlocks in a predominantly White community will be ultimately aware of her identities within a public space more than a White man would (Ruddick,1996). When she enters a public garden, she immediately fills the roles of an African American and a woman; these identities now define her. The ideal public space would be a melting pot of identities that provides a unique social context, but this is a utopia that our society can only reach for. With certain groups benefitting from their public stereotypes and others feeling shamed for theirs, we cannot be this symbiotic melting pot. These interactions within public spaces work to form our identities, but in part become “relational constructs” as well (Ruddick, 1996, pg.9). This affects who enters and uses public spaces within an area. Once an area is no longer made up of a single dominant ethnic group, divides start to form and public spaces are no longer inclusive to all.
In society that survives off the interest of elites, different forms of oppression are created. Society’s experiences are based on context and individual identities which in part become the basis for oppression (Ruddick, 1996). These power structures morph depending on the context of situations. These occurrences, which are seen in public spaces, are mini models for what is going on in the world. The idea of “jumping scales” from local to national levels shows how deeply rooted these issues are (Ruddick, 1996, pg.10). Simple experiences in a local space can describe the happenings of others around the world. This affects the identities of people in a given community as they’re trapped into these “interlocking systems of oppression” (Ruddick, 1996).
In the case of the Monterey Public Garden’s, it is clear that certain identities and cultures are being amplified, while others are being oppressed. The rich Spanish and African American culture of Spanish Harlem are being toned down by the recent inhabitants. Ruddick describes how, “gendered and racialized identities function to constrain participation in the public sphere (1996, pg.1). This is seen throughout the garden which in itself, is an exclusive public space. With well-kept shrubs, and swept floors, the garden is the epitome of what the new inhabitants want Spanish Harlem to be. The area is used as a meeting place for White and Latino people around the ages of 30 to 50 (Jabbary,2017). The systematic role amplification is evident when examining the visitors. A Latino mother attempted to keep her young son quiet as he ran through the garden while a White man spoke loudly on the telephone while pacing around. (Jabbary, 2017). The ideas that a Latino woman needs to make herself as small and quiet as possible when in public is one of these “scripted” identities that Ruddik describes (1996). The notion that the White business man felt no need to make his presence unknown shows how the culture of the area has shaped their behavior. The Spanish culture that once was, is now becoming overshadowed by the White upper-class presence. Although many of the original residents are seen walking around the area, their presence is make unknown by the overwhelming abundance of new residents and companies that are erasing the former culture (Jabbary, 2017). Like many global cities, the cultural enclave is now becoming white-washed.
The dividing line between Spanish Harlem and the Upper East Side is diminishing, but the two area’s predominant cultures could never be more separated. This shift has created systems of oppression within the community’s public spaces due to the revalorization of the area. Potential avenues for further research on this shift would be to examine other public spaces in the area as well as further North into Harlem. The limits of this research were directly on the border of 96th street and a few surrounding blocks. It would be beneficial to explore further into Central Harlem as well as the demographics of the schools in the area to see the cultural shift in action.
Available UES Apartments | The Monterey | No Fee Rentals In NYC. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://themonterey.com/availability/
Kanoria, N. B. (2017, January 24). East Harlem on the rise. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://www.metro.us/new-york/east-harlem-on-the-rise/zsJqax—1K599aPsepzw
Nonko, E. (2016, November 21). East Harlem rents are among Manhattan’s fastest-rising this fall. Retrieved October 29, 2017, from https://ny.curbed.com/2016/11/21/13703220/fall-market-report-nyc
Rosenbaum, J. (2017, June 29). Doing Better At Intersectionality. Retrieved October 29, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doing-better-at-intersectionality_us_5953fc66e4b0f078efd986e5
Ruddick, S. (1996). Constructing differences in public spaces: race, class, and gender as
interlocking systems. Urban Geography, 17 (2), 132-151.
Zimmer, A. (2016, December 20). 17 Predictions for NYC’s Residential Real Estate in 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20161220/astoria/affordable-housing-rent-buy-2017-residential-real-estate-nyc
Zimmer, A. (2011, August 04). Dividing Line Between Upper East Side and Harlem Blurring. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110804/upper-east-side/dividing-line-between-upper-east-side-harlem-blurring
Zukin, S. (1998). Politics and aesthetics of public space: the “American” model. Real city, ideal
city: Meaning and function in the Modern Urban Space. Barcelona: Centre de Cultura
Contemporània de Barcelona.
In the past decade, both the music and film industry have experienced a strong shift. As technology has transitioned from analog to digital, these industries have experienced a similar pattern of change in production and consumption. The topic in question is how this shift has affected the way artists create and how consumers ingest music and film. Within analyzing the evolution of these industries, it is evident how the different forms’ roles are shifting from their original positions.
Music and film have seen strong changes since their conceptions. For example, the music of the rock and roll era was shared and experienced differently than the alternative lo-fi sounds of today. This is due to the shift in consumption and production of music over the past few decades. The change in distribution from vinyl, to cassette, to CD-ROM, to digital downloads, to streaming, has worked to evolve the way music is made and consumed. While it was harder for artists of the sixties to produce their first album on vinyl, it is easy to home-record and upload an album to any of today’s music sharing websites. Because of this, the culture of artists in the music industry has shifted and controversially become less about raw talent and more about its potential to become viral (Kalikow).
Before understanding the debate surrounding mediums, it is important to understand the linear history of music consumption (before the resurgences of physical music). Prior to the current age of streaming and downloading, music was once an item available to physically buy. This era of physical music began with vinyl which, because of its intricate production, must be priced higher than other physical forms of music. After vinyl came the cassette, which was much cheaper to produce and buy. This shifted the way in which new artists could distribute music with ease (Evangelho). One of the cutbacks to this was the quality, as the compressed digitization of the music would affect the sound quality (Howstuffworks). This era of music created a new way of sharing. After the cassette tape, came the CD-ROM. This allowed for the same compressed digital sound, but also the availability to make mixtapes, as well as illegal downloading on websites such as Limewire, where pirated music was shared (Kalikow). Mix-tapes were burned on teenagers’ computers and music could now be shared separate from the full albums they were created in. This shaped the industry as a whole and opened up the possibility to the future of downloading and streaming. Now, with streaming websites such as Spotify, music has become more of a rented and non-physical object. Thus, completely changing the industry from a once physical to now completely digital one (Kalikow).
Taking a look into the artists of the music industry, many of them are reacting differently to the shift in music’s medium. In the age of music websites such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp, it is very easy for new artists to put out music online (Youorski). This has become the culture of the underground scenes of different genres: to find talent from the abyss of uploaded music. For example, this is seen with the rise of the emo subgenre of rap with artists such as Lil Peep (Caramanica) and ITSOKTOCRY, as well as alternative rock with artists such as Mac Demarco (Blistein) and Yellow Days. Although this creates a new platform for artists to create and get discovered, there is some pushback by the older artists of the industry. One artist, Kalikow testifies, “as a struggling artist in the 60’s and 70’s, my ultimate goal was to release an album. Not just a collection of songs, but a unified creation with a theme and purpose” (Magnetic). This argues that the new age of streaming and downloading is creating music with less quality and effort. Physical music such as vinyl, cassette, and CD were once used as a medium to spread a new artists work, but now when the internet makes it easy to do so without the physical copy, many are opting out of analog. But this does not mean an end of vinyl coming from artists, many value the old forms whether it be for the nostalgia or quality. Technically, “by definition, a digital recording is not capturing the complete sound wave. It is approximating it with a series of steps” (The Sound). This allows for distortion and a change in the sound quality. In today’s era, easy and cheap is a commodity bought into by many. It is the true lovers of music that are willing to invest in the higher quality and physicality of analog.
Similarly, the film industry has seen an evolution within movie production and distribution. The industry was built on the use of film cameras, but since the early 2000’s digital filming has gained attention; the first fully digital film was George Lucas’ 2002 Star Wars: Episode II (Alexander and Blakely). He has since become the face of the digital revolution in filmmaking. While digital has taken off in the home-movie and photography world, many directors and photographers prefer the old-school method of film celluloid (Kearton). Film celluloid produces the familiar warmth and grain that many viewers are used to. Nowadays movies with CGI and special effects are creating worlds that seem colder and unreal (Alexander et al.). Unlike the music industry, film’s transition has not been as stark. Many production companies and directors still continue to use film celluloid over digital. But in recent years, some companies have started to transition out from celluloid to digital; this has caused some pushback.
With film, the argument is that 35mm/70mm film has a different feel that digital cannot create in post-production. Because of this, many consumers have fought back against Paramount, who decided to remove film celluloid from its production process. This decision has forced small theaters to invest in digital equipment they don’t have money for (Alexander et al.).
While the culture of these industries has shifted, so has the opinion on analog and digital media. Most of the debate on this issue is inquiring which medium is better: analog or digital? In regards to the music industry, the quality of different mediums is called to question. Because of the resurgence of vinyl records around 2012, there have been debates over a superior medium (Sax). Mechanically, vinyl records work by having a needle trace the groves which create vibrations which are amplified. In today’s music, everything is compressed and digitized, because of this many argue that vinyl is a much cleaner medium. The unique sound of vinyl is what drives many listeners to purchase their favorite albums rather than streaming them. Although there is controversy over the solidity of this surge, it has been said that the old medium never truly died (Silver).
Some theorize that the latest pull to physical music is in fact a fad that will fade away. They believe it is merely a marketing ploy fed to young consumers with extra money. On the contrary, it is argued that, “digitization is the peak of convenience, but vinyl is the peak of experience” (Sax). Those who support vinyl’s resurgence agree that in a day of streaming and downloads, physical music is a unique experience that is worth the money and effort. No matter the prospective, the resurgence is seen as largely customer driven. This is proven by the sheer numbers; vinyl sales share of the market is the largest that they’ve had since the mid 1980’s (RIAA).
Within this debate of music mediums, there are pros and cons argued from each side of the table. For example, streaming and online downloads are seen as being cheap and easy. It is argued that because of this, music has lost its commodification and become more of a renting or streaming medium. Some believe this is why there has been a drive to physical forms of music. Not only vinyl, but cassette, and CDs have seen a similar comeback. The tangibility of these products shows how “a large percentage of music lovers still long for physical connection” (Evangelho). Rather than merely streaming their favorite album, many listeners yearn to own a copy with greater quality from the artist, much like owning an original painting. It is argued that the quality and physicality of vinyl outweighs the ease of streaming and downloading. A common counter argument is from those that see this revival as a fad or trend. Today, these forms of music can be seen in stores such as Urban Outfitters and Target.
Likewise, the disagreement over film celluloid and digitization has hit the industry with a dividing line. A large portion of directors has voiced their support for film celluloid as a medium. For example, Nolan states, “the manipulations that digital media allows you to do are seductive, but ultimately a little bit hollow” (Carter). To fully grasp this debate, one must see filmmakers through the lens of an artist. Artists wholeheartedly believe in their mediums and choose which one they want to create with depending on the imagined end product. This is the same in movie creation. This past year, Quentin Tarantino brought back the old-time roadshow that goes around the country to select theaters to show his film The Hateful Eight in 70mm film. This was seen as a protest to the digitization of the industry. The team who worked on the movie boast about how unique the experience is and mark it as a stop to the end of film celluloid (Kearton). The digital revolution has seen a large pushback from big names in the community because of projects such as this.
In the University of Zuruch, there was a study complete to test if, “digitally recorded images are technically and aesthetically inferior” (Lorestcer). The study found that “emotive” and “immersive” experiences between the mediums were not different, but the difference was in the details. The visual memories were more detailed in the digital version, this adds to the arguments from Directors (Lorestcer). Since everything a director does is deliberate, and meant to add to the overall effect, this may shape the final product. The digital form of a movie may emphasize part that are trivial, while the audience should be seeing something greater. In regards to the projectors, mechanical projectors had a more emotional effect on the audience (Lorestcer). This brings in the question the effects of production companies which have begun the switch to digital (Alexander et al.).
Although this study in part disproves the argument for film celluloid, there is no doubt that the large number of fans of the medium will be silenced. Many directors and movie lovers have a certain attachment to the familiar feel of film celluloid and will not give it up for anything. Similarly, to music, it is more expensive to produce, but those who love the craft as an art are willing to take the financial risk. Film celluloid is about ninety percent more expensive to distribute to theaters than digital (Alexander et al.). Because of this, many argue that the medium is outdated and impractical. The impracticality of the medium has shifted the spotlight away from it. Because of companies such as Paramount, small independent theaters are being forced to invest in digital projectors that are upwards of $60,000 (Alexander et al.).
The way in which directors film a movie affects how the final result turns out. This is the way the director sees the movie in their mind before making it. With the introduction of digital cameras, directors have the tendency to “spray and pray”. This describes the phenomena of taking a ton of shots and hoping one is good (Alexander et al.). Rather than taking the time to carefully frame and compose each shot on film celluloid, digital cameras make it easy to manipulate and take many shots. This is both a blessing and a curse, because of the way it changes the filming, the way in which directors go about creating is less genuine. Because of the ease and no extra cost, it is easy to mindlessly shoot. With film cameras, each shot requires greater planning. Because of this the effect is often more evident because the director’s message is carefully planted for the audience to notice. The shift that was originally seen as creating less work and cost, is in part creating more costs in post-production (Alexander et al.). Because of this the argument is often brought back to the magic of film rather than the practicality. Film cameras are more expensive, much like analog music, but for the quality, it is worth it to some.
Similarly, with consumption of film, although some see no difference, it is often apparent that digital film attempts to mimic the effects of film celluloid (Carter). The large argument here is from creators, who see their art as struggling if they cannot use film celluloid. This post production effect that mimics the feel of film celluloid may seem to be redundant after the long debate between the mediums. Some believe that the shift is necessary to continue to evolve as an industry. Because digital filmmaking has made it easier to be a filmmaker today more than ever, there is no doubt that digital will become the main medium. But similarly, to music, a resurgence or niche clique of film cellulous will arise.
In retrospect, the music industry saw a relatively linear evolution in forms of media. When the resurgence of vinyl came along, the industry’s grasp loosened and the niche markets for independent genres began controlling the popular mediums. Now, many artists release digital and analog forms of music. Whether it is for the quality or nostalgia factor of the music, both analog and digital forms are being used to create and listen to this day. With the abundance of record shops and growing collections, physical music is once again becoming both a collectable and a form of entertainment shared with many, rather than the “headphone in, world out” culture we live in today.
Similarly, to any artist, filmmakers make the conscious decisions to choose their tools. Like a painter, the perfect paintbrush is needed to execute their vision. Without it, the end product is distorted from the artist’s original vision. This is like the choice of medium of filming; to execute their vision, a director or filmmaker must choose their tool for creation. I believe in the future that both mediums will be used as tools to create a middle ground integrating the warm feel of film and high-tech advantages of digital. Similarly, with music, the way in which an artist chooses how to share their music is important in the effect it has. The artists’ ability to control how we consume their creations affects the way we experience it. This as well as the artisanship of each medium changes our perception of the artist. A fully streamed album versus a well-crafted vinyl collection will affect the way an album is listened to. In my opinion, I believe that vinyl is the most outlasting form of physical music and it will remain to be a collector’s piece as well as a medium to listen with. While they may coexist, with the ease of streaming, I believe physical will not surpass digital in the future.
The future of this debate lays within the mixture of the future of technology and human nature. While more digital advancements occur, it is possible analog become less prevalent within these industries. But as seen with the copying of vinyl crackling or film grain with digital effects, the impact that analog has had on us is everlasting. Even if the analog forms themselves fade, their legacies as mediums will remain. No matter which medium is objectively better than the other, it is in the end up to the artist’s discretion as well as the consumer’s preference.
Alexander, Helen, and Rhys Blakely. “That’s All, Folks: What the End of 35mm Film Means for Cinema.” New Statesman, www.newstatesman.com/2014/08/s-all-folks.
Blistein, Jon. “Watch Mac DeMarco Live the Indie-Rock Dream.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 11 Sept. 2015, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/watch-mac-demarco-live-the-indie-rock-dream-20150911.
Caramanica, Jon. “Lil Peep, Rapper Who Blended Hip-Hop and Emo, Is Dead at 21.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Nov. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/obituaries/lil-peep-dead.html.
Carter, Beth. “Side By Side Takes Digital vs. Analog Debate to the Movies.” Wired, Conde Nast, 26 Apr. 2012, http://www.wired.com/2012/04/side-by-side/.
Evangelho, Jason. “Forget Vinyl, Let’s Talk About the Cassette Comeback.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Mar. 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonevangelho/2016/03/24/forget-vinyl-lets-talk-about-the-cassette-comeback/#3a3e2db64d71.
“Is the Sound on Vinyl Records Better than on CDs or DVDs?” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 11 Oct. 2000, electronics.howstuffworks.com/question487.htm.
Kearton, Toby. “Film VS Digital | Video Essay.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 Jan. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfNKtxGMHig.
Kalikow, L.E. “What Happened to The Music? An Analysis of the Industry’s Evolution.” Magnetic Magazine, 22 Apr. 2016.
Loertscher, M. L., Weibel, D., Spiegel, S., Flueckiger, B., Mennel, P., Mast, F. W., & Iseli, C. (2016). As film goes byte: The change from analog to digital film perception. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10(4), 458-471.
“RIAA Mid-Year 2017 Music Industry Revenue Report.” RIAA, 20 Sept. 2017, www.riaa.com/riaa-mid-year-2017-music-industry-revenue-report/.
Sax, David. Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. Public Affairs, 2017.
Silver, Curtis. “Why Cassette Tapes And Other Dead Media Formats Won’t Stay Dead.”Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 25 Feb. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/curtissilver/2016/02/25/why-cassette-tapes-and-other-dead-media-formats-wont-just-die-already/#73c710832377.
Youorski, Joe. “A Musician’s Guide to Streaming: The Pros & Cons of Spotify, Bandcamp, SoundCloud & More.” Pastemagazine.com, 21 Aug. 2014, http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/08/where-to-share-the-costs-and-royalties-of-having-m.html.