Process Blog: My roast beef sandwich rant
This post is long overdue, so I’ve taken a break from some hardcore URTing (and my roast beef sandwich) to write it all down.
I’ve spent a lot of time the last few days with my research binder in front of me and I’ve noticed a group of several journal articles that keep getting pushed to the back of the line. When I began my preliminary research I focused a lot on the “psychology” of the spaces I was mapping. I found a few pieces about the sociology of the porn theater, and the commerce of adult entertainment that I thought would be at the heart of my mapping. While interesting, I’ve come to realize that trying to work them into my arguments would be forceful, and a noticeable derivation from the larger points I was trying to hit.
Sure, its great to comment about the spaces themselves, but as this project progressed (and as it was suggested in the discussion after my pechakucha) I’ve realized that people involved in the transition of spaces are just as important as what physically changed within the four walls, if not more so. The theaters, although fun to research and explore their stats and histories, are just the first layer. As Kittler explains in The City is a Medium “addresses [in my case, the four walls of the theater] are data which allow other data to appear” (6). The “other data” is people.
I think of the “people” involved in several ways: the people responsible for the transitions (theater owners, architects, city official, etc.), and the people who used these spaces. For the latter, I’m not just talking about “theatergoers,” I’m referring to the upper and middle class patrons of the first theaters on the block; the business men on lunch breaks, the “Johns” looking for a trick and the hustlers on the streets during 42nd Streets “grinder” phase; and the hoards of tourists mixed with the New Yorkers rushing into their offices in the areas surrounding the “new” 42nd Street.
Not only has the economy, war, and budding new commercial activities changed the landscape of 42nd Street, but so have people. I’m reminded of Latour’s actor/network theory when thinking about my project this way… You can’t remove the human variable, or the response to external stimuli (nonhuman) from the whole equation and get the same result. The phases of the block that I’ve explored are greater than the sums of their parts, and even if I had three more semesters to work on this project, I don’t think I could FULLY illustrate this evolving symbiosis. I now regret not spending more time profiling the clientele and “locals” in greater depth, but I will try my best to make due with what I have.