University of California, Berkeley
Theorists of gentrification and other urban scholars have long considered the spread of upscale amenities like restaurants, cafes, and bars to be important visual indicators of gentrification in the built environment. Scholars from urban geographer Neil Smith to sociologists Sharon Zukin, Sylvie Tissot, and Richard Ocejo have demonstrated how new high-end consumption spaces can themselves become spurs to further change in an area, in an unfolding dialectic of rising cultural and real estate capital, forcing out low-income residents. In this paper, I extend this tradition to consider the role of evolving informational networks about urban consumption, from paper guidebooks like the Zagat Survey to mobile location-based service (LBS) and web mapping applications like Yelp, Foursquare, and Google Local, and their interaction with broader trends in urban inequality and sociospatial segmentation. In my research, I argue that changes in the production and distribution of spatial data about urban amenities help to accelerate gentrification and residential displacement, as the use value of local businesses like gourmet restaurants and bars is quickly inscribed into digital databases and realized as exchange value in real estate and tourist markets. This paper looks at the period from 1990-2015, using data from New York’s pioneer “user-generated” restaurant guide the Zagat Survey to trace the contours of “gourmet gentrification” over time, with special attention to the accelerating rate of change in Brooklyn neighborhoods.
SUNY Old Westbury
Jennifer M. Pipitone
College of Mount Saint Vincent
This participatory action research project took place at Bronx Community College located in the poorest congressional district in the USA. Using photography, writing, and mapping (through photo geo-tagging), our project aimed to promote a sense of belonging among BCC students by understanding what “community” means to them, what they experience as their communities’ assets and challenges, and how they see their contribution and role within various communities. Expanding upon interpretations of data made by the entire research team, we present a spatial analysis of the geo-locations of participants’ photographs in order to illustrate and make sense of their experience of belonging in the city. Findings indicate participants experienced the blatant socioeconomic disparities characteristic of NYC neighborhoods as they traversed from one environment to another, which impacted their sense of engagement, mobility, and investment in certain communities. Participants articulated the notion that they are “the one side of the two cities,” illustrating a sense of otherness from the rest of the city. This finding was also supported by the geo-locations of their photo-making, which clustered within the “small radius” in which their lives took place. Maps revealed that participants restricted their movement to the area north of Central Park/110th street, delineating participants’ lived boundary of race and class. Overall, findings suggest that the resulting increase in participants’ sense of ownership and agency over their communities was mediated by their deeper sense-making about their individual—and their communities’—position within the broader inequitable distribution of power and resources.