Posts Tagged: wrtg100f16

Finding A Melody in the Medium: An Evolution of How D.C. Listens to Music

Professor Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message,” in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man and, while music has been an influential medium throughout time, the way we listen to it has become more of its own medium every day (“The Medium”). With so many ways to access our favorite songs on demand and in the palms our hands, we still support the most archaic way of hearing sound: live concerts. Each city has its own venues through which music history has flowed including Washington D.C.: home to U Street, the entertainment center of the city since the early 1900s. Each venue holds a different past, a different genre of music, and a different group of isolated people that escaped into the dark rooms at night to find something, a fact that still holds true today. Whether it was to find an escape, a band, a photo, an immersive event, or just a memory, how people have listened to the sounds of D.C. have changed greatly due to the medium they have been perceived through: the venue. The way D.C. inhabitants experience music has thoroughly evolved over the past hundred years, from the glamorous 20s outings of the Lincoln Theatre to the underground 80s scene of the 9:30 Club; paralleling the changing genres of the past, the two venues represent how audiences have listened to music and and how their path within the 21st century shows them regaining their former places as musical mediums.


The Lincoln Theatre in 1922 was certainly a grand sight on the simple U Street.

It’s a cold night on U Street, as marquee lights illuminate a dense crowd that stands outside the box office of the Lincoln Theatre. Faint sounds of a band echo out as ladies in beaded dresses and men in long coats open doors while clutching ticket in between their freezing fingers. Once inside, a gold lit room with plush velvet seats houses a grand stage that seems to sparkle with the excitement of the audience. This is the place to be on a Friday night, no matter who graces the stage. Last week, it was Louis Armstrong. Tonight, it’s a new jazz band hoping to find their big break. Who knows who will come next?

Deemed the “Jewel of U Street,” the Lincoln Theatre holds a prominent places in the black culture of Washington D.C. and provides key insight into how concerts were perceived by the public during the early 1900s (“Lincoln”). Opened in 1922, the theatre functioned as an entertainment center for segregated blacks and featured a thriving rotation of traditional media such as movies, theater, and novelty shows (“Lincoln”). The 20s saw the rise of the jazz movement, a new genre that “…was different because it broke the rules — musical and social” and, therefore, was not received well by the older, white society (Carter). It seems fitting that the Lincoln Theatre, a venue that emanated the same grand structure of the traditional theatres of the time, housed both a excluded group of people and a rejected genre of music; from the outside, the Lincoln could pass as any city play house, yet, on the inside, it was hosting a movement. A slew of jazz legends and big bands including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald made their way into the theatre throughout the years, drawing crowds who were now privy to their own special nights out (“Lincoln”). See, in the early 1900s, going to theatre was an outing within itself, no matter who was on stage. Whether it was to listen to an orchestra, sit to watch a Broadway show, or to sing along with a jazz singer, people took pride in their outings; it was a special occasion that required saving up to wear fancy dresses and suits for one night under the city lights. Even though the Lincoln fell close to the urban realities of the U Street area, located right next to the highly popular Ben’s Chili Bowl, it still acted as a grand escape from the real world (“Lincoln”). Audiences looked up to the theatre as a luxurious place; it made the performances special. Seeing Louis Armstrong play in a small, plain theatre in the middle of nowhere would pale in comparison to the trumpeter holding an audience captive in a glittering gold ballroom. The grand staging is what makes so many of the acts of the 1920s and 1940s so memorable; it put them on a new level and made them living legends to the audiences that flocked to them on those special nights.



The original 9:30 Club on F Street hosted a slew of punk bands that had never been seen before in the city.

The sun is just setting when the rowdy group of kids walks up to the large glass door plastered with the numbers 9:30. They have saved up for weeks to see their favorite punk band come to life on stage and play sounds that cannot be found anywhere else in the city. After getting their tickets, they make their way into a raucous crowd that stands in front of a simple stage lined with instruments. It’s an eclectic group of all ages, but they are all there for one reason: the band. This is their scene; this is the scene.

Not long after the Lincoln closed down in 1968 due to race riots, a new underground venue called the 9:30 Club helped usher in a new genre of music to the city while facilitating the band-centric ideals of the 1980s (“Lincoln”). As a river of rock and punk performers flooded the music scene, the club was created as a space within a city that had limited creative spaces for such artists: “There weren’t very many clubs anyway. A lot of the shows were in churches or church halls and then houses in the very early ’80s because there wasn’t any space to perform in” (Bray). The first club, which opened in 1980 in the renovated Atlantic Building on F Street, only held around 200 people but allowed D.C.’s local scene to begin its growth (“9:30”). Promoter Seth Hurwitz provided smaller, typically ignored bands a place to share their alternative art while giving fans of all ages a place to listen to their favorites, creating an inclusive, expanding purpose that was seen in the Lincoln as well (Bray). Local bands such as Fugazi and Dain Bramage found their place in the venue while other national acts such as the Ramones and Green Day made stops there on their tours (“9:30”). Both bands and fans alike saw how important the venue could be in creating their scene. It did not matter how small it was or how many people it could fit; it just mattered that it was there. Photographer Cynthia Connolly described the post-Lincoln, pre-9:30 Club plight perfectly to Consequence of Sound, showing just how important the venue’s addition was to the music community: “There wasn’t anything happening in downtown DC except for some amazing old businesses that actually had lasted from the ’50s and were still there… They were sort of using these spaces as they were from the ’50s or ’60s, so they had this sort of lonely feeling” (Bray). In the 1980s and 90s, people simply wanted to listen to music; it was the bands that ruled their world, and they would follow them wherever they went. That type of thinking brought people from simply being audiences looking up to performers in massive theaters to becoming fans standing face to face with their favorite bands in intimate spaces. A concert no longer connoted a fancy night out for adults but a gathering of all ages. 9:30 was more than a time or a place; it was the start of a movement that allowed people to simply listen to music and not have to worry about where they were going to do so.



The renovated Lincoln Theatre harks back to its old, vintage structure.

Hozier tunes his guitar as the tech crew continues to build up the stage around him. He looks out at the grand spectacle in front of him, taking in the same views as many of the greats before him. Tonight, the red seats will fill with bodies waiting to take in every note of his performance. But how do you fill such a space as just one person? How can you command something that seems like it could swallow you up at any second like a gold lion’s open mouth lined with blood red teeth? 

That night, as he begins “Jackie and Wilson,” the theatre takes over, letting the cords radiate off the sides of its walls and up into the balcony. It’s just Hozier now, as the theatre directs all eyes to his song as it has for some many other performers. It’s modern and vivacious yet classic and simple, exactly how it used to be (“Jackie”).  



While the 9:30’s current location on V Street may not seem like much, it’s certainly bigger on the inside.

Green Day steps on to the stage, surveying the new land in front of them. It has been a while since they’ve seen a venue so small, spending years on the road playing to huge crowds around the world. Tonight, they go back to their roots and to the scene they fell in love with so many years ago. But how can you put a rock sensation back into such a small box? How do you even make a show that can sustain the powerhouse band in such an intimate setting?

That night, as the chords of “American Idiot” radiate throughout the room, a wave of energy hits the crowd. This couldn’t happen anywhere else, at any other venue or in any other room. The 9:30 Club is in control of this performance, containing the seemingly uncontrollable fire that is punk rock. It’s big and loud yet intimate and inclusive, exactly how it used to be (“Green”).  

Since their inceptions, the Lincoln Theatre and the 9:30 Club have acted as mediums for music by facilitating very unique experiences for every person that walks through the doors. Concerts have gone from glamorous nights out to band-centric gatherings, but, in the past fifteen years, we’ve seen the concert experience go a different route. Both venues lie under I.M.P.’s control, a local production company that books many D.C. concert halls. They have a long history with 9:30 (which has moved to its current location on V Street), but the Lincoln is a recent purchase from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities that is just beginning its revival (Fischer). While both have seen successful years of booking both national touring acts and local community events, the way D.C. has experienced such nights is a far cry from how they used to. The concert economy has changed, becoming less of a ‘I want the full experience’ and more of a ‘let me prove that I was there’. Technology has become a hot button topic, with artists debating that phones and cameras at shows both ruin the audience-act relationship and distract from the people taking in all the elements of a show (Silva). Yet, a phone might not be the only cause for our inability to have nights like those in the 1920s or 1980s. We, as a society, have changed in our mindsets when it comes to experiences, whether it’s a concert or a building. It is not enough to walk into a venue and tread on the same floor as some of the greats; artists have to heighten their spectacle to please people because playing in a historical theatre isn’t enough. Yet, how much of that spectacle is really how they want their music to be experienced, and how much of it is just to entertain? And, if it is just to entertain, do we ever get to see art in its fullest state? See, it’s not the problem of whether we see the show through a lense or through our own eyes, but whether the show itself was made to please the audience or please the venue.

The audience isn’t the medium; the venue is. The people who come to shows don’t make the show unique. There are thousands of music fans across the world who could provide the same type of energy and same decibel level screams as any other crowd. The people who attended the shows at the Lincoln Theatre and old 9:30 Club did not make the venues what they are; the people who performed there made the venues what they are known as today. They brought experiences and art to the city and many of the artists today are beginning to realize that the experience/atmosphere of a show are just as important as the surroundings itself; you can’t choose your audience, but you can chose how to present your art to them. Since the Lincoln and the 9:30 Club are equal in capacity, a artist choosing between them might think, “How might the venue change the way my show is perceived, and how can I utilize that space to my advantage?” Some artists who are beginning to ask those questions are people like Norwegian producer Lido, all star rapper Kanye West, and even the most eccentric Lady Gaga. Lido brought his recent tour to elaborate theatres across the country saying, “We chose very special rooms in each city to get the perfect vibe. You might’ve never been there before, maybe you’ll never go there again. But we wanted to showcase the most beautiful venues in your cities…” (Lido). The producer wanted his album, which creates an experience within itself already as a concept piece, to be heard by audiences in an atmosphere that could add on to the art.



Lido brought his tour to The Theatre at Ace Hotel (Los Angeles) in November. He hand pricked venues to showcase his debut concept album, Everything.

Kanye West brought his Saint Pablo tour to huge arenas, not only to accommodate his large fan base but also to bring his giant, floating stage to life (“Saint”). The stage design and venues had to work hand in hand to produce the ‘god-like’ effect he wanted, something that could not have happened in some randomly picked venue.


Kanye West’s floating stage creates a unique dynamic between audience and artist, allowing everyone in the stadium to have a great view of the rapper.

In contrast, Lady Gaga went on a small dive bar tour to promote her new album, which let the fans interact with her and her music in an intimate way (Hudak). For an artist who was used to playing huge arenas, she saw the benefit in going back to her roots and allowing the venue to contain her spirit. These artists work with the venues themselves and do not compromise if that partnership fails for they see how the show will drastically change in another space; Lido actually cancelled half of his tour due to production issues, stating that, “I would never want to give you a half-ass version of this show…” (Lido). Artists now can begin to build relationships with space in relation to the sounds they create, relationships that will be necessary as we move into the new era of music. No longer is the music the only medium; the venue is as well.

We are heading in a new direction for how we experience and listen to music, one that draws from the old days of exciting nights and gathering places. While there are bound to be artists who push themselves for the sake of spectacle, more and more artists will begin to bring true and full art to venues like the Lincoln Theatre and 9:30 Club. Some fans might crave the ‘old days’ where bands could simply play in basements or rise above the audiences in grand theatres, but not all of that is lost. The 9:30 Club can still host a stripped down punk show and act as a medium that facilitates energy and excitement with memories of the past. The Lincoln Theatre can still be a shining jewel for upcoming stars and provide them with a stage where all eyes will be on them. But, both can be mediums for new art as well. Musicians will come along and paint the walls with lights and decorate hours with sounds of their hearts. The venues will become part of the stories they are telling, and we will continue to listen to them, just like we’ve always have.

Works Cited

Bray, Ryan, and Len Comaratta. “All Access: An Oral History of DC’s 9:30 Club.” Consequence of Sound, 19 May 2014.

Carter, María Agui, and Calvin A. Lindsay. “The Devil’s Music: 1920s Jazz.” Culture Shock, PBS,

Fischer, Jonathan L. “I.M.P. Productions to Take Over Operations of Lincoln Theatre.” Washington City Paper, 27 June 2013.

“Green Day – American Idiot Part I – 930 Club.” YouTube, uploaded by Wild Man

TV, 5 Oct. 2016,

Hudak, Joseph. “Lady Gaga Talks Dive Bar Tour, Super Bowl Show, ‘Authentic’ New LP.” Rolling Stone, 6 Oct. 2016,

“Jackie and Wilson – Hozier.” YouTube, uploaded by Laura York, 11 Mar. 2015,

Lido. “New York.” Twitter, 11 Nov. 2016,

—. “We chose very special rooms in each city to get the perfect vibe. You might’ve never been there before, maybe you’ll never go there again.” Twitter, 1 Nov. 2016,

“Lincoln Theatre (Washington, D.C.).” Wikipedia, September 30, 2016.,_D.C.)

“The Medium Is the Message.” Wikipedia, November 7, 2016.

“SAINT PABLO TOUR – clips.” YouTube, uploaded by Ashley Marie, 29 Sept. 2016,

Silva, Zach. “Turn it Off: Cell Phones and Concert Culture.” Huffington Post, 2 June 2014,

“9:30 Club.” Wikipedia, October 22, 2016.

Additional Photo Sources

Mazur, Kevin. Kanye West performs during The Saint Pablo Tour at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 5, 2016 in New York City. Billboard,

Lido. “LA Show.” Twitter, 12 Nov. 2016,

—. “Tonight. Getting all these feelings out.” Twitter, 9 Nov. 2016,





Emily Bazelon: The Necessary Cycle of Accommodation

Throughout “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’,” Emily Bazelon argues that creating accommodating bathrooms for all genders is a necessity within our society even if social norms and comfort levels are challenged. The idea of accommodation is prevalent within our society as religions, races, and, now, genders fight to have their needs met (5). When it comes to new accommodations, Bazelon points out that we fall into a cycle where new groups comes to alter the space of the original group’s basic needs (6). For example, Bazelon cites law professor Terry Kogan who states that early bathrooms were accommodations for the ‘‘weaker body of the woman worker”. Males are allowed a separate bathroom, giving each gender their privacy and creating environments suited to their features: the men’s bathroom as a place of function and the women’s bathroom as a place of gathering (8). When segregation came alone, the bathrooms for women were no longer ‘safe havens’ and were altered to make them feel more comfortable (7).


(These bathrooms in a 1964 city courthouse reflect one of the ‘accommodations’ that whites created to feel more comfortable and safe: creating separate spaces for colored people) 

Now, society faces new identities to integrate into its system, specifically dealing with transgender men and women who want to use the bathroom that suits their chosen identity. They cannot simply walk into the bathroom of their choice, specifically due to the general stigma around one gender actually identifying as another and uncomfortableness of thinking about their original physiology. For those who understand and support the transgender rights movement, accommodation for the identity might be easy and pain free but, for those labeled as more ‘conservative’ in their understanding, the idea of letting a transgender use the same bathroom as them seems unrealistic. For example, an amendment in Texas that would not allow race, sexuality, or gender based discrimination in public spaces was struck down due to the overwhelming cries from opponents who feared their ‘safe’ and ‘separate’ gendered bathrooms would be compromised. As Bazelon describes, most of the propaganda surrounding the opposition depicted the negative events and threats that could result from the genders being able to cross the sacred ‘boundaries’ of bathrooms, playing off of a similar fear response that appeared in the segregation recommendations for the races (2).

(Those who opposed the Houston amendment played off of fear by using slogans such as “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” and creating images of pedophiles preying off of young girls)

Many schools around the country have showed that this fear can be challenged and that accommodations for transgenders do not sacrifice the importance of privacy that bathrooms uphold. The same fear surrounding the Texas amendment has presented transgender students with a challenge when it comes to using their preferred locker rooms and bathrooms, but, in many cases, higher powers have intervened. In a case involving a female identifying student in Illinois, the Board of Education overruled her school’s “privacy concerns” that made her change in a separate room, ultimately allowing her to change amongst fellow female students as long as a privacy curtain was available. The curtain was seen as an accommodation not only for the student who could utilize it if she did not want to expose herself in front of her peers but also for the other girls if they felt uncomfortable changing in the environment (4). By allowing her into the locker room amongst her female peers, the student was allowed the full experience of being a girl: changing amongst those like her and interacting with the community she identified with. In other words, she felt like she could fit in, tying into a main goal of accommodation: inclusion.


(The Orlando Convention Center, which hosted a fandom convention called GeekyCon in 2015, provided gender-neutral bathrooms for the attendants)

As Bazelon shows in her examples, the process of making bathrooms accommodating for all genders can have vitally important benefits for the newly included people and can be approached in a way that still allows the original group’s basic needs to be met. This cycle of accommodation is a huge issue within our society, one being addressed on a local and national level. As our world becomes more diverse, more accommodations will have to made, whether it includes who can change in certain dressing rooms at stores or even how we look at previously gendered designs. The point that Bazelon makes is extremely important when it comes to making changes in the future, especially since changing gender-norms can be met with so much resistance. If we can show people that new gender accommodations work hand in hand with aspects of the social norm, maybe less people would react with fear and, rather, with a level of acceptance: realizing that the world can change for the inclusion of others but still promote a sense of safety and privacy for everyone.


Works Cited

Adelman, Bob. “Segregated bathrooms in the city courthouse.” 1964, Louisiana,

Bazelon, Emily. “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating.’” The New York Times, November 17, 2015.

Johnson, Maureen. “Hey attendees! Restroom location alert! Third floor gendersmash bathrooms!” Twitter, Jul. 2015,

Campaign for Houston – TV Spot 1.” YouTube, uploaded by Campaign for Houston, 13 October 2015,


Suzanne Tick: Gender Neutrality as Social Norm

In her Metropolis article, “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” designer Suzanne Tick argues that gender neutrality is becoming a widely-accepted normality that calls for new non-gendered accommodations to be created by designers. She begins her article by addressing the new trend of breaking away from set genders: how the traditional masculine and feminine standards are being challenged and are now beginning to overlap. Since identity is now synonymous with such diversity, Tick calls designers to action to create work based on these changes and to promote the different identities within the world (1).


(Alexander Wang’s 2015 winter line integrated typical masculine designs into the female wardrobe, creating a new route of expression for women)

With this movement into flexible mediums that provide space for an array of identities, Tick acknowledges the agents for social change that have sparked the ‘gender-inclusive’ movement. She explains how people are claiming their true genders and sexualities, if they even have a specific one they identify with (6). Those who claim previously outcasted identities, such as bisexuality and transgenderism, are gaining prominent places within society and bringing change with them (7). As more identities come into the public eye and interact with society on a daily basis, the designs of society are beginning to mold around their needs. For example, companies are providing gender neutral bathrooms so that every person working there can feel accommodated. While the movement is not without its skeptics, Tick highlights it as a necessity to create safe places for people to function no matter who they are (9-10).

Even though she sees an achievable goal of widely created non-gendered designs, Tick goes on to acknowledge the barriers that still exist in our modern world. With a still dominate patriarchy that places males in positions of power, many voices and identities are still ignored in the ‘Modernism’ movement that favors the male hierarchy (2). Males hold far more positions of leadership, therefore getting a bigger say in what is created especially in technology and media companies. However, as the feminist movement begins to gain popularity, many are fighting to shift away from the patriarchy in favor of an equality of the genders. Actress Emma Watson’s ‘He for She’ initiative acts as a prime example as it provides an invitation for men to join the equality movement that women have begun through the promotion of feminism. With these initiatives dispersing across the world, Rice argues that gender-equality is the strongest it’s ever been, especially in reference to the many members of the LGBTQ+ community (3).


(Multi-platinum singer Halsey is known for her daring fashion choices, embracing masculine and feminine qualities to create her own unique style and showcase how the new generation utilizes qualities of both genders as modes of expression)

In result, diversity is starting to become the favorable quality in design as previously gendered items become mediums for all identities to mingle. Her prime examples surround the fashion world, which picks up trends quite quickly and introduces them to the world on a global scale. Alexander Wang’s 2015 coat line featured masculine design for the ‘modern’ woman, showing how clothes no longer represent which gender we identify ourselves with. In addition, Annemiek van der Beek’s created a makeup line catered towards men which favors the movement away from gendering certain habits such as beauty routines (5). With these progressions in design, all identities can curate their looks and aesthetics based on their tastes and preferences instead on what their gender dictates. In other words, androgyny is key in creating a world where self-expression is the driving force.


(Meet James Charles, Covergirl’s newest ‘cover boy’, and an advocate of male inclusion in the makeup world)

Since the introduction of androgyny is causing us to approach ourselves in a new way, designers must be around to give us new elements to aid in our expression, a point that drives Tick’s argument. While the fashion and beauty industry may be catching on quick with the millennial generation, there is still a huge population of people who are just beginning to explore the concept of androgyny. A society dominated by men makes the concept harder to spread, but not all hope is lost with the strength of the feminist and LGBTQ+ movements. Tick provides a wealth of evidence that society is becoming more diverse, more inclusive, and more accommodating and, while we may have to start with bathrooms, we can work our way up to creating gender neutral designs and environments that include everyone (12).


(YouTuber and singer Troye Sivan began painting his nails before his concerts, choosing to embrace a typically feminine practice and hoping to show the world that gendered-acts are social constructions)

Works Cited

Covergirl. “Meet @JamesCharles: makeup artist, boundary breaker, and the newest COVERGIRL!” Instagram, Oct. 2016,

Michaels, Jake. 2015, The New York Times, New York,

Sivan, Troye. “????” Instagram, Jan. 2016,

Tick, Suzanne. “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society.” Metropolis, Mar. 2015,

Wang, Alexander. 2015, New York Fashion Week, New York,


Digital Records: The Performers

While searching for images from events at the theatre, I came across concert photographer Kyle Gustafson who had shot multiple artists at the historic venue. These images not only gave me a look at the inside of the theater at a time of action but also allowed me to get a good idea of who has graced the stage within the past couple of years. In my research, I found that artists such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole had performed sets there, the theatre primarily catering to the surrounding black community. As seen the though the images, both the audiences and performers have become more diverse throughout the years, therefore becoming apart of modern D.C.

WASHINGTON, DC - October 13th, 2014 - Flying Lotus performs at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. His fifth studio album, You're Dead, was released last week to great acclaim from Pitchfork, NME, The Guardian and many others. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC – October 13th, 2014 – Flying Lotus performs at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. His fifth studio album, You’re Dead, was released last week to great acclaim from Pitchfork, NME, The Guardian and many others. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC - March 7, 2015 - Hozier (second from left) performs at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. His hit song "Take Me To Church" was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2015 Grammys. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC – March 7, 2015 – Hozier (second from left) performs at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. His hit song “Take Me To Church” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2015 Grammys. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC - March 7, 2015 - Hozier (right) performs at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. His hit song "Take Me To Church" was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2015 Grammys. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC – March 7, 2015 – Hozier (right) performs at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. His hit song “Take Me To Church” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2015 Grammys. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC - October 14th, 2013 - Grammy Award nominee Janelle Monae performs at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. Monae's performance included a cover of The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" as well as her singles "Tightrope" and "Q.U.E.E.N." (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC – October 14th, 2013 – Grammy Award nominee Janelle Monae performs at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. Monae’s performance included a cover of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” as well as her singles “Tightrope” and “Q.U.E.E.N.” (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

Photo Links:

Commonplace Entry #4: Gender Inclusive Bathrooms

The sign below is explaining its conversion to a gender neutral bathroom, which are becoming more and more popular in public nowadays. Though, the sign seems very serious and off putting with its use of the attention grabbing heading of ‘ATTENTION’. It explains the bathroom’s identity and use within the first sentence, following it up with a statement of understanding and concern for those who may be off put by the gender inclusiveness at first. Though, the middle section is sympathetic especially to those who are getting used to the new idea and those who are actively supporting it. The last sentence concludes with a solution to the common uncomfortable feeling, which basically contradicts the idea of creating a gender-neutral bathroom in the first place. If this is to become to new social norm, then why give someone the ability to exclude his/herself from it?

The Housing and Dining Program at AU authored this sign specifically to educate people who have never seen/used a gender inclusive bathroom while also offering a lock to those who would feel uncomfortable using it in a normal way. Progressive ideas that affect social norms usually require some sort of explanation and ‘but/if’ statement for those who feel off-put by the change, especially in such a big environment like a university where people may be opposed to the idea.

I find it interesting that the sign is so formal in its language. It seems like more of an announcement or warning that makes the idea of a gender neutral bathroom into a big deal. Could this type of language contribute to why there is so much stigma around gender inclusive bathrooms: that it’s become more of an issue that has to be labored over instead of something that can be easily integrated into society without complaint?


Jenny Rice: Inquiry as a Tool for Networking Tracing

Within her conclusion, “Inquiry as Social Action,” Jenny Rice argues that inquiry acts as the most effective tool for tracing the connections between different parts of our society and teaching students to find solutions that target the overall network instead of a singular piece (168). Inquiry, as she explains, moves students to think outside of their own experiences and feelings towards a certain topic in order to create a subjective narrative based on connected elements within a network. A network, which can be anything from a city to a business, includes all the working parts that contribute to the environment and create relationships between objects. Rice argues that, in order to respond to crises and problems within society, one must inquire into how the network is built in order to effectively find the root cause. For example, many people responded to the BP oil spill with anger and passion, choosing to boycott the company. Though, as Rice tells us, the boycott of one company does not solve the problems embedded in the oil industry. BP acts as a mere distributor in its network by selling oil from other refineries along with other brand names that also have their share of spill disasters.  Therefore, by missing the opportunity for inquiry into the whole network, protesters’ actions lack real effect on the system itself (164).


(Many environmentalists and concerned citizens were eager to jump on the bandwagon against BP after the devastating 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico)


To show the effectiveness of inquiry, Rice begins with two examples that trace collective networks using the technique: Writing Austin’s Lives and The Neighborhood Story Project (179,183). Both are examples of public inquiry, as communities put together the pieces of their network by building a narrative based on the experiences and contributions of its inhabitants. Therefore, the stories create a deeper meaning for the town’s network; the fragmented documentation in Writing Austin’s Lives pieced together the diverse stories within the city, while The Neighborhood Story Project created multiple narratives of New Orleans and the neighborhood networks functioning within it to show overall conflicts within the city. These cities are huge, complex networks, but both projects allow them to be broken down into common connections between people, whether it’s experiencing the effects of Hurricane Katrina or a simply living in a neighborhood for generations. Since there is little emotion or opinion from the authors due to inquiry, readers can experience these networks in their purest form and derive conclusions, or even solutions, by looking at the facts. In other words, instead of looking from a one-dimensional view like the boycotters of BP, those searching to provide commentary on the cities of Austin and New Orleans can see a collective view based on their many internal networks (181,184).


(As the book jacket states, Writing Austin’s Lives created a ‘community portrait’ that drew on many networks within the city)

To contrast the effectiveness of the projects, Rice includes a story about her University of Missouri writing course where her students failed to use inquiry in an effective way and, in result, focused too much on the singular aspect of the network. The assignment instructed students to focus their ‘inquiry’ on the Legion of Black Collegians by using the history within the school’s archive. While the projects were satisfactory in terms of factual information, Rice explains how all of the students inserted some sort of opinion about racism into their conclusions. Similar to the boycotters of the BP oil spill, most relied on their biases and produced similar calls to simply end racism, a result of only analyzing a piece of the network instead of the whole thing. As Rice explains, there is not one way to simply end racism, and, therefore, the essays missed the task of real social intervention that comes from acknowledging the problem on a large scale.  In order to elicit this inquiry based response, Rice states how she could have had the students think about how the history within the archive has affected the community as a whole and allowed the students to place the history in the context of today’s world. In other words, she wishes she had sent out a call for more network tracing that would have allowed the students to see why the history still affects them and what they could do about it (174-179).

Rice employs her revisions in a second version of her project that focuses on a broader network that she believes will avoid the narrow, single issue pathways of her earlier endeavor. Now, she tasks the students with studying the Midwest as a whole and looking at how it has changed along with the views of its inhabitants. She calls on the public inquiry and documentation from Writing Austin’s Lives by allowing them collaborate on a Wiki page and telling them to connect important sentences, facts, and images from the readings within the space. She makes them think like subjects who are discovering the materials without opinions, ultimately allowing them to see the network as a vast collection of parts instead of one piece that holds all the information (186-189). Calling upon their inquiry skills, the culminating project instructs students to create a “deep map” which acts as an archive for a particular area. Unlike her first project attempt, none of the projects Rice received included arguments or opinions, therefore creating effective network models (192). Similar to inquiring into the BP oil spill on a broader scale, each saw the Midwest as an environment with many working parts and found a deeper meaning in connecting those aspects together.

While these projects act as evidence to support inquiry’s effectiveness as a key tool for examining networks, Rice also accounts for the reverse; the acquirement of inquiry can be seen as evidence for the importance of doing such projects. Someone in a writing class such as ours might jump at the chance to do a project based on passion, a fact that Rice supports through the first section of her conclusion. On the other hand, one might hesitantly get on board with one of Rice’s projects, as shown through the initial uneasiness of her students. With her theory, she allows us to see that these projects have a purpose: to teach us the art of inquiry. Since she views inquiry as the true goal, we can go into such a project knowing that we will leave with some sort of new skill and be more aware of it as we work.


Works Cited

Pizzello, Chris. 2010, AP,

Rice, Jenny. Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012. pp. 163-196

Writing Austin’s Lives.” 2004, The Austin Chronicle,

Sarah Schindler: Invisible Barriers Within Built Environments

Part I and II of Sarah Schindler’s essay, “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” argue that many manmade structures within society are both intentionally and unintentionally designed to segregate certain groups of people from others. Within her introduction, she outright states that seemingly trivial aspects of a city, such as the way streets are designed or the lack of sidewalks or even the routes of buses, dramatically affect how different cultures interact, if they ever do. She also shows how these built discriminators can shape a city demographically, totally unbeknownst to those living within it, which causes us to live in communities that have been shaped for us (1939-1940). Ultimately, we lack the control of who we interact with, where we interact, and what ideas influence our lives, until we can learn how to combat barriers.

Schindler often references our obliviousness to barriers within our communities, saying that we believe structures, like one way streets or bridges, are merely features of the landscape we inhabit. We fail to see the network between how it was built, why it was built, and who its building affected. Therefore, she presents her theory on built barriers: an idea that describes how landscapes and architecture, are in fact, types of regulation (1943). In other terms, aspects of our environment drastically shape who or what interacts within the space but, ultimately, leaves a certain population out. We tend to be very unawareness of this segregation not only from a citizen standpoint but also from the position of urban planning. Schindler says that planners make decisions based on infrastructure and not for the citizens, citing Nicholas Blomley’s idea of ‘traffic logic’: the idea that planners and civil engineers prioritize the flow of pedestrians and traffic through a physical space…rather than prioritizing equal access to a physical space for all” (1945). She supports this theory in an example which contrast how neighborhoods might be divided by a highway while others might be joined by a town square (1497).

The essay highlights how these theories directly affect human behavior and integration, showing how built barriers directly affect how and where different classes and races interact. She presents arguments that show how certain areas have very specific racial identities, ones that make it hard for a new identity to become a part of and, therefore, becoming effective tools for keeping them separate (1950). The essay utilizes examples such as the Long Island bridges that are too low for twelve foot buses on which racial minorities and members of the lower class tend to ride. Furthermore, she discusses how the lack of sidewalks in certain neighborhoods may hinder those who walk or ride a bike and use that route on their daily commute (1954). Other examples are more direct, including the Eight Mile Wall in Detroit which separated an old black neighborhood and a new white neighborhood. Schindler even dissects bus routes which leave more wealthy areas out from minority routes or visa-versa (1960).



(The Eight Mile Wall in Detroit takes on a friendly, colorful facade despite acting as a barrier between neighborhoods)

Along with her examples and research, Schindler provides a look at how lawmakers both contribute to the built barrier epidemic and attempt to fix some of the more noticeable forms of discrimination. Some communities have acknowledged the irregular, nuanced bus routes and have aimed for a wider, more community inclusive solution. Still, the author constantly returns to the idea that we are oblivious to the barriers around us. While she does take the time to say that these barriers are hard to identify, even in a court of law, not all hope is lost in Schindler’s mind. In the midst of her essay, she calls for built environment discrimination to be under the same legal scrutiny of other forms of exclusion, an idea that her work to be applied in real situations (1953).


(Many citizens are forced to walk or bike along busy roads and highways during their commute due to the lack of sidewalks)

Along with her call for action, Schindler’s essay wants to remove us from the darkness of unknown discrimination to the light of understanding just how our environment works. For those entrenched in studying built environments, as we are within our class, the author provides us with a new way to view the world around us: seeing every element around us as a object created with a specific purpose. Even without the academic applications, her work remains vital to us as we live in a country that prides itself in its advanced non-exclusionary ways, yet allows discrimination to slip right under our noses every day, as she explains thoroughly. However, after reading her essay, a bench is no longer just a bench. A road is not just a road. We can go into our built environments and see it for all it is: the elements that bring us together and the ones that keep us apart.

Works Cited

Schindler, Sarah B. Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment. The Yale Law Journal, 2015. pp. 1939-1960

Wasilchenko, Jamie. Eight Mile Wall. 2015, Clio,

Ronkin, Michael. FHWA Safety Program. U.S. Department of Public Transportation,

Commonplace Entry #3: Sentence

“She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The sentence consists of three independent clauses connected by a ‘, and’ and a semicolon.

Root sentence: “She looked like art.” subject: she, verb: looked

IC #2: “Art wasn’t supposed to look nice.” – subject: art, verb: wasn’t

In this part of the sentence, Park (the speaker) actually references the sentence before which says, “Eleanor was right: She never looked nice”. It brings Eleanor’s own diction into his idea of art, combining them in one phrase. It allows for a simple explanation of Park’s point.

IC #3: “It was supposed to make you feel something.” – subject: it, verb: was

In the second IC, Park brings the second park of his explanation in and answers the question, if art isn’t supposed to be nice then what is it supposed to be? With the use of a semicolon, the author allows this thought to flow easily without any break.

Personally, I just love this sentence because it provides an atypical look at beauty and how people see other people. It doesn’t use the work ‘beautiful’ or ‘pretty’. It flows from ‘art’ to ‘make you feel something’, giving them much more meaning than the word ‘pretty’.

I find it interesting that the author’s diction does not change throughout the sentence. She uses the same words in each and almost creates a pattern.

IC #1 ends in ‘art’, IC #2 starts with ‘art’

IC #2 ends in ‘supposed to’, IC #3 starts with ‘supposed to’

My version: He loved like a hurricane, but hurricane weren’t created to wash you clean; they were created to tear your life apart.


(this picture reminded me of the girl in the sentence, Eleanor, and how the flaws and spots and scars on our bodies shouldn’t carry the negative connotations they usually do; they’re part of what make us art)




Commonplace Entry #2: The Conversation


Media Essentials: A Brief Introduction by Richard Campbell, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos

“Since the 1740s, magazines have played a key role in America, becoming a national mass medium even before newspapers, which at the time were mainly local and regional in scope. Magazines provided venues for political leaders and thinkers to offer their views on the broad issues and events of the day, including public education, abolition, women’s suffrage, and the Civil War. Many leading literary figures also used magazines to gain public exposure for their essays or stories. Readers consumes the articles and fictional accounts offered in magazines, and sapped up the produces and services advertised in each issues, hastening the rise of a consumer society. As consumerism grew, magazines themselves changed, with the most popular titles often focusing less on news and essays, and more on fashion, celebrities, advice, and entertainment” (Cambell, Martin and Fabos 114).

The introduction for chapter 4 of Media Essentials does seem to follow the pattern that G&B presents. Even though the authors do not present a specific person who stated the information above, most of it is knowledge or ideas that could be seen as facts (and not opinions). They lay down a foundation for why the world has viewed magazines as important while also providing a basis for what the readers will see discussed throughout the chapter.

This Modern Love by Will Darbyshire

“In the summer of 2014, I experienced a break-up. It was my first. And I was devastated. Coping with the demise of my relationship was unlike anything else I’d ever felt before. Someone in my family told me that it was like coping with death: you grieve in the same way; you’re mourning the loss of a person. I suppose that’s just how I felt: empty and lose, like a piece of me had broken off and crumbled, never to return” (Darbyshire 7).

Darbyshire’s introduction to his online project turned book does not mirror the form in G&B. Instead of stating the ‘they say’ first, he talks about the ‘I say’. In this case, the reversed format works considering the project/book (in which the author collected thousands of personal love stories from people from around the world) grew out of a personal motivation. Darbyshire states his story first, continuing on to the ‘they say’ in the rest of the book as others present their tales of love and loss.