Attending this event?
To view sessions, please select the Grid view below or use the Session Title filter.

After registering for the conference, you can log in here to save sessions to your personalized itinerary, sign up for workshops and performances with limited capacity, edit your profile, and edit your session description. For help using Sched, please see support.

For full details about the conference, please visit hastac2023.org
Back To Schedule
Saturday, June 10 • 10:20am - 10:40am
(Un)Making San Juan Hill: Minor Data and Community Engaged Learning on Manhattan's Upper West Side

Log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

This paper explores how a supposedly ‘smart’ urban design shapes everyday life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and how a critical approach to community engaged learning can counter dominant modes of knowledge production and inform a more equitable redistribution of wealth, power, and privilege in New York City. A six year ethnography of an undergraduate community engaged learning course, entitled Designing Smart Cities for Social Justice, is drawn on to unpack who gets to know and belong—and how—in a neighborhood previously redesigned by the infamous urban planner Robert Moses and presently undergoing urban smartification. As part of the course, students are expected to both attend weekly seminars and conduct on-site work at Goddard Riverside at Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center (LSNC). The LSNC is a settlement house attached to, and primarily serving residents of, the Amsterdam Houses. Established at the beginning of the 20th century, settlement houses are internationally networked multi-service neighborhood centers committed to building and strengthening the collective assets and capacities of a community so as to facilitate both social work and social change (Koerin 2003).

Formerly known as San Juan Hill, the neighborhood was redeveloped as Lincoln Square after WWII to be one of New York City’s wealthiest and whitest areas. San Juan Hill was once one of Manhattan’s largest Black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods prior to the evacuation of people and places determined to be ‘urban blight’ in the 1940s. Roughly 3,000 families were displaced during this time to make room for several projects, such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Fordham College at Lincoln Center. According to the 2020 census, the racial and economic diversity that presently exists in the Lincoln Square neighborhood is heavily concentrated within the few blocks of the Amsterdam Houses—a public housing development managed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

Building on Cindi Katz’s (1996) concept of “minor theory,” this paper illustrates how community engaged learning and design can produce minor data or situated points of reference that help make legible the social and material relations overlooked or erased by smart urbanism’s epistemological commitment to big data. Minor data can counter and complement big data by accounting for the differences so often omitted by emerging urban technologies and thus inform the design of more inclusive, diverse, and equitable techno-social arrangements. As such, the course engages students in a local exploration of urban redevelopment by comparing and contrasting minor data that emerges from informal conversations and the formal planning of design workshops at a settlement house with big data encountered through coursework. Involving students in bridging such different methods, places, and perspectives assists them in challenging dominant narratives, theories, and datasets, while also reducing the experiential distance between themselves and those perceived as others. In doing so, the excavation and analysis of minor data through community engaged learning and design also works against the relentless futurism of smart urban rhetoric and allows for an understanding of the past and a making of change in the present.

avatar for Gregory T Donovan

Gregory T Donovan

Associate Professor, Fordham University
I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies as well as an affiliate faculty member of New Media and Digital Design Program at Fordham University. My research explores the mutual shaping of people, place, and proprietary media, and how to reorient... Read More →

Saturday June 10, 2023 10:20am - 10:40am EDT
PS 308 (Design Center)