pre-thesis week 1

It’s very nerve-wracking to get started on this thesis process. I’ve been worrying about it every now and then since I started IDM — I felt like I should have a solid idea before I even started pre-thesis. Every month or so when I remembered this class was coming, I’d get that tingly feeling in my stomach because I had no clue what I wanted to do. Our first class was reassuring in a sense, but I still felt anxious this whole week. Truth be told, I was feeling creatively burned out (already, when the semester has just started) and the weight of creating something that matters, that changes how people see things, felt too much. I just wanted to make something cool and pretty, and call it a day. 

Reading The Craft of Research chapters assigned and doing some more exercises on my own helped fire me up a little more. I made a looser mind map, mixing practices/methods (in green) and subjects (in pink) to spark up some more ideas:

Lots of overlap and similarities (I tried to place the post-its in a way to make these more clear). A really safe idea would be to expand on my 90 Day Fiancé project from Theories of Media — I feel like I would still have things to say about the show, and it feels like a very comfortable intersection of research and practice. But it seems a little too safe and easy, and I’d like to try something new. 

I feel very drawn to exploring the history of New York, and creating some visual work around that. Wanting to narrow down on a specific topic, I poked around different Wikipedia pages that caught my attention — here are some interesting facts I learned while going down random rabbit holes: 

  • The first Jewish immigrants to North America came to NYC in 1654, not from the Old World but from Brazil (indirectly from Europe — they came from the Dutch colonies set up in the Brazilian northeast).
  • The borough of Queens was named after Catherine of Bragança, a member of the Portuguese royal family who married into the crown of England. The name was very familiar to me since it was the same House of Bragança that ruled Brazil while it was still a monarchy.
  • The Algonquin Hotel has a tradition of taking in stray cats, dating back to the 1920s. This got me thinking about the bodega cat tradition (in a “is a hotdog a sandwich?” type of way, I feel like the Algonquin cat is kind of like a bodega cat). 
  • I’ve known about Canal Street being named for an actual canal for a long time, but never realized Bridge Street in FiDi is named after a bridge that was used to cross a canal on Broad Street. (New Amsterdam Stories)

I find random facts like these really compelling. I realize they haven’t helped me narrow down on a specific topic like The Craft of Research urged me to do, but I feel like I want my work to be more story-telling based — I won’t know what facts to include until I’ve found them. I’d like to explore facts that make me (and maybe others, too) think about New York in a different way. Especially after/during this pandemic, seeing people question whether New York is dead, I feel fired up about exploring the way New York was and is — to see how it’s changed, what parts have already died, and what has always remained. I’d like to find new facets about what seems iconic about this city, and explore lesser known areas, practices, communities, and histories.