Heart Of It All Union Square Cultural Studies Essay

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to two metropoliss connected by a span, two metropoliss with reputes that are sometimes deserved and sometimes non. Both metropoliss have a cardinal square in their business district country which serve as absorbing topographic points for sociological observation: Union Square and Jack London Square. These squares both presently have a immense Christmas tree in their centre, both have interesting stores or eating houses where people mingle, and both are rich in history.

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Union Square is technically the park in the centre, but the label has come to be associated with the diverse shopping available in the country. This is one of San Francisco ‘s biggest tourer draws, with slipperiness, attractively arranged infinites that contribute to the country ‘s imageability [ 1 ] , and it is besides an country where the metropolis ‘s locals store, drama, and interact with each other. It could be seen as the bosom of San Francisco in some ways, because it is a topographic point that connects the diverse elements of the metropolis. An ordinary twenty-four hours rolling down Union Square might convey you face to confront with a homosexual tourer twosome from Sweden, an aged local walking her Canis familiaris, or a fundamentalist Christian keeping a controversial ( one might state hateful ) mark. Herbert Blumer ‘s constructs of symbolic interaction [ 2 ] barely more seeable anyplace else in the universe. Tourists might goggle at these contradictions, but most locals are as immune to them as they are to the slick flawlessness covering the 1000s of hoardings around them.

An eternal bombardment of advertisement screens Union Square, doing it impossible to take a measure without seeing a perfect face. How does this impact the pavement ‘s users? Union Square is a great topographic point to watch for beautiful apparels and gorgeous people, and it ca n’t be a happenstance that they ‘re surrounded by reminders that flawlessness is something to endeavor for. The many people who dress to be seen by others can surely be said to be affected by looking glass theory [ 3 ] , with the symbols presented by the hoardings giving them a norm [ 4 ] to conform to. The power of these symbols plants to implement societal determinism [ 5 ] in this society. This can be dejecting for some, but for me it ‘s fantastic to analyze the art and design of advertisement as I wander those streets. Either manner the country is bright and colourful, active and stimulating, and it makes the gait of its people faster and louder, pulling the people in the greatest place to purchase the things advertised to them. Attractive, well-dressed, affluent people are n’t an uncommon sight in Union Square, but so neither are their antonyms.

The other side of Union Square ‘s lasting community is so far removed from the glister of the window displays that it might every bit good belong to another planet. The homeless of Union Square are alone in many ways. With so much else to see and make, they blend in with the concrete for most of the pavement ‘s users, so some become louder and more aggressive as a consequence. These relentless ‘undesireables ‘ become an attractive force unto themselves due to their colourful attack to survival: brilliantly dyed hair to demo off their losing limbs, foul, mismatched retarding force outfits, and gimicky marks inquiring for beer and drugs – a perfect illustration of Herbert Spencer ‘s thoughts of societal Darwinism [ 6 ] . This gets them attending from tourers, but locals still manage to look through them most of the clip.

Standing in the square itself I got to see cultural relativism [ 7 ] at work, when I spotted a well-groomed adult male in his mid-twentiess standing at the border of the square, playing with his IPad. A barefoot homeless adult male approached him for money, but he seemed non to hear. The mendicant ventured to touch his arm, and the adult male shrugged off without so much as peeking up. He wandered a few gaits off, unmindful to the other adult male ‘s afflicted reaction, or that of the adult females in the tourer ‘s uniform of a camera and a San Francisco jacket. To the caches of tourers that pass through every twenty-four hours, he and many others seem hopelessly barbarous, but populating at that place for any length of clip makes the ground for this unfeelingness clear: how can one perchance assist every individual who asks? How do you so make up one’s mind whom to assist?

Downtown San Francisco has ever been a topographic point where ‘undesirables ‘ saught safety. In the 1980s, in response to a turning figure of displaced Vietnam vets and readily available drugs, the stateless population began to boom, and the job of exclusion [ 8 ] has plagued San Francisco of all time since. In the 1850s Union Square was a dumping land, used chiefly by “ homesteaders ” who were dealt with by go throughing Torahs that encouraged development of the land. It went through many stages of development, lodging mechanical carnivals, dances, and talks, every bit good as the crowds of church-goers that surrounded it before the temblor of 1906. Today it ‘s a attractively maintaned park with coffeehouse in the centre, an ice rink at Christmas, and art and amusement. But the roots of business district as a skid row seem to linger, no affair how sharply the metropolis keeps it clean.

Merely across the H2O is Jack London Square, another public square whose name has come to use to the countries around it every bit good. The square itself is similar to San Francisco ‘s, a clean, lovely infinite with eating houses and nines to pass clip in, but the environing countries that are a portion of it are perplexing in many ways.

Jack London is at the terminal of Broadway, and straight environing it are the Oakland gaol, bail bond locations, and a porn superstore. Scatterered between these seedier topographic points are nice eating houses, voguish bars, a film theatre, an Amtrak station, and a few family-friendly ironss like Domino ‘s and BevMo. These topographic points bring a really eclectic scope of people together, from the different subcultures [ 9 ] of punks and flower peoples at Souley Vegan, to female parents with babes at Bed & A ; Bath, to the far more hushed homeless of the country. They hang out outside of nicer eating houses like The Fat Lady, and they use sympathy as a agency of acquiring money alternatively of cockamamie behaviour. I saw a adult female walking up to a twosome go forthing the eating house, praising them before establishing into her pitch: “ I ‘m pregnant, can I hold some money, delight? ” the twosome courteously said no and she walked off. I asked them what they thought of her, and the miss smirked. “ They ever say they ‘re pregnant. It ‘s ne’er true, is it? ” This immense alteration in her attitude from speaking to the adult female and speaking to me is a great illustration of dramaturgical theory [ 10 ] , and this seems to be consistent with the attitude towards the homeless in Jack London as a whole.

Despite this evident cynisism towards the homeless, they seem far more relaxed in Oakland than in Union Square. The gait is slower, advertisement is far more local and less permeant, and the atmosphere seems to be focused more on feeding and holding a good clip than purchasing things. Some of the few people who seem to be less relaxed are the frequenters of Secrets, the grownup superstore and theatre sandwiched between Dolma ‘s Deli and Duke ‘s Bar. Dolma ‘s has immense Windowss that look into the long corridor that leads to Secrets, and it ‘s a great topographic point to watch the approachs and departures at that place. Secrets ‘ chief patronage appears to be work forces, chiefly middle-aged, some featuring wedding rings. Their looks vary from proud to indifferent to ashamed – some so ashamed that they try to come in through Dolma ‘s, merely to happen that the door has been sealed off. The director tiredly rolls his eyes and informs each 1 that he ‘ll hold to come in through the forepart. The employees chatter off in Spanish behind the grill: “ I hate working following to these old deviants. I got ta happen another occupation. ”

It ‘s easy to label [ 11 ] Secrets ‘ clients that manner, as old deviants. But it ‘s non all ( or even largely ) work forces in dirty trenchcoats. At dark when flower peoples stop by Beer Revolution, immature twosomes of all orientations can be spotted walking in unashamed, with none of the luggage associated with these topographic points. In all the old ages it ‘s been in concern, the old patronage has had a opportunity to be easy replaced by their childs. The new clients will hold their ain values that allow for trips to such topographic points without secrets at all, and that ‘s interesting to see.

Both locations map as the bosom of their several metropoliss, and they ‘re both a just contemplation into the gait and diverseness of their metropoliss. Oakland ‘s bosom is a small spot dirtier and confounding compared to the exacting, pristine layout of Union Square, but it is surely more personal. It ‘s like Oakland itself: rough, with a bad repute, but capturing if you know where to look. San Francisco ‘s bosom is large, glittery, exciting, like walking into a film – but it ‘s a small less likely to take on your character instead than the other manner around.

Glossary of Footings:

[ 1 ] Imageability:

The capacity of an object to make memorable images in an person ‘s head that helps them voyage their milieus. Attributed to Kevin Lynch.

[ 2 ] Symbolic Interaction:

The manner that people interpret symbols and draw decisions about each other, themselves, and the universe around them based on these symbols.

[ 3 ] Looking-Glass Theory:

The construct that we form our image of ourselves based on how we think other people see us.

[ 4 ] Norms:

The regulations defined by a civilization that inform and steer societal interaction.

[ 5 ] Social Determinism:

The theory that our behaviours are a merchandise of our environment, non our biological science.

[ 6 ] Social Darwinism:

The theory that better people will boom while less motivated or emotionally successful people will neglect to happen chance.

[ 7 ] Cultural Relativism:

The thought that ‘right ‘ and ‘wrong ‘ are subjective, depending merely on the values of the person ‘s society.

[ 8 ] Exclusion:

Laws or regulations that serve to take the basic rights needed for survival off from certain parts of the population.

[ 9 ] Subcultures:

A portion of the larger civilization that has branched off because of dissension about certain beliefs or behaviours, but remains connected to that civilization.

[ 10 ] Dramaturgical Theory:

The belief that we modify our individuality based on the values of the people who we interact with, and that there may be many different versions of our personalities as a consequence.

[ 11 ] Labeling:

The premises that we make about people based on their visual aspect, behaviour, and our ain experiences. Can sometimes be the cause of negative stereotyping.

Important Thinkers:

Herbert Blumer:

An of import American mind who was responsible for the inclusion of symbolic interaction in sociology.

Herbert Spencer:

An English philosopher and sociologist who introduced the construct of societal Darwinism to sociology.


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