blog.johnpray

an annotated brainlog

The Bridge - A Pecha Kucha

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The history, design, social rhetoric, and future of the old Erie Canal aqueduct and current Broad Street road bridge in Rochester, NY. Originally presented by me at St. John Fisher College in December 2010.

A Pecha Kucha is a presentation that requires the presenter to limit himself to 20 slides at 20 seconds each. It was invented by Japanese architects but has been used by many people the world over to talk about about a wide variety of topics since.

Learn more about the aqueduct’s future at BroadStreetCorridor.com.

Net Neutrality: What It Is and Why You Should Care (or “Saving the Internet: Why and How”)

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I originally wrote this post as an “anthology” for an English class assignment, but all along I had in mind the intention to crosspost it on my own blog. Everything in it represents my honest opinions, and I don’t exaggerate the importance of the issue of Net Neutrality. Every day I am finding more examples of what the Open Internet makes possible that I wish I had included here. But then I remember: As long as the Internet remains open, people will continue to make awesome things every day for all of us to immediately enjoy. I’d sure hate to lose that.

One of the most important debates going on in our world today is the one over whether to preserve Net Neutrality. Sadly but unsurprisingly, you probably don’t even know what Net Neutrality is or what the debate’s results will affect. This is because those who have the most to gain by letting this issue pass by without debate are the same people and companies who control the flow of information to you, through TV, newspapers, radio, and popular web sites. It’s a trivial matter for them to keep their TV and radio stations from broadcasting any information that they don’t want broadcasted. Now they want to have such restrictive control over the Internet, too. This is what the Net Neutrality debate is about. Let’s explore it.

Exploring the History of Rochester’s Abandoned Subway

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This post is one in a series done for a class I took as a senior in college on visual rhetoric.


I’ve lived near Rochester my entire life (about 40 minutes away by car), and yet I know so little about its history. What I do know about the city’s history can be summed up in a small bulleted list:

  • Back in good ol’ colonial times, Palmyra (my small, quiet hometown) was a bigger, more bustling city than Rochester was at the time
  • Kodak and Xerox made Rochester a boomtown and brought many, many businesses and people to the city and the surrounding region
  • When Kodak and Xerox made a turn for the worse, so did Rochester. None of them have recovered.
  • … That’s it.

I have a feeling that dearth of knowledge is about to change. In the small amount of research about the abandoned tunnel that I’ve already done, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • The Erie Canal used to run through this tunnel. Eventually it was diverted to go around the city instead of through it.
  • In the 1920s, the former city canalway was adapted to serve as a new subway tunnel. This rail system ran until the late 1950s.
  • The tunnel has been abandoned since. The specific part that I’m looking at, over the Genesee River and under the library, has been considered to be turned into a tourist attraction, a footbridge with a Rochester Transportation Museum (according to Wikipedia).
  • However, the city doesn’t really think it has the money for this kind of thing. Instead it wants to fill it in with dirt because, as it is now, it supposedly takes over $1 million per year to keep the tunnel maintained (that is, from caving in).
  • Now this is key: When the city announced this plan, there was a loud public outcry. The subway tunnel is an important part of Rochester’s history and identity, the protesters argued. Despite the current “uselessness” of the tunnel, no one really wants it gone (besides the city government’s book-balancers).

That is to say, the abandoned tunnel is an important part of Rochesterians’ cultural identity, and they seek to preserve it so as to preserve that identity.

I hope to better understand this identity as I get deeper into this project. I’ve got a DVD documentary about the Rochester subway coming through interlibrary loan. (This documentary was apparently made by Rochester’s own Animatus Studios, where I took animation classes  when I was very young—but that’s a story for another time.) And I’ve found more material to read about the tunnel and the canal, so that’ll be good. And, of course, I’ll be visiting the tunnel again. Maybe we’ll run into some homeless Rochesterians this time.

Photo from here.

Rochester: A City of Rhetoric

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This post is one in a series done for a class I took as a senior in college on visual rhetoric.

Work on my abroad photo stats infographic is well underway (or at least work on the program I’m writing to collect that data — more on that soon!). In the meantime, we’ve got another assignment.

Entitled “The City of Rhetoric”, this assignment asks to analyze some place in or around our city of Rochester, NY in terms of the rhetoric that went into and that results from its design.

This analysis will culminate in a Pecha Kucha, which is a type of presentation of Japanese origin that requires the speaker to only use exactly 20 slides shown for exactly 20 seconds

along with whatever audio counterpart the speaker deems appropriate, be it the speaker’s voice, music, miscellaneous sounds, or (most likely) some combination of the three. I think the Pecha Kucha (Japanese for “chit chat”) a very cool idea. One thing I really enjoy is working within limits—often a limit in choice in some aspects really brings out the creativity in others.

The most immediate question for me is, what place do I choose? My instinctual choice would be the St. John Fisher College campus, perhaps specifically its little-known nooks and crannies, which I know well after attending and working at the school for nearly three-and-a-half straight years.

(Bonus: Lavery Library’s old front facade, which we’ll never see again.)

It’d be very interesting to me (and I think to everyone in the class, as members of the Fisher community) to gain some better insight into the kind of rhetorical effects that the design of the different bits of our campus has on us. But our professor was very specific about our chosen spot being off-campus. Perhaps I can still convince him otherwise.

I probably won’t bother, though, thanks to my other idea (which just came to me, to be honest). Rochester contains a space that I only discovered very recently, thanks to my friends.

This abandoned aqueduct/subway tunnel in the middle of downtown, spanning the Genesee River and extending under the city’s public library, is infinitely interesting to me. This theoretically-off-limits place is in fact my favorite landmark in the city proper (which admittedly I’m only cursorily familiar with), and it’s thrilling to me that such an accidental, unofficial spot is so important to the city’s identity (at least from my perspective).

My one friend is doing a photography independent study focused on Rochester. As his flickr photostream reveals, he’s visited a lot of landmarks in and around the city, from Mount Hope Cemetery to Seabreeze amusement park. He also visited the abandoned aqueduct, and later took a bunch of us there when, feeling bored and spontaneous, we found ourselves dumped downtown by an RTS bus (thanks to the rarely-taken-advantage-of free bus passes provided by Fisher).

Climbing down inside

(which is not an activity for the physically-unfit), we found this:

a world of graffiti,

pitch darkness, and

mounds of rubble and dirt.

It may not seem like much, but I assure you that it was very exciting to me. Adventurous and rebellious individuals and groups venture down here relatively often, and so it is a place where rhetoric has a role. I’m excited to explore what that role is.

All pictures in this post after the first two were taken by me. The skyline photo comes from Wikipedia, while the Pecha Kucha slide comes from this blog.