Culture of NYC reflected in the Subway

Pecha Kucha by Devan Sconzo



Selecting a topic for my presentation was fairly easy, the difficulty came in narrowing down what I should discuss. I knew that I could easily relate culture with my home in New York City but the hard part was how to specify this. With such a broad spectrum, I felt like there was too much to cover because I initially planned to talk about NYC as a whole. After looking up different pictures of Broadway, Times Square and the typical tourist attractions, I came across this image of the crowded subway trains.

I thought about how I spent 2 hours sitting on the train just to get to school everyday and I had seen a lot pass through. I realized that this was the topic that I would be able to discuss in depth because of my firsthand account. I thought that a good way to relate culture would be through art. This was my initial argument for my Pecha-Kucha. However, as I searched through images of graffiti covered trains, I noticed that the pictures were mainly just from the 70’s through the 90’s. Most trains nowadays are fairly clean and don’t have nearly as much tagging as back then. I switched my train of thought again and decided that I could have a stronger argument for culture on the subway if I showed how the atmosphere and appearance of train cars changed as society progressed through the decades.

The focus of the presentation then began to branch out from art to history. The subway connects New York in more ways than just commuting. This opened up a lot of new ideas for what I could include. I thought about how different disasters really changed the feel of the people’s emotions in the atmosphere. A lot of my parents and teachers always talked about how drastic the difference was in people’s behavior after the 9/11 attacks. I remember getting to school 5 hours late one day after Hurricane Sandy because we were stuck on the newly re-routed trains and I could feel that sense of culture within the mutual feelings of people in the car. I thought that another huge way the subway connects people, sometimes subconsciously, is through advertising. There are always jokes in social media about the ads that everyone sees on the train. I felt like they all had something to say about the direction of New York City and wanted to talk about something that is sometimes glanced over. Throughout the process, the focus of my argument did sway a few times but overall I felt like I was able to cover a lot of material on how the subway creates and holds the culture of the city.


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