Folksonomic narratives writing Detroit

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Off Woodward Avenue in the north end of Detroit, The Model T factory in Highland Park sits abandoned. Motorists see broken windows in the vacant factory as they make their way along Woodward Avenue, heading north to the suburbs or south to Detroit. A small sign outside the factory, alongside Woodward Avenue, notes the factory's historic importance to Detroit and American automotive culture. Next door to the abandoned site, more pronounced than the sign, is the Model T Plaza, a who's who of stores that typically fill out the spaces of most low-income, African American neighborhoods: Rite Aid, Food Basics, Murray's Discount Auto, and Cash Checking. "Few who shop at the Hollywood Video or Foot Locker or Payless ShoeSource in this strip mall," Douglas Brinkley writes of the Plaza, "have the faintest idea that the hulking Crystal Palace next door was once the vortex of the industrial world" (2003, 761). Within and among the ruins of America's automotive origins, in the Plaza we now find the staples of the disposable, consumer economy, which signifies American culture to ourselves and much of the world. The massproduced automobile anyone can own ("as long as it's black," as Ford declared) now translates as the mass-produced, low-quality merchandise anyone can own (as long as it's produced abroad). This juxtaposition of history (the first U.S. car factory) and commerce (those companies willing to invest in black neighborhoods are typically represented by lowquality merchandise and cheap prices) should not be lost on the digital culture we currently live within. Juxtaposition is a primary trait of the digital, a point Marshall McLuhan emphasized throughout the texts he graphically and theoretically codesigned in the 1960s. Through juxtaposition, McLuhan noted, we engage in innovation and invention by displacing conventional attitudes and positions and by forging new ones in their place. "When information is brushed against information," McLuhan famously writes, "the results are startling and effective" (1997, 76-8).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond Postprocess
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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