As my first process blog post, I wanted to post my proposal for the final project and contribution to the URT map.

For my final project in Urban Media Archeology, I would like to investigate the architecture of media publishers in New York City.  Over the past several years, there have been a number of mergers of media news sources into larger international conglomerates, such as AOL Time-Warner, Bloomberg, Google, News Corp., Hearst Corp., IAC, New York Times Co., and Viacom (to name a few).  These mergers have raised concerns over the monopolization of the news media as it becomes incrementally dominated by a handful of powerful corporations.

I am intrigued by how architecture can mediate a corporate image, and I want to examine the particular choices that these news-media companies have made in selecting the building to house their operations and employees in New York City.  Some of these corporations attempt to make a public statement about their prowess and dominance through special commissioned buildings; others choose an already-existing building that reflects its unique culture and non-traditional values; and still others select historic landmark sites that establish them as New York City icons.

Much is said through the medium of architecture, particularly when it comes to the buildings in which media publishers reside. This is a timely topic, as seen by the recent completion of several newly commissioned buildings, such as The New York Times building near Times Square, the Frank Gehry IAC building along the west side highway, and the Bloomberg tower in east midtown.  However, I don’t want only to look at the current architectural and rhetorical trends reflected in the structures housing these corporations; I would also like to research their past building locations. If I were to sculpt this topic into a research question, or a set of research questions, it would work somewhat like a Panofsky-stratified layer cake:

1)    Where are the large media corporations in New York City located and what do they look like?
2)    What do these buildings say about the news corporations housed within them?
3)    What about the history of these corporations informs their intentions today for the buildings they occupy?

While examining research on specific buildings and media consolidation, I also plan on considering them in the context of New York urban and architectural history.  For this reason, I plan to explore three main research areas (which is how I have organized my tentative bibliography so far): history of media and its ownership, New York urban history and architecture, and the architecture of specific media corporations.

Though this topic is still quite broad, I do not intend to cover every single media company with an office in New York City and the history of all its child corporations.  Rather, this research will ask the three questions above of only a few corporations, and it will examine just the first and second of the above questions about a number of others.  In this way, when it comes time to map these in the final URT map project, I will have several sites that I can place on the URT map, but only a limited number will contain more in depth information and insightful research.  For the corporations that I do not fully explore, I would hope that future scholars might fill in the gaps through the open-source nature of the project.

I plan to gather and use several historical and modern photographs, architectural plans and images, as well as online videos of many of the buildings I plan to map for this project.  In terms of archival sources, I plan to explore photographs from the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, New York Historical Society, and other scholarly archives.  For some of the more modern buildings, I intend to contact their press offices and real estate developers to obtain information such as floor plans and any free imagery, which I would hope to include in the final URT map.

In conclusion, I believe a visual mapping of this proposed research topic could be a poignant (if not scary!) visualization of the slow but steady media consolidation and monopolization that has been taking place over the past century, and particularly over the past decade, as reflected by the convergence and growth of these building sites on the URT map.  I might not be able to research and gather information on a big enough data set to illustrate this convincingly, however, which is why I fully support the open-source intentions of the URT project: so that others may pick up where I leave off, correct or improve my work, create connections across different themes and subjects, or add to the research on media publishing in other insightful ways.