The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Professor lectures on transportation in U.S. cities

The role of transportation in metropolitan culture was examined in a lecture last week as part of a book review series sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies and the student-run organization, CSUN Communication Association.

Paul Mason Fotsch, a communication studies professor, led a lecture and discussion on his book, ‘Watching the Traffic Go By: Transportation and Isolation in Urban America,’ which focuses on the traffic mess that occurs in large metropolitan cities such as Los Angeles. Fotsch’s book reveals the transportation system as not only a reflection of technological advancement, but also a manifestation of our cultural values.

Jessica Murison and Carol Cop, co-presidents of the Communication Association, work to host book reviews by professors at CSUN. The event was the fourth lecture in the past four weeks, said Cop.

Fotsch began his lecture by discussing the reasons behind the ‘transportation mess.’ He described that the popular story to why the traffic situation has become difficult to control is frequently told like a myth.

‘Myth is when history is made into nature. Certain elements of society that are part of conflict are made to seem natural,’ Fotsch said.

Fotsch’s book is a narrative that applies critical theory that examines the early 20th century promotion of trolleys and the role of television and film in revealing how transportation is a cultural product and a technological development, and the author referenced French theorists such as Roland Barthes and Louis Pierre Althusser during the course of his lecture.

Fotsch explained how transportation enforces the social inequalities between the classes because automobiles and freeways symbolize escape as a way to get from large cities to suburbs populated by higher paid professionals.

Fotsch went on to discuss the history of the urban transportation system and how the current means of transportation are lacking.

Kyungwon Rang, a 24-year-old communication studies major, discussed the advanced efficiency of public transportation in Korea and wondered why Los Angeles’ system is unable to function that way.

‘The buses and trains go everywhere and people can swipe any type of credit card in order to gain access to transportation,’ Rang said.

Fotsch explained that while many metropolitan cities were centered on pedestrians and their need to travel, Los Angeles thrived at a much later time and was centered on the automobile. Jobs are not focused in a central downtown location, making it harder for masses of people to be able to get to where they need to go using buses or trains.

As a professor in the department for the past five years, Fotsch has taught courses on intercultural communication, communication and technology, and cultural studies. His book was published by the University of Texas Press in March 2007 and he also hosts a weekly blog, LA Bus Rider, Story of a Mad Bus Rider, about the politics surrounding urban transportation.

Fotsch concluded his lecture by offering ways students can help better the situation of inequality involving public transportation.

‘The first thing we can do is educate ourselves about national and international policies that create global poverty,’ said Fotsch.

He also advised students to take the bus in order to learn the difficulties faced by those who are marginalized by society.

Lastly, he advocated being a part of an activist group such as the Bus Riders Union in order to work to better the transportation systems for those who use it.

After the event, attendees were invited out into the hall for coffee and snacks and Fotsch met with students to sign copies of his book and gain feedback on student perspective.

‘Events like these are beneficial to students because it involves communication studies interest, networking opportunities, and a social atmosphere for not only communication studies major, but everyone else as well,’ said Cop.

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