Eric Kunsman

Assistant Professor, RIT
Felicific Calculus: Technology as a Social Marker of Race, Class, & Economics in Rochester, NY
Location: Rochester, NY
Nationality: United States
Biography: Eric T. Kunsman (b. 1975) was born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While in high school, he was heavily influenced by the death of the steel industry and its place in American history. The exposure to the work of Walker Evans during this... MORE
Public Story
Felicific Calculus: Technology as a Social Marker of Race, Class, & Economics in Rochester, NY
Copyright Eric T. Kunsman 2022
Date of Work May 2017 - Ongoing
Updated Dec 2019
Location Rochester,NY
Topics Black and White, Community, Documentary, Editorial, Essays, Fine Art, Homelessness, Photography, Photojournalism, Poverty, Street, Technology

In 2017, when I was relocating my studio to a different part of Rochester, NY I started getting many comments like, “the area you moving to is a war zone”, or “this area is different”, and my favorite was this area is unique.” A few of these individuals were even photojournalist that are supposed to be the ones with open eyes and willing to tell all stories.

It was at this point I started looking around my new neighborhood and started to notice some social indicators that people felt indicated the environment being one of trouble. However, one of these indicators was not an indication of problems, but rather a lifeline that many people have forgotten. To me, the payphones became an indication or social marker for the areas I would visit. They do not serve as a marker for crime as many individuals see them.

The payphones in the Greater Rochester, NY area are part of a felicific calculus in regards to the decision made to leave the payphones and the locations in which they are located. Frontier Communications is losing money from these payphones and decided to maintain them for the greater good of one of the poorest cities, by the number of people under the poverty level, in the United States. 

To many individuals, these payphones serve as a social marker or social indicator and to others; they serve as a marker of crime. The perception of one area is worse than another is often drawn to a conclusion by such social markers. Often these perceptions can lead to dangerous or ignorant decisions.

This perception that I was witnessing first-hand is what drove me to start to educate myself on what was leading these individuals to their perceived notions of a place they never visited previously. I began to look at census maps and overlay them with maps of the payphone locations. What became apparent to me was the direct correlation between the poverty level and the location of the payphones. The average income for these areas of payphones is under $20,000 per family.

LinkedIn Icon Facebook Icon Twitter Icon