Digital Story Title: “Disputed Ground: Protest, Public Space, and the Birth of the World Trade Center”
This film documents public demonstrations and public events in New York City during the 1960s and 1970s leading up to the construction of the World Trade Center and during the buildings’ early history. Small business owners publicly rallied against the Port Authority’s plans to seize and demolish their commercial property, while construction unions demonstrated in support of the building project and the job opportunities it represented. The surrounding neighborhood became a site for protests for and against the Vietnam War. Environmentalists documented and criticized the buildings’ waste management and energy consumption. After construction was completed, fantastic stunts performed on and between the Twin Towers revealed that World Trade Center had finally been accepted and even cherished by the general public.
I am pleased to share the fascinating events surrounding the building of the World Trade Center. More importantly, though, I want viewers to think about modes of political expression when they watch my film. I want them to consider how political and artistic statements can be performed. Multiple debates and various opinions were expressed not just in City Hall or a voting booth. They also took place on streets and in a publicly funded construction site, and even, literally, between the Twin Towers themselves. Photographs of the Trade Center and its surrounding area presented another opportunity to claim a public site for political and artistic expression.
My intended audience is a general, college-educated audience. The film is most accessible to historians (anyone with a background in college-level history). There is little discussion of the greater political, economic, and social issues at play in the story (urban renewal, the Vietnam War, etc.). Those topics are the context and subtext, and viewers will get the most out of the film if they are already familiar with them. More importantly, I focus not on major events but on a more abstract theme. Viewers with a liberal arts background are more likely to be familiar with concepts like the “public sphere” or “discourse;” these are concepts that have shaped my thinking during the film’s production. However, the film avoids using such dense jargon to expedite the narrative.
A general audience may enjoy the film. As stated, it is free of theoretical jargon or excessive detail, so most educated viewers could view the film and understand its essential message. Many of these viewers may take interest in the film simply because it relates to the World Trade Center. Most college-educated viewers will recall living through the events of 9/11 and want to understand how the World Trade Center became so prized by the public. (This connection may not be as strong for younger viewers under college age.)