Reading Response 2 / Ashley Siwek

Can Jokes Bring Down Governments” takes on a interesting perspective of what societal norms have become in terms of “jokes” in government. Humor as a form of rhetoric is nothing new to politics. Memes have undoubtedly taken the world by storm and are a by product of the ~millennial generation. Being able to access the world so quickly from your smart phone has no doubt transformed the way people think and interact.

The reading looked into the accountability of jokes in general… “The original maker of a joke often, and ideally, remains anonymous. He or she is truly a designer.” I believe memes have become so popular because of the power of anonymity that then leads to the freedom to express unfiltered opinions in the form of a relatable joke. I am impressed everyday I look at social media and see a clever meme. The power to share something online really creates this space for people to see and expand off each other.

As far as crafting the joke itself is an interesting aspect to design in that it’s definitely a creative process. The reading looked closer into the actual “design” memes have taken, “the aesthetic of “image macros” is a byproduct of the omnipresence of Microsoft Windows. Such images often use the font Impact, one of the eleven “core fonts of the web:…” which suitably fits the semi-ridiculous purpose of the meme. Whether intentional or not, is fitting and has practically become the standard formatting of memes.

In this day and age, memes are impactful and have especially exploded in the world of politics due to the most recent election. Can jokes bring down government? No, but they can open up new perspectives or be destructive channel of information for the ill informed or feeble minded (for example: not being able to tell a photoshopped image from reality.) A notable quote from the reading highlights, “As memes transform, DSG asserts that there is still a sense of order in the chaos, as “only the minimum trace of the original joke needs to remain – or no trace at all, as long as those on the joke can trace back the heritage of the joke to the original.” To keep a method to the madness design can intervene, “Design-as-meme is a focal point for tacit ideological coordination, a public in-joke, a general strike of common sense-making.”…. “Designers, rather than directly designing the messages themselves, may also create the formats to best channel them.”

Regardless of who you are or where you stand, this particular discussion in the reading was really relevant, the following quote is relatable to Trump’s rhetorical practices,”Responding to a sensical question with a meaningless answer is an effective tool to negate the politics of the frame in which the question was posed….” to support that comparison I included the meme below that uses a familiar Trump phrase sometimes used in responses, “You’re fired”.



Taylor Frank – Secondary Research Individual

“After the Crash: The Lingering Results of the Foreclosure Crisis in Our Communities”

Source: Working In Neighborhoods (WIN)
Date Composed: 2015

Thesis: Cincinnati families were losing their homes, number of vacant properties grew, leading Working in Neighborhoods organization to map out all the vacant properties and gather documented foreclosures that grew rapidly from the financial crisis.

Useful Information:

  • Completed Sheriff’s Sales in Hamilton County fell 27 percent, from 2,418 completed Sheriff’s Sales in 2013 to 1,766 in 2014. This is the lowest number of completed foreclosures in the county since 2002
  • New foreclosure filings in 2014 fell 21.5 percent compared to new filings in 2013, from 4,268 to 3,350.This is the lowest number of new foreclosures filed since 2002.
  • Foreclosures filed by six lenders account for more than half (51 percent) of Hamilton County properties sold at Sheriff’s Sale in 2014. Banks completing more than 100 Sheriff’s Sales in 2014 include: US Bank (195), Bank of America (183), Wells Fargo (151), Fifth Third (149), CitiBank (117) and JP Morgan Chase (113).
  • Mortgages that were originated between 2005 and 2008 made up 35 percent of all completed Sheriff’s Sales in Hamilton County in 2014, according to County Auditor property transfer records. This number does not include mortgages that were refinanced or properties that acquired second mortgages during this time period.
  • Tax foreclosures made up 22.1 percent of all new foreclosures filed in 2014
  • The number of third-party tax lien certificate sales ending in Sheriff’s Sale has increased for the fourth year in a row, from 1 in 2011 to 42 in 2014.

Recovery: “Cincinnati — Sustained Growth from a Solid Foundation”

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
Date Composed: March 2016

Thesis: Cincinnati metro area’s economy continues to deliver strong econonmic results, particularly with growth in the leisure and hospitality and construction sectors. These sectors, supported by a diversified manufacturing base, provide opportunities for the region to grow long into the future. Employment growth is strong and the unemployment rate has declined to its lowest level in more than ten years, remaining among the lowest of the metro areas in the Fourth Federal Reserve District.

Useful Information:

  • Cincinnati has yet to recover its pre-recession employment levels, but job growth remains solid.”
  • “Through the end of the third quarter of 2015, employment in the metro area stood approximately 0.5 percent below its pre-recession level. This performance was in line with the rate of recovery in Ohio, but lagged the recovery pace for the average of nearby metro areas and the United States, which have seen increases of approximately 1.5 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively.”
  • “The Cincinnati metro area and the nation continue to see stronger income growth per capita than the state and nearby metros. Since the end of the recession in June 2009, income per capita in the Cincinnati metro area has increased by 4.6 percent. This is in line with the national average, which has increased by 4.7 percent.”
  • “Remaining above its post-recession low, homebuilding in the greater Cincinnati region is gaining steam. Housing supply remains tight, helping to prop up house prices. Multifamily vacancy rates remain low as apartment construction has yet to catch up with the growth in regional demand.”
  • “According to 2014 US Census Bureau estimates, Cincinnati is the 28th largest of the 381 metropolitan statistical areas in the United States.”

“Economic Growth Drives Demand in Cincinnati Commercial Property Markets”

Source: Colliers International
Date Composed: 2015

Thesis: After the 2008 FInancial Crisis, the Cincinnati Commercial real estate market witnessed growth across occupancy in office, industrial, retail and multifamily properties; some to historic levels as in the case with industrial.

Useful Information:

  • “The story of the year is job growth as the region’s unemployment rate dropped 90 basis points to 4.3 percent by the end of December, while the labor force increased by 2.2 percent.“
  • “REDI Cincinnati’s year-end report indicates that more than 14,000 jobs were created or retained during the year, of which 7,700 were new jobs.”
  • “Along with job growth, personal income is forecast to grow an average of 5.7 percent over the next ve years, outpacing both the U.S. and Midwestern projected averages.”
  • “In Cincinnati, occupancy increased during the the year by 120 basis points to 95.5 percent. Rents increased by 3.1 percent year-over-year; above the market’s ve-year average of 2.6 percent.”
  • “Cincinnati’s multifamily construction activity and quarterly deliveries remain above average, with 250,000 permits forecast to increase by nearly 70 percent in 2016”

Overall Synthesis: Cincinnati was effected by the financial crisis in 2008, but was one of the cities that was least effected comparable to the other cities throughout the United States. The data and research found from the resources above show that Cincinnati is recovering well from the financial crisis, in some cases such as the increase for the demand of industrial industry has made strides of success. There are still some foreclosures around the city, but foreclosure filings have gone down through the years, a 27% decrease in filings from 2013 to 2014. Even the jobs in Cincinnati has grown since 2008, but is only 0.5% under the pre-recession line in 2015. Cincinnati has been making strides to build their economy stronger than pre-recession, and continues to build it.

Secondary Research : Individual / Ashley Siwek

The Local Story: Cincinnati
Recession, Recovery(?)/Inequalities, Gentrification/Displacement

Gentrification/Displacement: “Analysis of social costs of gentrification in Over-the-Rhine: a qualitative approach.”

Thesis: The study, “Analysis of social costs of gentrification in Over-the-Rhine: a qualitative approach”, examines the social costs and benefits of the gentrification process using qualitative methods. Using in-depth interviews, participant observation, a focus group, and print media, this dissertation sought to understand the social costs and benefits of gentrification in OTR.

Overview: There is a lot to take away from this analysis – I was able to read the abstract and skim pages 43 and on to find some compelling information. The analysis explores gentrification and its effects of displacement in OTR. It delves into the breakdown of different “tracts” in OTR and examines the races, education, income, etc. of each tract to give insight to the makeup of tracts – most of which is accounted for as a “flux as new middle-class residents replace longtime lower-income residents.” Another snippet I pulled from the 190 page thesis was a 5 year census tract of housing in OTR from 2008-2012 which gives a breakdown of housing by vacancy, occupancy, and the makeup of those households (not included in my data but detailed information within the document).

Source: The University of Louisville’s Institutional Repository

Date Composed: 2014

Data + Quotes:

  • “As expected, the greatest social cost of gentrification is displacement and the erosion of social capital. In OTR, gentrification also caused a palpable rift between its proponents (city, 3CDC, developers, corporate interests, and newcomers) and its opponents (longtime residents, social service organizations, advocacy groups, and the displaced and homeless). The greatest social benefits include increased tax receipts, social mixing via de-concentration of poverty, and an upgrading of the disinvested neighborhood.”
  • “Two of the six displacees interviewed also said they chose to remain homeless because it brought them greater happiness.”
  • “In an effort to “promote economic vitality,” to date, 3CDC has invested over $300 million for renovation, revitalization and redesign in OTR. 3CDC’s focus on market-rate development has led to stricter police controls, resulting revanchism (reminiscent of “Operation Vortex” in the 1980s) and further marginalization of the poor and the homeless (Diskin and Dutton, 2006). “
  • “Policies such as Cincinnati City Council’s “Impaction Ordinance” and “Historic district designation” have reduced the affordable housing supply and put economic pressure on existing residents via building violations and fines.” (Pg. 43)
  • “According to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, the five census tracts (census tracts 9-11, 16, and 17) comprising OTR have 5,369 housing units. Of the 5,369 housing units, 62.8% (3,321 units) remain vacant while 37.2% (1,966 units) are occupied. Of the occupied households, 12.2% (239 units) are owner occupied while 87.8% (1,727 units) are renter occupied (Table 4). 98.1% (4,611 units) of the household units were built prior to 1939 and 1.9% (90 units) were built since 2000.”
  • “The majority of individuals with less than high school graduation live in tract 9 and earn the lowest income in OTR. Tract 9 also houses the majority of high school graduates.”
  • “Today, one can find the physical and social makeup of the community in flux as new middle-class residents replace longtime lower-income residents.“
  • Page 67 gives a great visualization to a breakdown of people who were interviewed…


Recovery: “Struggling Consumers in Cincinnati Say Recession Changed How They Handle Their Finances. But is It Enough?”

Thesis: The article, “Struggling Consumers in Cincinnati Say Recession Changed How They Handle Their Finances. But is it enough?”, explores Cincinnati how the recession affected Cincinnati residents, more specifically African Americans that were most heavily impacted by the crisis by means of surveying and summarizing results.

Overview: The article examines the results of a survey conducted a few years after the crisis by the Blackstone Group of Cincinnati residents, with a focus on the African American citizens. Data is examined collectively and comparatively to assess how the recession affected the Cincinnati area. A focus is put onto the African citizens because Black America had the highest unemployment rates and were heavily impacted by the the housing and credit crisis. The data itself gives insights on recovery views(positive and anxious), actions taken in response to the crisis, and current standings in finances.

Source: PYMNTS/The Blackstone Group

Date Composed: 2010

Data + Quotes:

  • “As Cincinnati residents begin to emerge from the Great Recession, they are hungry for financial insight and guidance to help rebuild household balance sheets and to start planning for a brighter financial future.”
  • “As the world continues to recover from the recession, Black America has the highest unemployment rates, was heavily impacted by the housing crisis and was hit hard by the credit crisis.”
  • “African Americans in Cincinnati have made more positive changes in the past year than the general population as a result of the economy, including creating a household budget (42 percent to 26 percent), reducing spending other than entertainment (49 percent to 40 percent), and using cheaper transportation (25 percent to 15 percent). “
  • “Sixty one percent of all respondents have cut back on eating out and entertainment in the past twelve months due to the economy.”
  • “The majority of African American (83 percent) and general population (97 percent) respondents remain at least somewhat worried about the economy.”
  • “Only about half of all respondents (45 percent general population, 50   percent African American) agree that having a clear financial plan is   necessary to achieve goals.”
  • “One-third (36 percent) of African American respondents do not spend any time on savings or investment activities, compared to about one-fifth (17 percent) of the general population.”
  • “One-fourth (24 percent) of general population respondents consider saving for retirement their most important household goal, significantly more than the just eight percent of African American respondents who agreed.”
  • “Significantly more African American (87 percent) than general population (55 percent) respondents do not have a financial advisor. Of those who don’t have an advisor, only about one-fourth (26 percent general population, 29 percent African American) think they need one.”
  • “Thirty one percent of African Americans said they are struggling with credit card debt, with 17 percent of the general population admitting to the same struggles.”


Recovery: “Cincinnati—Strong, Sustained Growth”

Thesis: This publication asses statistical changes in different sectors such as Employment and Industrial, Income, Consumer Finances, Housing Market, Demographics and Education of the Cincinnati area from 2005 to 2016.

Overview: The publication gives insight to different areas of sustained growth in the different sectors of the Cincinnati area. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland compares these sectors to pre-recession and comparisons dating as far back as 25 years in some examples. The data shows patterns of increase in Cincinnati not seen in other areas of Ohio. Within the last two years we have seen a relative stabilization and growth in different sectors that were affected by the recession. In addition to data there are many graphs included that visual the rise and fall of different sectors from 2005 to 2016.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Date Composed: 2016

Data + Quotes:

  • “Cincinnati-area employment expanded by 2 percent in 2014 and 2015, a meaningful increase in growth that led the area to finally exceed its pre-recession employment peak.” (Employment Chart)
  • “The area’s unemployment rate remains low and close to the lowest levels seen since the early 2000s. (Unemployment Chart)
  • “Cincinnati-area home prices have grown at an annual rate of about 5 percent in the two-year period through June 2016, with the issuance of residential building permits increasing sharply in the first five months of 2016.”
  • “Finally, as is also true nationally, consumer debt levels have stabilized significantly in the two years ending in 2016.”
  • “During the past 25 years, Cincinnati’s unemployment rate has generally been below the national average.” (Overview?)
  • “Cincinnati’s real per capita GDP growth has consistently been stronger than that of the nation during the recovery.”
  • “Cincinnati-area employment finally exceeded its pre-recession employment peak for the first time since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007.”
  • “Three sectors experienced employment gains in the Cincinnati area that were notably stronger than their gains nationally: construction; manufacturing; and trade, transportation, and utilities.”


Each of these resources touch on different areas of the Cincinnati Local Story, but together they tell different parts of the story. The Federal Reserve article examines an overview of Cincinnati from 2005 – 2015 in areas such as Unemployment, Housing, Industries, etc. Where as the thesis paper from The University of Louisville’s Institutional Repository dives deeper into the makeup of the citizens that effect the overviews in Unemployment, Housing, etc. as examined in the Federal Reserve. Even further into detail is the article discussing a survey conducted by the Blackstone Group to citizens in Cincinnati to gain insight into their first hand thoughts and actions. Between the three resources we can begin to paint a fuller picture of how the crisis affected Cincinnati. Examining the information further to learn any patterns or overlaps will help us begin to understand and craft the story we are trying to tell on a data supported + human level.


Reading Response 1/Ashley Siwek

In the report, “Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse”, the U.S. Senate tries to summarize the cause of the economic collapse that took place in 2008 by shedding light on the risky lending, poor regulation, inflated credit ratings, and quality of financial products.

An interesting amount of focus in this report suggested that greediness led to poor practices across the board. A lot of scrutiny was focused on the quality of these loans plagued with complexity and fraudulency that came from deficient lending practices within different institutions. The fault continues to the Office of Thrift Supervision, which identified these serious deficiencies but failed to take action. The lack of follow through of meaningful enforcement is not thoroughly addressed in the text. It is stated that the reasoning appeared to be that OTS examiners simply identified problems, but relied on the bank’s assurances that they would be corrected, but after years of following this system those changes never occurred. In addition to that OTS was able to imped FDIC in the process. In return “OTS’ failure to restrain unsafe lending practices allowing high risk loans at the bank to proliferate, negatively impacting investors across the US and the world.” A good question arises as to why a federal agency would continuously look the other way? The answer seems to point back to greed and uncover potential for corruption on the federal side.


In comparison, “The 2008 Housing Crisis”, Colin McArthur and Sara Edelman present an argument that the government programs themselves were not to blame, but rather the lack of regulation and minimal oversight is what lead to the spread of predatory lending and growth of the of PLS market.

In general, the article supports the government and the programs put in place to expand the housing market and ensure the opportunity of home ownership to different classes to stimulate the economy. Although on the flip side, regardless of how wonderful these initiatives were the government is still not free of blame for the crisis. Their attempt of regulation with OTS ended with “disastrous results”. Such a large push towards banks and lenders for rapport must be combatted with strong follow through of regulations and oversight by the government, especially when private label securities grow significantly.


Both supplements share a commonality in the evidence of overall lacking regulations. Regulatory failures set the stage for a financial crisis through oversights in enforcement and quality products. Ultimately, a better system should have been created to assist in the government initiative and programs that were put into place. I will be the first to admit that going into this assignment I knew close to nothing on this subject so naturally I watched a “dummies” video, which I have included below. My outside source was a Ted Talk regarding the 2008 Financial Crisis, which I discuss below.


2008 Financial Crisis for Dummies

Ted Talk…. The Real Truth About The 2008 Financial Crisis –>


Like the readings, the video itself has its own biased view but the reasoning for the crisis is different than what was focused on in the readings. It begins with discussing how the Federal Reserve lowered the interest rate to 1% and how that was below inflation at the time, therefore causing people to have a “green” light to make a purchase bigger than they can afford. Although this is nothing new, according to this talk, in the past when interests rates were set too low it was a contributing factor that led the Great Depression. The speaker also ties in the Mark-To-Market accounting that also responsible for many banks failing during the Great Depression. At the time of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt suspended the Mark-To-Market. We then see it become active around the time that the 2008 financial crisis occurred, but was then once again suspended and can potentially be attributed to the quick recovery of the economy.

The conclusion was that it wasn’t the banks fault, but the governments… which seems to be an overarching theme. Going back to the phrase that “History repeats itself” suggests that if these points made in the talk stand true there might be merit in studying these patterns in history.