Big Adjustments – Research Update #1

Although I began the summer with extravagant intentions to conduct interviews with a diverse population of Williamsburg residents on the ways in which they experience housing access, my advisor and I quickly came to the understanding that scheduling and preparing for such a grand project was a bit too lofty a goal for a mere 7-week endeavor. Luckily, after reading many of my colleagues’ blog posts, major changes to our original ideas seem to be relatively commonplace. So rather than attempting to construct the meaningful community connections necessary for an interview-based project, I have turned my attention to mainstream media and opinion articles authored by locals. More specifically, I have focused on exploring the Virginia Gazette’s Last Word column–a space where individuals can anonymously submit short blurbs or responses to current events happening both close to home and globally. Thus my original aim of extrapolating how Williamsburg and James City County residents understand, experience, and respond to the housing market has remaining largely the same, but face-to-face interactions have been replaced by commentary submitted to the Virginia Gazette.

When conducting preliminary investigations into these Last Word pieces using key phrases such as “affordable housing” and “housing market,” a pattern arose in the form of controversy surrounding a potential affordable housing project known as Oakland Pointe to be built in nearby Toano (about 10 minutes from the heart of Williamsburg). Interestingly enough, multiple professors with whom I have been in contact with surrounding this research–including my advisor–had mentioned Oakland Pointe and the increasing public contention around its construction. This new information propelled me to zero in on Last Word commentary surrounding affordable housing and the Pointe project more specifically, which revealed a multitude of compelling opinions from local residents using the column as a platform for voicing their concerns or support. The most significant of these initial findings relates to the language used by a clear majority of respondents from either side of the conversation to describe the residents for whom affordable housing units such as Oakland Pointe are being build. Virtually every Last Word author discussing this issue referred to the potential subsidized renters’ status as laborers and stressed the importance of protecting the economic interests of the city and surrounding areas above all else. Such perspectives have guided my research towards investigating how Williamsburg/JCC’s historical and contemporary housing and economic practices influence modern opinion on new housing construction efforts and, more importantly, the individuals who will reside within them.


  1. egheinze says:

    You are definitely not alone in making major changes to your research plans! It’s good to see that you adjusted accordingly and are still keeping that excitement about your research up. This is an interesting project and even more so because it is so local. I’m excited to see what more you uncover!

  2. ejclinton says:

    I think that the revision of your data collection method is understandable given the limited amount of time for summer research. From a demographic or sociological perspective, I am interested in how the commentary you use from the Gazette will impact your results. Namely, I wonder if there are commonalities in age/socioeconomic status/political affiliation among the types of locals who submit to the Gazette?

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