California Text + Terrain: Visualizing Ideology and Environment

Project Details

Project Year: 2021-2022

Project Type: Collaboratory


Erik Loyer,


Allan Josiah Bexton,
Landin Green,
Cameron Roper,
Sophie Shack,
Kevin Yin,

Special Guests

Ayana Jamieson,
Lynell George,

Students in this Collaboratory will help design an immersive digital experience that illustrates the power of words and ideology on California’s social and environmental future. The digital experience will be on display in Doheny Memorial Library as part of USC Libraries' Visions & Voices event, California Dystopia: Understanding Climate Change and Social Collapse through Science Fiction.

For this project, students will work with Ahmanson Lab staff, creative technologist, Erik Loyer, and Octavia Butler scholars, Lynell George and Ayana Jamieson, and use Loyer’s Text + Terrain Toolkit, a new framework for building poetic visualizations from words. They will help create an immersive 3D setting that turns the subtext of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower into literal text that has the power to shape the natural and built environment.

“Words are things, I’m convinced… Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. I think they get on the walls, they get in your wallpaper, they get in your rugs, in your upholstery, in your clothes. And, finally, into you.” - Maya Angelou

How does one creatively visualize the effects of words and ideology on the environment in ways that have the greatest impact? Students, might, for instance, use the actual text of one of LA's discriminatory housing covenants to model how housing practices lead to environmental racism. Or they might transform auto advertising copy into a force that suppresses public transportation in favor of car culture, and in turn, accelerates the advent of global warming.


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