Ahmanson Lab: Collaboratory - 2021-2022
“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
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.
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.
The Chinatown History Project (CHP) is a multi-faceted research and outreach endeavor to uncover the people and places of Los Angeles’ “first Chinatown” prior to its demolition in the late 1930s. The CHP will be working throughout 2021-2022 with potential partners, including the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Metro, to design and build digital projects that commemorate Old Chinatown for the 150th anniversary of the 1871 Chinese massacre.
Through the first term, Collaboratory students will assist with the historical research regarding the establishment of Los Angeles Chinatown, the people and businesses that arose there from the mid-19th century forward, and the topography and urban layout of this polyglot community. As the term deepens, Collaboratory students will begin to work with Ahmanson Lab staff as well as students in Cinema to strategize a digital project that best visualizes what was lost of “old Chinatown.”
Through the Spring term, Collaboratory students will help design a digital project and explore installation opportunities with CHP partners. This digital project may take the form of an AR or VR experience, or an interactive 3-D model of “first Chinatown.”
Bunker Hill Refrain provides an opportunity for scholars and the general public to reimagine the history of Los Angeles by telling the stories of a neighborhood erased by urban renewal. Over the course of a year, the research team will use three sources of data created by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s (an architectural model, maps, and census data) to create a digital project that visualizes the material and social environment of the hill before and after redevelopment.
Students in the Bunker Hill Refrain Collaboratory will conduct research with primary sources, work with GIS data, and explore ways to output their findings in various digital formats, including digital mapping and storytelling, data visualizations, and 3D modeling and VR.