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Firescapes: Powerlines & Trees Collaboratory

Project Details

Project Year: 2022-2023

Project Type: Collaboratory


Peggy Weil, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Film & Television Production, School of Cinematic Arts, USC

Innovation Scholars

Yuwei Lin, Interactive Media and Game Design
Susan Tang, Environmental Studies
Jasmine Yu, Computer Science
Major Yang, Applied Math and Computer Science
Nicole Carrera, GeoDesign

Special Guests

Daniel Wuebben, Liberal Studies, NYU Madrid
Erik Loyer, Creative Technologist
Peter Westwick, Adjunct Professor (Research) of History, USC

The Collaboratory

Terraforming Mars Collaboratory
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Students in this Collaboratory spent fall 2022 researching and collating resources related to wildfires, grid infrastructure, tree coverage, and the history of power generation in California. They met with special guests Peter Westwick, professor of history at USC, and Daniel Wuebben, author of Power-Lined: Electricity, Landscape, and the American Mind. 

Students then began to brainstorm, design, produce, and playtest a multimedia map-based visualization, incorporating dynamic layers and links, to serve as a narrative documentation of the impact of infrastructure, nature and climate on Los Angeles neighborhoods. 

The Outcomes 

Terraforming Mars Collaboratory
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Students in the the Firescapes Collaboratory produced a short interactive experience called Follow the Wires. In the experience, users control a flock of birds as they investigate a 3D map of California marked with major power transmission lines, data, media, and historical documents. Users can enter into and examine specific fire sites, including Getty, Dixie, and Camp to see primary source footage and images from those fires. The aim of the experience is to encourage alternative views of a familiar landscape by making information, media, and documentation available in an interactive space.