A bold new experiment incommunity-based computing is currently underway in downtown
"Thepurpose of Remapping LA is to understand what is going on socially andculturally in this location," said Jeff Burke, executive director of REMAP. "Wewant to provide a resource for local communities and other citizens so thatthey can explore first the history of the [
RemappingLA is partially funded by a
In the current, initial phase of Remapping LA,students enrolled in UCLA's Engaged Media Workshop fan out from a 19th-centuryice factory near Chinatown, armed with advanced mobile phones, GPS devices,digital cameras and geographic information systems, to compile a database ofphotos, maps, videos and audio recordings that, when combined with historicalmaterial, will provide a comprehensive profile of the legendary Los AngelesState Historic Park, an incongruous tract of open land near the city's firstcenter.
In the project's second phase, the new technologiesdeveloped by the students will be used to create something akin to a virtualguidebook for visitors to the park site. Later, the same tools will be turnedover to residents in various parts of the city to facilitate the explorationand mapping of their own neighborhoods.
"The Remapping LA project is an ideal example of ourcenter's research mission," said UCLA engineering professor William Kaiser,co-director of REMAP. "We have always focused on combining the creative andtechnology development talents of students and faculty with a goal of majorcultural contribution. The
Digital artist FabianWagmister, a UCLA associate professor of film, television and digital media whospearheaded the effort and serves as co-director of Remapping LA, compares theway the system will evolve to the user-created treasure trove of information onthe Web site Wikipedia.
"Because anyone who uses thesite can post there, you might expect it to get clogged up withmisinformation," he said. "But what happens is that wrong or one-sided stuffgets corrected or deleted, and the good stuff gets tagged and rises to the top.
"One of the greatadvantages of our approach from the point of view of the Department of Parks,"he said, "is that it is all done with virtual overlays. It can be implementedwithout any physical impact on the site whatsoever, therefore allowing constantrenovation and participatory evolution."
The works thatare created will be exhibited both in the park and in the adjacent
Oneclear difference between this enterprise and Wikipedia is that Remapping LAwill draw people away from their computers and into the neighborhood, since theoverlay interface is site-specific and will only work if one is at thelocation. The "mapping" that results as community members fan out and explorecan be used as the basis for indoor and outdoor multimedia installations,including, perhaps, animated billboards celebrating the cultural history of thearea.
Inorder to visualize how this might work, imagine that you are walking east along
But the use of the technology to create interactive guidebooks isonly the tip of the iceberg. "Think of it this way," EngagedMedia Workshop project coordinator Chase Knowles said. "Every day, our societyforces us to sift through mountains of media just to survive and understand oursurroundings. Being able to design and use media to self-define your ownenvironment can be a really exciting and empowering thing for many people."
The land just east ofChinatown on which the 32-acre LosAngeles State Historic Park sits was the site of the city's firstrailroad yard and is nicknamed the "cornfield" because of the corn seeds thatspilled from railroad hopper cars around 1879 and eventually producedcornstalks. Ardent community preservationists and state park officials, whopaid $36 million in 2001 to acquire the site, consider it a microcosm of
The Center for Research in Engineering, Media andPerformance, or REMAP, (http://bigriver.remap.ucla.edu/remap)is a joint effort of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and theUCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and AppliedScience. REMAP brings together world-class faculty and students from both campusunits to explore and create new, enriching cultural forms and empowering socialsituations through the thoughtful interweaving of engineering, the arts andcommunity development.
Established in 1945, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science offers28 academic and professional degree programs, including an interdepartmentalgraduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Ranked among the top 10engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home toseven multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in spaceexploration, wireless sensor systems, nanomanufacturing and defensetechnologies, which are funded by top national and professional agencies. Formore information, visit www.engineer.ucla.edu.
The UCLA Centerfor Community Partnerships is the driving force behind the university'scommitment to civic engagement with communities throughout