“Sankofa City” Dissertation

Sankofa City is my dissertation project, based on 4+ years of working with Ben Caldwell and the Leimert Phone Company.

We will explore the nexus of emerging technology, art, and community-based urban design, to provide visions for the future of local innovation and cultural development in Los Angeles.

“Sankofa City” is a collaboration between USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, Ben Caldwell’s Kaos Network, and Urban Systems nonprofit autonomous vehicles company. The project proves that large research universities, nonprofits, and local communities can work together and empower local citizens to imagine alternative urban technologies that work for the public good.

The advent of new urban-based technologies means that the future form of Los Angeles will be unlike anything one can now imagine. For example, how might self-driving vehicles and augmented reality be used to change our relationship to the city – to even change the city itself? We will conduct a series of collaborative workshops with artists, students, technical experts, and local Leimert Park residents, to create vivid scenarios of the possibilities to share with the public and spark debate.

Memory Cellars

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Memory Cellars is an augmented tour of the new Cinema building. The tour is constructed of binaural sound and voice acting to build a speculative future in which the building is a distributed archive and research headquarters for the MemCel company. The fictional characters give competing stories of the mysterious on goings of the company’s research and it’s foundation. The different stories and archival information are distributed throughout the building and triggered by the participant’s proximity. So it’s up to the participant to traverse the building in order to find different narrative clues and put the pieces together. In addition each story ends with a prompt in which the participant can record their own memories or ideas and thus add to the archive.

The Leimert Phone Company

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The Leimert Phone Company is a community design project in South Los Angeles. By repurposing payphones, the project seeks to reclaim public space and create cultural portals to local arts, music, and business. South LA is set to change over the next 10 years as planners focus on development around a new subway line through the area. In the face of possible gentrification, how can a community art project deepen neighborhood identity and broaden access to local business? Our collaborative team chose payphones as sites for public intervention and transmedia storytelling tied to justice.

The Leimert Phone team is composed of students from USC and local artists from Leimert Park. Through a 5-week workshop participants formed 3 project groups to develop unique designs. The workshop used rapid-prototyping and playtesting to facilitate lo-fi transmedia designs to share stories and access local music, history, artwork, and business. Each group presented their work on April 6, 2013 to local residents, students, and a panel of expert community organizers. The groups’ presentations included concept videos, detailed design handouts, visual mockups, and a hardware demo. Examples included a phone to play, download, and purchase tickets to local hip-hop acts. Other one sent you on a scavenger hunt to local businesses to collect stories and receive discounts. (Check out group videos http://leimertphonecompany.net/week-4-concept-videos/)

Visions of Aleph

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Videogames lie within a matrix of media, fantasy, and physical action. What would it look like to create a game world that makes explicit this complex position? “Visions of Aleph” drops the player into a world made of text and populated by flying whales, a dreamlike liminal space between fantasy and reality. The game invites poetic play and interpretation as the player explores the rich landscape. Each flying whale that they encounter triggers audio of short story snippets, so their choices and affinities within the world determine the order of the stories. With each play through, the narrative pieces are redistributed randomly and create open-ended story systems for the players to reassemble. What meaning will the player find in their various stories? Will the player discover a grounded reality within this fantastical landscape? You’ll have to play to find out.

(Online Version Coming Soon)

Livingverse

Livingverse (2010, Mobile/Mixed Media)

The Livingverse thesis project consisted of an interactive locative media project, a feature length documentary, and a research paper. The locative media tour used binaural recordings and archival audio/video to create an immersive narrative world to explore our contemporary global networked society through layering other historical places onto the architectural contours of the Digital Arts Research Lab at UCSC. Rather than presenting global networks through abstracted graphical representations of nodal relationships, the Livingverse project creates an interactive experience that directly engages the embodied perceptual and affective elements of the individual in relationship to these larger historical events and social transformations. Originally exhibited at the Things that are Possible DANM Thesis Show in 2010.

Lebenverse: Living Video Memory

Lebenverse: Living Video Memory (2009, HDV 73mins)

The documentary analyzed the Gulf Wars, the Rodney King beating, and the Iranian “twitter revolution,” focusing on the emerging social formations and shifting power relations accompanying the proliferation of personal technologies. It was filmed across the US as I interviewed Gulf War veterans, LA Riot witnesses, and cultural studies scholars such as Marita Sturken, Hamid Naficy, and Alison Landsberg. The documentary was funded by the competitive UC Berkeley Human Rights Grant and was a collaborative research project with the Witness organization in New York.

Amnemonic Devices

Amnemonic Devices (2009, Mixed Media)   by Karl Baumann & Elizabeth Travelslight

The project explores the contours of memory and forgetting through a layered web of materials, images, and lights.  A mixed media installation consisting of three projectors, VHS magnetic tapes, mirrors, tule, and other fabrics.  The collaboration was a formal dialogue concerning issues of memory and time, focusing on Marita Sturken’s idea of “entangled memory” and the Deleuzian concept of the “fold” in Baroque models of time.  The installation was originally exhibited at UCSC in 2009.

Extended version