Friday, November 15

New digital humanities summer class to offer hands-on analyses of LA


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UCLA will offer a new interdisciplinary course involving hands-on projects and fieldwork in Los Angeles this summer.

Students registered in summer sessions can apply to Digital Humanities 30: “Los Angeles Tech City: Digital Technologies & Spatial Justice” until July 2. The five-unit course offers a combination of technology, design and urban humanities studies through hands-on projects and interactive fieldwork to analyze the city of Los Angeles.

The course consists of three seminars and three studio sessions per week July 3 through July 27. Students will use the studio times to explore the city and work on projects creating maps and films.

Professor Todd Presner, who will be teaching the course and is the chair of the digital humanities program, said the class is an introduction to the upcoming urban humanities minor for undergraduate students. He said in the last four years, UCLA’s urban humanities program provided a similar curriculum for graduate students only, and now the summer course gives undergraduates the same opportunity to explore and analyze the city.

“The program was really successful at the graduate level,” Presner said. “Students can be interested in technology, digital media, design or geography – all of those things are implemented in this class.”

Dana Cuff, also a professor for the course, said she thinks the course is a needed update for university courses because it combines both design and digital humanities, which has rarely been done before. She said she thinks this combination is perfect for undergraduate students who are unsure of what academic path to follow or are open to a more diverse curriculum.

“Undergrads have more wiggle room,” Cuff said. “This (course) is a way (for them) to look at a blended academic program geared more to the 21st century.”

Presner said one class project he looks forward to involves students mapping the city based on spatial data and racial boundaries. He said this project requires students to explore Los Angeles’ ethnic enclaves and interview local residents to analyze how racial stratifications and inequalities form.

“You can’t really appreciate a normal (racial) map unless you go out there and look at those borders,” Presner said. “This city is obviously not equal to everybody and that’s important to know.”

Another project will require students to watch the film “Blade Runner,” a 1982 science fiction action film set in dystopian downtown Los Angeles in 2019, and create their own film.

Jonathan Banfill, a graduate student in education, said he is excited to see students remix the scenes from the film with their own footage of Westwood.

“(‘Blade Runner’) is an integral film in LA history,” Banfill said. “We’re almost in the present of that future, and it takes on a lot of issues about the environment, rise of technology and alienation of the city.”

Students can also go on various field trips. Presner said he plans to take students to Silicon Beach, so they can interact with technology companies and connect with mapping technology and data for their own projects. Presner also said the trip will help students understand future career opportunities in the companies.

“There are whole new economies and work evolving, and this class is the kind of course where students entering into the new economy will really find their footing,” Cuff said.

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Science and health editor

Nakahara is the assistant news editor for the science and health beat. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat.


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