L.A.tin@ Noir at Night

Project Overview (Chicanx 291, Spring 2015: A. Gaspar de Alba)

Project Link: L.A.tin@ Noir At Night Blog Name/ Noir NameFemme Fatale Final Project Link(s): L.A.tin@ Literature at Night Map & Creative Writing Final Course Description: “How does Los Angeles at night encapsulate the formal and aesthetic elements of “noir” genre fiction? How is the night symbolic of the “dark” aspects of Chicana/o and Latina/o culture, such as narco-narratives (popular music and television), gendered death tolls (the murdered young women and girls on the U.S.-Mexico border), and other nightmares (AIDS, human trafficking, police brutality, family betrayal)? How is night a metaphor for forgetting, as both cultural and historical amnesia? How does the night alter our experience of and relationship to the city? This blog, our stories, and our literary mapping of the city leave clues about our individual and collective L.A.tinidad in the City of Angels.” Course made possible through the Urban Humanities Initiative.

Project Role

This course was my initial attempt to a) build a site, b) build course readings around work in GIS and spatiality, and c) attempt to use Fusion tables in a meaningful way. I was hired as Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s research assistant during this course, and my duties included building and maintaining the site, offering in-class tutorials on FusionTables, creating the final class map (linked above), in addition to participating in the course. Participation included class field trips through downtown Los Angeles and to Griffith Observatory and the creation of a place-based fictional story based on our research of Los Angeles.

Below is the syllabus with my contributions in red. My suggested readings included J. Farman, T. Gillespie, C. Sandoval, and L. Nakamura. I presented on S. Noble’s article in Week 3.

Reflection

While this was not officially offered as a DH course, I wanted to include this project because, in many ways, it signaled my entry into authorship/ creation in the field of DH. This course incorporated a strong place-based digital component which dovetailed beautifully with another course I was enrolled in — Yoh Kawano’s “Introduction to GIS.” Previously, I had only written about GIS in courses with a significant humanities component where the finals were formal papers. At this time, I had just begun to start thinking critically about Google’s portfolio of projects, much in the same way Safiya Noble does. As result of this training and research, I wanted to ensure that we were being critical of GIS (both in terms of what maps signify and the material infrastructures that support it) and critical of discourses on technology that are purely Utopian or celebratory. Hypercities was assigned reading in the course, and it was pivotal to a shift in my thinking about place, time, and story. That said, I was in the process of building an increasingly substantial theoretical repertoire with little to no practical skills. This first site was Weebly-based (WYSIWYG was less frightening to me), and FusionTables served as the base for all our mapping work. While the FusionTables interface was fairly upfront, I still struggled to work with it as a newcomer to the field. Perhaps most importantly, this class marked an important theme in the work I would continue to do with GIS around central questions like: How do you populate a place with a story in a meaningful way (fictional or otherwise)? What does mapping tell us about power, colonialism, and imperialism — historically and in our current moment? What possibilities or alternate pasts/ futures are made possible through the combination of narrative/mapping?

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