How-To

Is it lack of imagination that makes us come to
imagined places, not just stay at home?

Elizabeth Bishop

Los Angeles has a bad reputation; they call it the city of sprawl, a place with no center and no cohesiveness, a city with an intricate web of freeways that take residents from suburb to suburb erasing the concept of place, neighborhood and community.

We don't share these preconceptions (although some of them may be true). We believe that Los Angeles is an amazing, contradictory city unlike any other.

For those of us who love LA and stick with it through thick and thin, the Departures team has ventured into the city to record its deep social and cultural history, and spoken with hundreds of people (residents, historians, migrants, to name just a few) to create multilayered portraits of the neighborhoods and people that compose this city.

An oral history project, an interactive documentary, a community engagement tool, a digital literacy project, Departures is an ecology of media that may be likened to the slow food movement: locally grown, produced and consumed. There's logic behind the madness we've created, an intricate structure behind the whimsy of scrollable murals and pins on a map.

This is how it all comes together.

Neighborhoods as cities have boundaries defined by history, culture, commerce and economy. These defining areas create for us what we call Chapters in a neighborhood - these chapters are presented as a series of virtual murals that provide a context from where to view the area. Each mural has a series of portraits of people, places and things. These portraits are presented to you through a series of video clips that allow you to explore and learn about a particular neighborhood. Each one of this people, places or things has a particular geographic location that you can find in our map. The map has a series of colored pins that define different neighborhoods and source of content. For example, we chose a sandy orange to define Venice, a deep red to denote Chinatown and so on. Similarly, the pins you find on the map are broken into three categories:

     D is for the portraits that our production team created
     S is for the portraits that our youth created
     C is for the portraits that you, the community, upload in the map

Our goal with this map is to create a participatory narrative cartography of the city.

Departures is a non-linear media experience that needs your input, curiosity and wit to be completed. Although carefully structured to create a context for your journey, Departures functions like an atomized documentary, where all of its pieces lay floating, awaiting for you to make sense of them.