Departures' New Skin

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 and erase 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.

Because we love L.A. 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 has spoken with hundreds of people (residents, historians, migrants, to name just a few) to create multi-layered portraits of the neighborhoods that compose this city.

Part oral history project, part interactive documentary, part community engagement tool, and part digital literacy project, Departures is an media ecology whose overall arch could 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 have boundaries defined by history, culture, commerce and economy. These defining lines lend Departures its "chapters," which are presented as a series of virtual murals that reflect a set of issues in an 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. Additionally, 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. 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 or jigsaw puzzle, where the individual pieces invite you to make sense of them.

On top of the production work done by the shooters, designers and editors, the Departures Education team engages youth through a series of media production workshops. A curriculum specifically tailored for the series examines how multimedia theory and practice can re-link students to their personal and community history, issues in social science and the larger problem of civic engagement. Through this process students become knowledgeable about the history, geography, and socio-political issues facing their community, develop life and professional skills, learn technology and multimedia production, and become producers of KCET's web series Departures.

Come visit our first installment and tell me what you think!

About the Author

Juan Devis is a Public Media artist and producer, whose work crosses across platforms – video, film, interactive media and gaming. His work, regardless of the medium is often produced collaboratively allowing for a greater exchange of ideas in the produ
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