Students Map their Neighborhood and Memory

Note: Click the icon at the bottom of the entry to view the student-made maps of Venice.

Brainstorming techniques are an essential part of developing a documentary. The first thing that student producers do as part of their participation in Departures Youth Voices is to define their neighborhoods and its meaningful places by looking inward. This exploration begins with students brainstorming their personal experiences that each student may have had at a given location. Tara McPherson explains this subjective aspect of local geography in her essay "Mapping Selves," which was published in the Rites of Passage installment of KCET's Webstories, where students from Central Los Angeles drew similar personal maps of their community. She writes, "We all carry maps in our heads, powerfully processed networks of the places we inhabit and the spaces that matter. In these mental maps, memories overwrite physical reality, merging the world around us with powerful emotions."

Students were asked to critically examine their neighborhood on geographical, social, and personal levels. What is the make-up of your neighborhood? Where do you find excitement, peace, community? Are there obstacles that get in the way of your daily travel and errands? This phase is a great way to brainstorm multimedia ideas using traditional tools - paper, pencils, and markers.

The student producers were given the questionnaire below, which aimed to tease out the complicated relationship between memory, personal history and community.

1- A place - corner or location that you want to see changed (and why)
2- A Place that is no longer there (that has been replaced or destroyed)
3- A Place that has a deep personal meaning for or relation to you
4- A Place that you escape to
5- A Place that has "history"
6- A great place to hang out
7- A mentor or neighbor
8- A person from the hood that you see or relate to everyday (not your friends or family)
9- A place where a group of people come together to participate in a shared activity
10- A person that defines your neighborhood for you
11- A Place or persona that you are afraid to meet, cross paths with, relate to
12- A great place to eat
13- A place where you find city government, civil workers, or law enforcement
14- Your favorite alley
15- Your favorite pad

The hand-drawn maps from students at Venice High School give you an almost four-dimensional view of Venice. First, street locations are fixed by hand in the two, standard dimensions of geography and compasses, but, because the students are working by hand, we also get a third shadow dimension as students edit their surroundings by omission, contraction and expansion of their physical space. A final layer is added when students are asked to annotate their maps with an acetate transparency that provides the kind of context and meta-data available using interactive tools: Why do you like to hang out at this place? What scares you about this area? What recent changes have occurred here that are to your liking or dismay?

Below are the maps from our great student producers sharing their vision of what their neighborhoods are like.

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