Mapping: Organizing Space

Jesus Salas Personal Map
Jesus Salas Personal Map

Mapping Mapping Mapping!

For the last couple of weeks Youth Voices producers have focused on understanding and using maps to explore and share stories of their community. Students were first introduced to personal maps and asked to identify 10 hotspots in their neighborhood. Hotspots are places, people and events that are meaningful to them for a variety of reasons. They represent a part of each student's personal experiences with their neighborhood, and will guide them through the process of drawing their personal maps. A second clear layer, placed directly above the map, provides an additional opportunity for annotation and detail for each hotspot.

Mario Saucedo's Map

In an earlier incarnation of Departures, entitled Webstories, Tara McPherson, in reference to students' personal maps, wrote that "memory overwrites physical reality." This is certainly the case for the current crop of student producers, who placed locations that are not in the same physical vicinity next to each other on the map, while other places (streets, businesses, etc.) were simply omitted. Distance is based on experiences, so Cypress Park may be adjacent to Burbank, or Atwater Village to Whittier. In many ways this follows the history of cartography, where maps have not always been simple representations of reality but a tool used to conceptualize and organize space. The personal maps, the hotspots, and the second annotated layer function as tools for the students to conceptualize and organize their space -- or their community.

After completing their personal maps, the students elaborated their ideas with interactive Google maps. The three digital maps (one for each school) provide an expanded vision of Northeast Los Angeles based again on the students' experiences: where they hang out, where they play sports, where they feel safe or where they choose to avoid. This virtual landscape allows the viewer to see how the students collectively understand and utilize their community. They placed a selection of their hotspots on the map, and added descriptions and media that further explain their connection to the location.

L.A. River School Collaborative Map
L.A. River School Collaborative Map

This process of mapping -- selecting hotspots, drawing the map, placing the hotspots, and adding additional layers of descriptions and detail -- raises vital questions and issues about community, while identifying and nurturing links between the students.

Stay tuned as the Youth Voices student producers dive into the multimedia workshops and continue to build their neighborhood stories with photography, audio and video.

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