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Research: Cultural Civic Computing

IMLab LASHP Trails App

UCLA REMAP and California State Parks, 2011-present.

As an extension of the ongoing collaboration between UCLA REMAP and California State Parks, the Interpretive Media Laboratory (IMLab) is developing a mobile app to provide historical and cultural context for urban trails in Los Angeles. The current mobile website version (unveiled Spring 2014) presents three looped "interactive interpretive" trails that start at the Los Angeles State Historic Park (IMLab's "Living Laboratory") and wind through some of the oldest sections of the City. Intended to encourage local community members to engage with L.A.'s history while also enjoying its public green spaces, the site provides photos and facts about the rich stages of development that previously occurred along the user's path.

Rather than serving as a typical navigation system or mobile distance tracker, the site allows users to customize their experiences and find the information and locations that interest them, whether they be related to the original natural environment, the landscape's opportunities for fitness activities, interesting places to eat, milestones in transportation, urban and industrial development, etc. By using the site while physically present, users create their own narrative, as they discover the history, cultural significance, and even urban myths about spots along the paths that they choose to travel. A full mobile application, which will include additional functions and eventually additional trails, is currently being developed.

Students from Franklin High School’s Arroyo Seco Academy inspired the project through their design of urban trails starting at LASHP in late 2011. The students were exposed to the new Park by the Los Angeles City Planning Department through a grant from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program. Realizing the historic significance of the Park, the students chose it to become the hub of an urban trail network that would connect to Little Tokyo, the Grand entertainment corridor, historic Solano Canyon, Elysian Park, and Lincoln Heights – highlighting historic, cultural and recreational amenities along each route. In collaboration with LA City Planning, the students, their parents, teachers, lawmakers, community members, and the California Endowment discussed the possibility of formalizing this trail network. California State Parks and IMLab were asked to contribute through wayfinding markers and a digital site that would incorporate historical information and images, along with calorie counting and mileage tracking capabilities.

Site: imlab.ucla.edu/activities/lashp-trails/

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