Mission Mission posted about these great t-shirts that celebrate the “Gangs of San Francisco.” Other gangs include the Sutro Speedsters, an ice-skating team from 1897 and the Bear Flag Rebels of 1846. Each shirt has a bit of history about the city included. It’s a fun way to learn more about the city and declare your allegiance to a particular neighborhood.
I posted on the Presidio class blog about how to construct your own memory map/interpretation. It works on the One Laptop Per Child laptops as well!
Here’s the link:
PS: If anyone can help me debug Mbedr, it would be much appreciated.
For the next three weeks I’m helping to teach a class at the Presidio of San Francisco on digital documentation, cultural heritage, and interpretive trails. It’s an intensive course, 8+ hour days for the undergraduates and more like 12-13 hour days for me. For the first day, I had the students create memory maps using flickr and google maps to teach them how to use the tools, but also to teach them about free-associative narratives as a part of placemaking. It worked well as an exercise, and it was interesting to see the different scales that the students used for their own maps. I made one a couple of years ago ago about living in New Orleans, but I felt like I wanted to update it, so I made another one from Austin, linked above.
I’m also updating the official project blog, Remixing El Presidio, here:
Good fun, but I’m ready to have my hands in the dirt again!
As I mentioned in my SAA paper back in 2007, ubiquitous computing has great potential for interpretation and outreach in archaeology. I’m very inspired by Jane McGonigal’s PhD on ubiquitous computing and pervasive play and have decided to test the viability of the format for education. It’s always hard to make educational games fun, but when they work, it’s incredible! Does anyone else fondly remember Oregon Trail?
So, I’ve attached my brief web description for the project. I’d love to get feedback, if you have any to offer!
Pervasive Gaming, Education, and Cultural Heritage: Emplaced Interpretive Games at the Presidio of San Francisco
In a large, urban, technologically advanced metropolis like the Bay Area, how do people recognize and understand the cultural heritage they encounter in their everyday lives? This working group explores the connections between tourism, education, archaeology and technology in the interpretation of place. With the ultimate goal of developing a pervasive game—a location-aware, augmented-reality public experience—set in the Presidio of San Francisco with its over 300 years of history, archaeologists, new media specialists, and other academics and heritage professionals will come together to bridge the present to the past. Using social media platforms and ubiquitous computing, we will work to bring history away from the desktop, out of books, and into the world, adding layers of meaning to the landscape. This project encourages an active engagement in the curation and the creation of local history, and a case study for embedded interpretation of place. Working toward giving the Bay Area community a glimpse into the region’s history, this group will foster a local presence for academic and public cooperation, but will also provide access to the project through Flickr, Facebook, and a number of other social networking technologies to serve as a model for experimentation and implementation at other cultural heritage sites. With the successful implementation of an educational game at the Presidio, we move toward being able to embed archaeological and historical interpretation in the landscape, enhancing the modern day experience of place.
So we finally had a full day of archaeological outreach at the Presidio, where we were able to work through our full program with a group of kids. At times I’ve been pretty tired of outreach, and wanting to get back to archaeology proper, but being able to interact with these kids was actually pretty amazing. They were a class from Hunter’s Point, which is a notoriously bad part of San Francisco and they were all scrappy as hell, even at the 4th grade level.
During the first part of the day, we take them on a small hike on one of the trails through the Presidio. We try to get them to imagine what it was like without all of the trees, which are only there because the US military planted them. It’s hard to do, to say the least, because they’re huge, imposing eucalyptus trees and their leaves and seed pods cover the ground. There’s also some Monterey pine and cyprus mixed in, which are closer, but still not quite right.
One of the kids noticed that the National Park Service has been trimming the lower branches of the trees and asked me why the trees “were all pointy like that”. I told him that they had been trimmed, but it was kinda nice, because they leave about two feet, which makes the trees easy to climb. I got a blank stare. I had to ask, “um, have you ever climbed a tree?” Only one out of eight had, and only once. My heart broke, just a little bit.
All-in-all, it was a good day, and we were able to convey some information about the Ohlone and the Spanish colonists at the Presidio, but I think the sunshine, big trees, and getting dirty (we made mudbricks, of course!) were probably the most valuable parts. I told them that the Presidio is a national park, that they owned it and could come back at any time. And while I couldn’t officially condone it, I told them that the trees were perfect for climbing.
Oof, gotta take a break from negotiating the “visual turn” in text. Sometimes I wish I could just make a film to show at my orals this spring. Anyway, I was chatting with a friend about the recent virtual worlds conference in San Francisco about the world of Second Life and other recreated experiences and both of us expressed some scepticism about the utility of the concept. Admittedly, I am more interested in emplaced interpretation–giving people the tools to better understand the place that they currently inhabit, rather than a virtualized interpretation of a different place, but there is a lot of overlap between the two concepts in new media.
To illustrate, Vassar (a college I actually almost went to, had I not nearly failed out of high school out of boredom and distaste) has brought the Sistine Chapel to Second Life:
It’s apparently a proof of concept by Steve Taylor for experiencing art and architecture virtually. Neat idea, especially in that you can fly, and aren’t hurried through by crowds and guards. And, apparently, you can sit next to some guy with black wings. I’m curious to see if there is any interpretation, like text boxes explaining the art or the building material.
Lower tech, and closer to home (physically not virtually, I guess!) is the recent Helena Keeffe project which involves drawings of actual San Francisco Muni drivers, along with their stories AND their interpretations of their own routes. While I am interested in the Second Life project, these art installations are exciting and inspirational. First, for the non-Bay Area readers, riding the Muni (bus/train system in SF) can be a full-contact sport, and I’ve always thought the drivers must have near-heroic capacities for putting up with craziness and general mayhem.
Second, Helena Keeffe puts a face on these drivers and brings their interpretations of the route they see every day to the thousands of people who ride public transportation every day, not just to a select few who go to a gallery (in real life or online). I love that there are maps, annotated by the driver, along with drawings of different incidents which stand out in their minds.
As an archaeologist, I’d love to harness this interaction with place. As I was riding home from the Pamuk lecture with Burcu and a couple I had just met, Pamuk’s commentary on buildings came up, and the woman (I’m criminally horrible with names) mentioned that she’s now looking at the buildings in a different light, wondering about their histories, wondering who lives/lived there. Yes.
Back to work!
I was looking through Barb Voss’ excellent dissertation on the Presidio, and was struck by a particular footnote:
“I wonder, however, how the Californios – almost none of whom had ever been to Spain, and who rarely met non-clerical Spanish nationals – understood and defined “Spanishness” amongst themselves; I can only assume that it had little reference to actual practices on the Iberian peninsula and rather was constructed in reference to ideas and symbols of elite behavior. Leo Barker has pointed out to me that in the 1820s and 1830s, elite officers in the presidial community – such as Guadalupe Mariano Vallejo – were avid readers of Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire, and that these readings were undoubtedly influential in shaping their perceptions of European lifeways and values” (Voss 2002:161).
It’s so easy to think of the early colonists of Alta California as part of the Spanish hegemony, when in reality they constructed their own identities less as “Spanish” than as “not-Indian”, even though many were mestizo–along the many axes of racial, sexuality, and class identities.
Reading Voss’ dissertation was pretty intimidating–I hope I can come up with something even partially as good.
So, yes, I’m still commuting over to the Presidio twice a week, sharing seats with the hip young nerds that work at Lucasfilms. While I have certain tasks I need to complete, I still can steal time to riffle through the archives, read the gray literature, and hassle my friends who are processing the artifacts from the summer field school. Yesterday, in addition to reading Voss’ dissertation, I pawed over the 1868 coastline map of the Bay Area and compared it to a 1910 version, then google maps. We all know that a lot of the area is built on infill that is in trouble if there’s another big earthquake, but to have it graphically laid out in front of you is still pretty amazing.
Oh, and lest my previous sunny day photos have painted too pretty of a picture, here’s a more typical day at the Presidio: