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Landmarks, Memory, Mobile Media

by on September 26, 2014

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Pierce Lewis in his “Axioms” claims that “all human landscape has cultural meaning” and that we can “read the landscape as we might read a book.” He goes on to say, “To be sure, reading landscapes is not as easy as reading books, and for two reasons. First, ordinary landscape seems messy and disorganized, like a book with pages missing, torn, and smudged; a book whose copy has been edited and re-edited by people with illegible handwriting. Like books, landscapes can be read, but unlike books, they were not meant to be read.” (Axioms, 1-2)

Findery partnered with the California College of the Arts on “Landmarks, Memory, Mobile Media” taught by Michael Epstein.  This interdisciplinary course immerses students in the question of what makes a landmark and how smartphone media can be used to tell the story of such landmarks. The class works in the field – observing landmarks, using mobile apps, and exploring the area with experts and residents. The first assignment, used the “Axioms” of Pierce Lewis as a lens to view the neighborhood in San Francisco known as The Tenderloin. The class created Findery notes of sites on Jones St. between Market and California that served as a “correction” to something incongruous in the built environment.

Last week, The Findery team, the professors and the students met at Jones and Market. We had 16 projects spaced over 6 blocks, so we spent only 5 minutes critiquing each note.  We arrived at a site, took two minutes to read the Findery note out loud in front of the actual landmark. Then we gave feedback on the power of the surprise of the site and the impact of the explanation.

From a Airstream Camper mysteriously parked on a roof, to a tailor shop (that is really an art gallery) to the hidden bar with the “Anti-Saloon League” signage- we rediscovered our beloved city through new eyes. The Findery team enjoyed being out with the students as much as we did learning histories behind the Tenderloin neighborhood.

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