3501 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

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Shannon Mattern, Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Pennsylvania

"From Sentinels to Sneakernets: Local Media for Urban Observation and Transformation"

Beacon, Sentinel, Herald, Observer: many municipal newspapers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries adopted appellations promising both scrutiny of and foresight on civic affairs. Yet as big tech and hedge funds extinguish these local lodestars and replace them (if they offer any proxies at all!) with astroturf journalism and extractive “intelligence” platforms, cities and towns lose vital sources of local news and embedded wisdom. Building on themes central to USC’s Observatory on Urban Futures and my own decades of research and teaching on public knowledge, this talk addresses how the study of local media ecosystems, including Los Angeles’s, allows for comparative urban study, the imagining of alternative urban futures, and an interrogation of the “observatory” itself as an epistemological tool. We’ll also think beyond the empirical illumination afforded by these historical sentinels and heralds, as well as the networked urban dashboards proliferating today. What might be gained if we conceive of “local media” more generously — to include public digital infrastructures, community broadcasts, permacomputing, ambient data, and more — and imagine how they might be redesigned to better serve our communities, our broader society, and our planet?


This event is co-sponsored by the Center on Science, Technology, and Public Life and the Ethnography Studio.

Event Details

  • Ariadna Hoyos
  • Emily Zeamer
  • Nancy Lutkehaus

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