New Summer Institute Explores Los Angeles Through the Lens of Technology and Social Justice

Published: April 25, 2017

New Summer Institute Explores Los Angeles Through the Lens of Technology and Social Justice

How are cars, film and the Internet contributing to social, economic and cultural issues in Los Angeles?

An innovative UCLA summer program called LA Tech City Summer Institute: Urban Innovation and Design explores the impact these technologies have on urban life in Los Angeles. Developed by UCLA’s Urban Humanities Initiative (UHI), this new institute brings forth theories, methods and design perspective for tomorrow’s generation of urban thinkers, dwellers and practitioners.

This four-week intensive officially starts July 3 and features a new UCLA course titled, “Digital Humanities 30: Los Angeles Tech City: Digital Technologies & Spatial Justice.” The course, taught jointly by UCLA Professors Dr. Todd Presner and Dr. Dana Cuff, offers 5 quarter units of UCLA credit, as well as GE and Diversity credit for UCLA students.

“LA Tech City reflects our growing awareness about the importance of cities in daily life, and the significance of technology to our urban understanding,” said Dr. Dana Cuff, professor of Architecture and director of cityLAB.

In addition to the course, students will engage in a series of curated professional development activities such as seminars, studios, field-based activities and workshops. As Cuff explains, This program teaches theory, technology and practice through innovative projects so that students are engaged in hands-on learning.”

This institute was designed for undergraduate students interested in pursuing careers in creative tech, architecture and urban design, data analysis, public service, as well as a wide range of graduate programs. Through the innovative combination of UCLA course work and professional development activities, students will uncover how innovative spatial technologies enable engagement with issues of spatial justice in Los Angeles through research and design projects.

“By harnessing an array of digital technologies, we will investigate Los Angeles and imagine the 21st century metropolis in new ways, attuned to social justice issues,” said Presner, UHI principal investigator and founding director of UCLA’s Digital Humanities program. “The car, film and the Internet have created particular social, economic and cultural divisions that allow us to analyze processes of urban transformation through cutting-edge digital tools, from ‘thick mapping’ to ‘filmic sensing,” Presner underlined.

Thick mapping is a method of superimposing various forms of geocoded data, from archival documents to data harvested from social media. It offers the opportunity to visualize urban spaces in their full complexity. Other state-of-the-art methods include filmic sensing and spatial ethnography, where contemporary urban experiences can be powerfully captured and analyzed.

By the end of this intensive four-week institute, students will have designed a web-based portfolio and be able to work with image-editing software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. Using this set of conceptual and technical tools, students will learn to present the field-based projects developed in LA Tech City in convincing ways, while constructing their own digital portfolio.

This institute carries 5 quarter units of UC credit and GE credit (Foundations of Society and Culture – Social Analysis). Grades earned will be recorded on an official University of California transcript.

Registration is currently open at