Write an essay that focuses on one field site in Los Angeles of your choice. The paper should address a current issue, phenomenon, or class topic in your chosen site. To do this, you will synthesize some research on the area (newspapers, books, USC library resources, other media) and your own in-person observations. This gives you the flexibility to explore a specific place and course theme that piques your intellectual curiosity: redevelopment/gentrification, demographic change, architecture and the built environment, environmental justice, etc. Based on your research, how have other authors and media sources addressed your chosen field site and issue? And, how do you view this place through your own observations and fieldwork experience?
Find and read relevant academic texts and/or media representations of the place (LA Times or magazine articles, videos, books, documentaries, interviews, websites, etc.) to gain important background information about your particular field site. These can include readings we have assigned for the course (for example, many of the reserve articles discuss some of these places and the themes they raise; there’s also a great book called A People’s Guide to Los Angeles that’s worth buying and sharing but is also available online through the USC library and will be available on Blackboard as well) but you should find at least three or more additional sources. Wikipedia and Google ARE NOT acceptable sources.
Prepare for your field site visit. Before visiting the field site, use the academic and media representations of your field site to develop a key set of investigatory questions that will help you to thoughtfully explore and navigate your chosen site. Developing a solid set of field site questions will guide you through the observation process and will also help you to craft a strong thesis/main argument. That is, go into your fieldwork with some central issue or set of issues to frame your observations. Perhaps there is a recent L.A. Times article that leads you to ask further questions on the matter. Or, maybe the Christopher Hawthorne articles inspire you to explore similar issues of how the built environment shapes public life and social interaction. By going into your field site without some guiding concern, you run the risk of walking away with nothing substantive from your time there. [Your TAs will work with you to review and refine your framing questions.]
Visit your field site; while it is quite acceptable to go with friends, groups should not exceed three or four people as your own crowd will change the meaning of the place. Recall that the preparatory readings were about how the site was represented by various authors; it’s now your chance to represent, describe, and analyze the meaning of the place. This is an active process: write down the date and time of your observations, and take field notes on the physical and social landscape which include specific factual details, sensory interpretations, personal feelings while conducting fieldwork, and nuanced language to describe your field site. You can choose to document your experiences through photographs and video footage, or interview relevant persons to supplement your overall fieldwork experience. Your field site visit should total approximately two hours – don’t move quickly but rather get a rhythm of the place changing around you [You can, if you wish, do two one-hour visits, perhaps at different times. We encourage you to take public transportation to at least some of these sites; you’ll find that will provide its own set of observations.
Analyze your field notes and to determine what you actually discovered there versus the academic and media representations you read to prepare. Make sure you thoroughly analyze how your field work findings compare with those representations of your field site. Please provide provide critical insights and analysis, not just a factual summary or opinion about your topic. Identify an overarching thesis or narrative that can tie together the paper’s different argumentative and observational threads.