Virtual Tourisms

    By Megan Kendrick
    Programming by David Lopez

    Open Project

    The goal of the project is to exhibit existing ideas, arguments and scholarly content present in the dissertation that cannot be fully expressed or demonstrated in a solely written format.

    - Megan Kendrick, Author's Statement

    Users can browse through a series of tourist brochures to explore the early Los Angeles tourist landscape.
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    Author's Statement: Touring History through New Media
    Hotels provide the nexus between the tangible, lived experience of the city and the imagined landscape that tourists carry with them when they visit a city. They are objects of circulation, they are monuments to the city, and as Siegfried Kracauer observed, they are sites of spectacle and display. This web-based project comes out of my dissertation research which explores the role of hotels in the shaping of Los Angeles. I seek to understand how their representation in visual culture reflects their particular stories in the urban planning of the city. I argue that the hotel served as a vanguard in the shaping and imaging of the city.

    Throughout different phases of urban planning history, influenced by distinct systems of transportation, hotels have played a leading role in the way Los Angeles has been planned, formed, and imagined. In this context, Virtual Tourisms brings new meaning to the concept of a digital "virtual tour" by making visible the urban planning context and socio-spatial relationships involved in the historical and cultural practice of a tourist's stay at a landmark Los Angeles hotel. The digital project takes shape in the form of a nineteenth century travel album. Within the pages of the album, the digital tourist visits a number of sites and attractions in the greater Los Angeles area of the 1880s and 1890s.

    Virtual Tourisms is the result of a Provost's Doctoral Fellowship in Digital Scholarship in collaboration with the Institute for Multimedia Literacy at USC. The goal of the project is to exhibit existing ideas, arguments and scholarly content present in the dissertation that cannot be fully expressed or demonstrated in a solely written format. In a sense, I am taking my research into a new, but highly related area: from city space to cyberspace, and attempting to put the analysis of both realms into conversation. It is not, therefore, merely an adaptation of my dissertation to the web, but an investigation of the very concept of a digital tour.

    Guests at the Raymond Hotel, South Pasadena, 1880s
    Virtual Tourisms does not seek to capture any totalizing narrative of Los Angeles history, but rather is an exercise in digital scholarship that calls into question the ways cities, and Los Angeles specifically, have been imagined and experienced because of changing visual and spatial practices, including promotional literature, photography, modes of transportation, and socio-spatial arrangements. The space of the tourist hotel can be used as a laboratory for uncovering what we know about how tourism and its "visual narratives" affect this process. Resort and tourist hotels themselves are virtual environments in the sense that they are carefully separated from the "real" city and its troublesome social contexts. This project seeks to lay bare the historical processes behind the particular images and experiences offered to tourists. It attempts this from within the setting of a virtual environment that allows users to tour through some of Los Angeles' landmark hotels and surrounding tourist landscapes. Inasmuch as the project acts as a tourist site in itself, it seeks to be a critical agent of virtual environments rather than a glorified history video game. Calling into question the spatiality and visuality of digital media, the website trespasses traditional norms of history writing by embodying the notion that the visual and the spatial informs what we experience about a new place, but that this experience has been historically and culturally constructed.

    — Megan Kendrick, Los Angeles, CA, September 1st, 2008