The majority of today’s blog entry is written by the students. You can click on the images below and each will take you to the work of one of the four groups. They have spent the day in Venice, a coastal area of the city which is known globally and pejoratively as the place where Southern Californian weirdness finds its full expression. It’s where one goes to get fit, get tanned, get colonic irrigation, acupuncture, crystal healed, educated in radical new age philosophy, get petitions signed, skateboard, rollerblade, jog, etc. etc. For a city which is quite privatised, Venice serves as a space in which one can unwind at the weekend.
The students have been set a series of ethnographic research tasks to explore the ways in which the district defines itself. All of the students have been asked to explore the ways in which Venice presents itself in the local media and other forms of representation, through tourist facilities, architecturally and so on. They are also looking at whether there are signs of an independence (or incorporation) movement in the district – in other words whether there is a campaign to establish Venice as a separate city with the county Los Angeles. This campaign has been active since the 1950s, but is a very different movement to that which incorporated Rancho Santa Margarita as a city in 2000.
The four groups of students have then been assigned four different tasks: group one is exploring the district’s local heritage industry; group two has been tasked with assessing the New Age movement; group three is mapping the various forms of Californian body culture that find expression in the area; and group four is exploring the local economy.