We've added three subdomains to the greater Gizmodo umbrella this week, three awesome blogs that have long been carving out a niche for themselves elsewhere. So here's a hearty welcome to Southland, Abler, and Disquiet.
Southland comes to Gizmodo as part of an exciting new content partnership with the USC Libraries, specifically the member collections of L.A. as Subject, a vast archive of L.A.-related material, from old maps and images of the city from its earliest days of formation to overlooked or obscure urban planning documents that have to shaped the city we now know and from Hollywood memorabilia to stunning historic photographs of a metropolis rising from the dry valleys of Southern California.
The series is written by Nathan Masters, who will be expanding, rewriting, editing, and re-illustrating many of the posts that previously appeared on KCET. Why Los Angeles? In an awesome introductory post, well worth reading in full, Masters has an answer for you:
Because L.A. is a place of lost landscapes and forgotten infrastructures. Because historical Los Angeles does not always equal the Los Angeles of Hollywood. Because L.A. as Subject represents a unique source of understanding the past, present, and future of Los Angeles and its influence on other world metropolises.
Wallace Stegner once quipped that California is like the rest of America—only more so. And in this unexceptional exceptionalism we find countless stories ripe for mining. The Southland didn't invent the freeway, but it did perfect it. An oil derrick once stood in the middle of a major road. A real estate developer refashioned tidal marshlands into Venetian canals.
Read more—Masters is an ideal guide to the city—including a long look at the oil derricks that once stood hulking along the roads and back plains of a city that had yet to expand or fill in to its present size.
Top: Driving through a forest of derricks in Signal Hill, ca. 1937. Photo by Herman Schultheis. [Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library] Middle: Oil wells on the beach in Summerland, just east of Santa Barbara, circa 1901-03. [USC Libraries - California Historical Society Collection] Bottom: Huntington Beach in the 1930s or '40s. [Orange County Archives]
"Through much of the 20th century," Masters explains, "oil derricks towered over homes, schools, golf courses, and even orange groves across the Los Angeles Basin, once among the nation's top-oil producing regions."
For years now, Sara Hendren has been blogging about medical prosthetics, body-expanding art projects, and other assistive technologies at her excellent blog Abler, arguing that "all technology is assistive technology." Well, we're thrilled to say that Hendren will now be maintaining a version of Abler here as part of the Gizmodo family of subdomains.
Exoskeletons, 3D printed legs, robotic arms: There's plenty of press for these prosthetic technologies, and for good reason. They're innovative in a splashy way, and they're undeniable feats of engineering. But prosthetics include so much more: high-tech, low-tech, and high-low hybrid assistive and adaptive devices, accessible architecture, "universal" design, alternative infrastructural systems, and wearable augmentations—both analog and digital.
Technologies and tools that may be called "prosthetic" span a generative, flourishing research space now—and it's the province of artists and designers as much as engineers and programmers. What tools would be called "assistive," after all, can include far more than machines for mobile functionality or augmentation. There are Braille-friendly banjo tabs and garden spaces designed with the autism spectrum in mind. There's also an app that can tell you if you're talking too much, a beer glass for aging with dignity, and a smile device for when you need to fake it.
Finally, Bay Area sound critic Marc Weidenbaum—acoustic historian, noise futurist, prolific collaborator, music instructor, and writer of a forthcoming book about the Aphex Twin—will be hosting a version of his eminent sound and electronics blog Disquiet here at Gizmodo.
For years, Marc has been listening with an acute ear to the overlapping soundscapes of the world and writing down what he hears, whether it's the emergency klaxon of an earthquake warning siren in San Francisco or the steady hum of an office air-conditioning unit, noting—and critiquing or speculating about new versions of—these everyday found sounds in his own peculiar form of acoustic journalism. Marc has also been running the Disquiet Junto, a huge, international, and amorphous group of sonic collaborators tasked every few weeks with a new musical challenge (this week? some sonic experiments inspired by a post on Kotaku).