La Raza interactive

La Raza is a newspaper that was issued in the years 1967-1977 in California and served as a main instrument for protection of rights of Chicanos...

In 2017 we were hired by American agency Narduli Studio; the task was to develop for La Raza newspaper a digital archive for sensor tables that are exhibited in the The Autry Museum of American West.

La Raza is a newspaper that was issued in the years 1967-1977 in California and served as a main instrument for protection of Chicanos’ (Mexican Americans) rights. The main fight was about equal rights for education and eradication of racism in schools, the major form of fighting being public protests and manifests

Originally, the archive was comprised of 25,876 digitalized photos organized in folders (not following any logic, but simply in the course of digitalizing) and accompanied with Excel file describing every image (file, date, author, summary, comments). Research fellows and students of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center completed an Excel table, described th whole arcive.

Together with research fellows we worked on structuring descriptions, building a list of 292 tags corresponding to specific events, dates, places and people (e. g. Police, School, Demonstration, Los Angeles, etc.)

Every photo was tagged several times, every tag could be used for several dozens or even thousands of photos.

An algorithm assembled tags into an information network – a graph – describing links between tags by the number of times it was used for every photo. Any user could see either general cloud of tags or set of directly interconnected tags (selected by the value of the link).

Below you can find technical preview of graph’s visualization process.

However, we really wanted the graph to look like neural connection in the human brain.

To achieve this, we had to take following steps to puzzle the visualization:

  1. Classic Force Directed Graph algorithm that we used also to visualize links between tags was completed with Means-Shift algorithm that distributed the dots uniformly and transformed direct lines into curves (splines);
  2. When the tag was selected, splines were presented as full lines that served as particle emitters;
  3. Neutrons’ roots were visualized with compound 3D models, every branch being separate 3D model, that began in the initial location of the tag and positioned towards the next tag. In such a way the more links the tag has, the larger is the neutron beam.
Mean-shift algorithm example from
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Upon selecting a tag or one photo, the user gets a list of all connected tags and photos that step by step lead the way deeper into the archive.

Thus, every user sees the birth of a unique interactive story, directly linking every next photo with the previous one, at the same time remaining a part of a bigger story.

Every photo can be zoomed in so that the user can see the details, read the description and the reference about the author.

We also developed such additional interactive data visualizations as “Flight”, “Timeline” and “Spectrum”. These were also based on selected tags, but were developed for entertaining and not informational purposes

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La Raza expo was part of a larger project Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, that was hosted in Los Angeles by Getty in 2017-2018 and brought together more than 70 exhibitions and events from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Thanks to high public interest and good reviews, the expo was first extended for six months and then went on the road.

In 2019 La Raza digital archive was awarded with C2A Creative Communication Award in User Experience Design / UI & UX Design.

The project was implemented in vvvv programming environment with such extensions as DX11, Instance Noodles, Microdevil Intersect, individual extensions on C# and data processing scripts in python.

Images used are from LaRaza digital interactive, created for La Raza in the framework of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA in 2017.

Ivan Raster team:

Narduli Studio team:

LaRaza photographers:

Pedro Arias, Manuel G. Barrera Jr., Patricia Borjon-lopez, Oscar Castillo, Luis C. Garza, Larry Haun, Gilbert Lopez, Joe Razo, Eliezer Risco, Ruth Robinson, Raul Ruiz, Maria (Marquez) Sanchez, Jaime Ugarte, Devra Weber, Daniel Zapata

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