Secret City Proposal, Wireframes and Sketches (UPDATED)

Secret City

The goal of this project is to remind people that our existence in the present is connected to times now past. This empowers and links us with events and individuals that have come before us, dealing with many of the same issues and daily stresses we face today. Citizens of Los Angeles were not able to tweet about these experiences back then, and we aim to reconstruct a few of these stories and localize them to specific neighborhoods to give present social media users the opportunity to see what a 1920’s or 1950’s twitter stream in Westlake (now McArthur Park) would have looked like. Focusing on one neighborhood and following its history over the span of decades will also allow us to see how a neighborhood space changes with time and shifts in character and demographics.

The primary function of the Secret City site is to integrate personal histories with larger demographic trends. This will allow users to learn more about the history of the area, as well as the some of the histories of neighbors and friends. We will then connect both to the appropriate spatial context. A breakdown of these functions follows:

  • A variety of markers representing different social media (more on the specifics of these in the API Integration section) to allow for a variety of input methods
  • Decade by decade maps showing the evolution of the specified neighborhood based on:
    • Demographics: Income, % Employed, Population Density, Ethnic composition (imported GIS layers constructed with Census data)
    • Historical Primary Sources: Photos (marker which zooms in to picture) and Contemporary New Articles (marker which either links to story, or offers information in info window)
  • Video links displayed via markers
  • “Historical Twitter feed” : using primary source documents to display information in the format of a present-day social networking status update.


API Integration & Other Data Sources
Integrating a photo API into our project will be the crucial step transforming Secret City from simply a map with a few pictures into a dynamic platform for displaying user-generated content. To that end, we will utilize the Flickr and Instagram APIs:

  • Flickr:
  • Instagram:

    In addition, we will integrate the following APIs into Secret City to improve its functionality and allow a localized tracking of current events.


    Secret City Wireframe

    Secret City Wireframe2


    Secret City Sketch

    Secret City Sketch

    Secret City Sketch 3


    • One concern is that the site can end up as a somewhat dull history lesson. However, we have located some rather provocative photos such as a picture of a NAZI marching in MacArthur. As long as we seed the site with interesting photos from the LAPL site, the site should keep people engaged.
    • Another worry is that not enough people will tag their old photos with appropriate geocoded information. Thus, I am not quite sure how we can photos that users upload to Flickr in the right place. Instagram is good for the present photos because it is naturally geocoded but that doesn’t help much with the user-generated past photos.


    • Week 6: Working prototype running with some functionality. We should also have access to all the APIs and knowledge on how to access them for our purposes.
    • Final: Foundation for this site should be finished.

6 thoughts on “Secret City Proposal, Wireframes and Sketches (UPDATED)

  1. Overall, this sounds like an awesome site. I don’t think it sounds like a dull history site – however, I am a total dork. But there’s a lot of other dorks like me who really enjoy looking through the LA Times historical photo archives.

    I love the idea of using – but how would that work? Can you take the pictures that you find on flickr and feed them into and give them an automatic filter? Or are you just taking the feed that is geocoded in your area?

    I’m concerned that you do not have a tangible idea of what to accomplish for the mid-term. I’d say pick your 2 API’s for a starting point at the mid-term. You do not want this beta launch to be just a mash up of whatever you were able to accomplish at this point. The things that you have choosen to display for the mid-term project should make sense together and offer some functionality even at an early stage.

    You are welcome to have a lot of “coming soon” features on your site. Start testing out your API’s and seeing what can work together at this initial stage.

    • Hey folks. Thanks for the comments!

      To address Maddy’s first, I don’t think you can send instagram photos to flickr but since all instagram pictures are already geocoded, we can just make it an additional image option for our area. While flickr may not have tons of geocoded photos, I know hipstamatic has a partnership with flickr, so at least some of the hipstamatic photos should be geocoded.

      I think the idea to focus on two APIs is good for sure. We will definitely do Flickr and perhaps Instagram as well.

      To Yoh’s comments, the hypercities project seems really really great. My main task in preparation for the midterm is to deal with all the demographic data that we want to include on our site. However, I’ve been having quite a tough time finding excel-ready data pre-1990. With the hypercities API, could we just call on the census data that’s already on the site? If not, I was planning on for the midterm just making GIS layers for as much relevant data as I could piece together. Obviously the 1990 and 2000 data would be more robust in that case.

      Also, I’ve opted in to the twitter geolocation. So we’ll see how that goes!

  2. This is a truly innovative and exciting proposal. It is also quite ambitious. However, it is well researched, and you have found some great API’s to work with. A couple of things that stand out:

    Twitter: As you may know, 99% of twitter is not geolocated. In order for tweets to get geo-coordinates, a user needs to “opt in” to this service. For secruity reasons, this is not the default settings. You can still geolocate tweets by the user’s profile “home” location, but this is not accurate for obvious reasons. What I would be interested in finding out is whether members of your group could “opt in” and seed some tweets with specific hash-tags for you to incorporate into the site.

    Instagram: This looks very promising. Have you been able to acquire a client ID from them?

    Flickr: Like twitter, you can see if you can seed some photo’s and tag them appropriately for your site to consume and display.

    Finally, I would like to introduce a potential client/partner for your project. The Hypercities project, of which I am part of, has a similar concept of geo-temporal navigation and story telling as does your proposal. Hypercities also has an API (not public) that you can potentially use to integrate historical maps and GIS layers. Hypercities has also created some historical demographic ArcGIS Server layers. Check out these two links:

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