Last August, I was packing my bags in preparation to start at USC when I realized that I really did not know Los Angeles. I had been visiting family in Southern California for years, but I really didn’t know what it was like to live in the city. I was coming from the suburbs of Atlanta, and I was going to be living in the center of one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country — yet I hardly knew of anything to do there.
Being the geek that I am, I turned to the Internet for help.
It turns out that Los Angeles has one of the most vibrant online scenes in the nation. There are sites covering every aspect of life in the city, from food to events to technology and more. A quick search can reveal more about Los Angeles than any travel book or Hollywood Walk of Fame tour ever could.
Los Angeles isn’t the first city to have an abundance of city-specific websites, but it is the spread out metropolis of Los Angeles that benefits from them most.
“I saw a very unique culture brewing here in Los Angeles around the local start-up and technology scene,” said Sean Percival, founder of lalawag.com, a site about L.A. culture with a focus on new media. “We love to build product and create content here, and in many cases it’s better than anything else in the world.”
Sadly, the media tends to show Los Angeles as the home of Hollywood, celebrities and little else. Luckily, there are more than a few sites that highlight lesser known aspects of the city.
The two sites list events for lesser known parts of the city, celebrations for cultural landmarks and guides to the arts in Los Angeles.
“With services like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, few things are hidden these days,” Percival said. “These next-generation oversharing platforms really tend to shine a light on even the most hidden parts of L.A.”
Oversharing platforms are useful in Los Angeles, which is home to a unique food scene. There is an amazing blend of ethnic cuisines, great farmers markets and a food truck culture to rival Portland’s. But since mobile eateries are always on the go, they can be hard to find. Better than following each individual company on Twitter, foodies can utilize some of the Internet’s more comprehensive quick guides. Clustertruck.org offers a live map of the locations of different food trucks, while findlafoodtrucks.com compiles all of the Twitter feeds for the eateries in one site. When you’re hungry and on the go, these can be pretty invaluable resources.
Though these websites might come across as a fad cashing in on the new media craze, Los Angeles’ Internet scene is sincere. It isn’t a bunch of corporations distantly reporting on the goings-on of the city; most are run by people who live in Los Angeles and want to share some of their favorite things with peers. It is the ultimate way to get a local’s opinion on something.
“That’s the great thing about building for the web,” Percival said. “It’s so easy to take your idea from the drawing board to the computer screen and then right to market. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but many websites are.”
And Los Angeles’ Internet culture is just beginning. Social networking is continuing to evolve, and more and more businesses are realizing that they can attract a whole new clientele through the web.
“I see more events, more communities and more start-ups launching here our great city,” Percival said. “In addition to being known for being a great hub for content, I see L.A. starting to earn its pedigree on the product and tech side as well. Along the way, I hope to see the unique style and culture of L.A. continue to influence our direction and the work we do.”
I came into USC pretty clueless about the city, but I’ve managed to find a lot of interesting and unusual events by looking past the tourist traps and clichés. So if you are still trying to figure out Los Angeles or if you want to explore an aspect of the city you haven’t checked out, take a look at what the Internet has to say. It may surprise you and put a whole new spin on the City of Angels.
Nicholas Slayton is a freshman majoring in print journalism. His column, “A Series of Tubes,“ runs Thursdays.