Mehelle 2.0: Whats Changed and Whats to Come



Welcome to the Neighborhood


In 2016, Ajam Media Collective launched Mehelle, a digital mapping and documentary film project dedicated to preserving the sights, sounds, and memories of rapidly-changing neighborhoods. Mehelle presents a collection of material captured with a combination of new technologies such as 360 degree video along with traditional documentary photography and film in both a searchable online archive and an interactive map of the neighborhood. This material is wide-ranging, spanning from found material objects, interviews with residents, and 360 video of local architecture and city planning, all captured with four project goals in mind:


1) To provide a strong geographical framework that encourages audience exploration

2) To capture and intertwine a wide range of perspectives on Sovetski, from top-down urban planning of the city, to the stories of individual residents

3) To limit the 'director's framing', encouraging the audience to discover the project along their own path without feeling guided by the project creators

4) To 'archive' the neighborhood of Sovetski, capturing and preserving its unique architecture, residents' stories, urban planning, and atmosphere


In collecting this material Mehelle serves as a resource for local inhabitants, community organizers, and urban researchers long after such neighborhoods have been demolished, gentrified, or transformed by private and state-led construction projects.


Our first project was based on Sovetski, a historic neighborhood in Baku, Azerbaijan undergoing a massive State redevelopment project transforming it into a massive new park at the center of the city. This early version of Mehelle was ambitious, and while we're proud of what we accomplished at the time it was clear much could be improved to make the project more user friendly and to better display our growing collection of material, especially as we began to look beyond Sovetski at potential new cities and stories.


Now in 2021 we are happy to present the reorganized and revamped Mehelle 2.0. In the five years since we first launched we've listened to your feedback on features you'd like to see, reflected on what worked and what didn't in the original map, and rebuilt the entire project from scratch. We've also never stopped collecting material in Baku, and this new Mehelle features over twice as much material from 2015-2019.


Your feedback is invaluable as we continue to improve the site. Please take a moment to fill out our feedback form. You can submit and edit it again later if you need more time or have additional suggestions.


Whats changed?


Mehelle 2.0 features an entirely reworked map as well as two new ways to explore the collection.


The Map has been redone to be easier to use and explore. Changes include:

  • Filters: Choose what displays on the map based on its demolition status, street location, year filmed, and what kind of media it is. Filters will overlap each other so you can use them to, for example, find specific media from a specific year.

  • Search: Use the search bar at the top of the map to search for keywords. This can help find more specific topics on the map such as architecture, night shots, and animals. the search bar overlaps with the filters as well.

  • Clusters: When zoomed out, points on the map will join into clusters. This helps prevent the map from being two crowded. Either zoom in on or click a cluster to see the individual points in that area.

  • Satellite imagery: Change the base map to a satellite image.

  • 'Random' button: Click to go to a random point on the map.

The List. Whether it's because you have slow internet, are on mobile, or don't like the interface, sometimes you don't want to deal with an interactive map. Our List page contains our entire collection in a searchable archive with each item linking to its own separate page.

  • Filter: Choose what items display based on its demolition status, street location, year filmed, and what kind of media it is. Filters will overlap each other so you can use them to, for example, find specific media from a specific year.

  • Search: Use the search bar at the top of the page to search for keywords. This can help find more specific topics on the map such as architecture, night shots, and animals. the search bar overlaps with the filters as well.

  • Group pages: See all material that shares a point on the map on one page.

  • Related items: See four other items related to what you are looking at.

  • View on Map: open the item on the Map page.

Tours. We have over 500 items in our collection; when you're unsure where to start or feel overwhelmed our tours work as inroads into Mehelle.

  • Linear thematic stories: Each tour guides you through a series of connected videos, essays, and galleries that expand on a central theme such as Sovetski's early history, Baku's urban planning, or gentrification.

  • Branching paths: From each of these central points you can optionally branch off to explore a small collection of related points on the map.

  • Built into the Map: Jump back into the map at any point.


Whats coming?


Over the next few months we'll be working to further improve the site. Much of what we work on will be decided by your feedback. But we do have a few things pre-planned as well:

  • One new tour a month for the next three months.

  • Fully bilingual translations on all pages.

  • Improved keyword search functionality on the map and list.

  • Expanding beyond Sovetski.