Monday, June 6, 2011

Mark Anthony Neal's Multiple Approaches To Composition

[Lecture notes for African American Literatures and Cultures Institute. Topic: black scholars and new media.]

When it comes to black studies scholars maximizing new media and technologies, it's worth checking out the many works of Mark Anthony Neal.

He's lively on twitter, active on his blog, and the host of a webcast 'Left of Black,' that's easily accessible on youtube. His blog deals with a range of issues related to African American culture and ideas, and his show 'Left of Black' features interviews with various scholars and artists.

[Related Content: Alondra Nelson & Afrofuturism]

It's worth noting that long before the emergence of blogs, youtube, and twitter, Neal was a prolific writer. His books include What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1998), Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (2002), Songs in the Keys of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation (2003) and New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity (2005). He and Murray Forman co-edited That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader.

Those of you interested in the histories of black music will find Neal's work especially interesting and informative. Although he's regularly labeled as a "hip hop scholar," it's clear that his work moves beyond that to a range of other black musics, so to speak. Now that I think about it, what makes his work as a hip hop scholar particularly important is based on his knowledge of other various music--black and otherwise.

Given my interests in black publishing history, I've been especially intrigued by the idea of how a prolific author of books and essays came to utilize these other new media platforms such as twitter, blogs, and webcasts to participate in and facilitate scholarly conversations. I wonder, for instance, what special expertise Mark Anthony Neal brought from publishing books and essays to the practice of running a webcast? Actually when you listen to the questions and comments he makes with people he's interviewing you get glimpses of his extensive background knowledge.

I'm also curious about what skills did not transfer to the web-work he began. Like, how were the practices of blogging and tweeting unlike the scholarly work he had done in previous years?

As someone who's studies the Black Arts Movement, I've always been interested in the work of this poet and wonderful essayists named Larry Neal. I don't think he was related to Professor Neal. But watching the book author and essayist Mark Anthony Neal represent here today on various new media allows me to imagine some ways that Larry Neal and even earlier artists (i.e. Zora Neale Hurston) may have represented on on twitter or youtube.

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