Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Claude McKay's "If We Must Die" and Metadata

"If We Must Die" with mark-ups & metadata from summer 2013 students

"Isn't it militant?" "Isn't it a sonnet?" "Wasn't the author from Jamaica?" "Wasn't he associated with the Harlem Renaissance?" "Isn't that the poem rumored to have been read by Winston Churchill read once?"

During class discussions of Claude McKay's "If We Must Die," you hear the data and metadata piling up. There's all this interesting information that students have heard about the poem, really about many poems we cover.

Recently, I've been giving more thought to what it means to record some of the metadata that students present, which might mean, in the process, transforming the metadata that a current group of students produces on a poem into the data that a future group might access and use as learning material.

What if, for instance, the students that I will work with in the fall of 2013 had the opportunity to look over annotations that my students from 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and the summer of 2013 had produced concerning McKay's poem, Gwendolyn Brooks's "We Real Cool," Langston Hughes's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," Margaret Walker's "For My People"?  What might new students learn about poetry based on the comments that prior students had made?

I also wonder how current students might annotate poems if I informed them that they were producing such metadata for the benefit of future generations of students. To make some of the connections between different groups of students over a span of time, I'll have to do a better job collecting and organizing the data and metadata that each group produces.

Related:
Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead & Big Data  
Poets and Big Data: The Case of Amiri Baraka      
Jay-Z & Big Data: Mark Anthony Neal Decodes S. Carter  

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