Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Black Studies & the Science of Networks

“African diasporic consciousness originated in the darkened abyss below the decks of European ships during the infamous middle passage of the transatlantic slave trade. Severed from the familiar terrain of their homelands and dispatched to overcrowded bowels of slave vessels, the abducted Africans forged out of necessity a virtual community of intercultural kinship structures and new languages in which to express them.” --Anna Everett

In last week’s post blogging and black studies, we posed the question: In what ways would the development of more black studies blogs benefit us?

We’re still thinking on answers, speculating actually, and will probably continue doing so well after we’ve begun to see the establishment of more black studies blogs. However, one idea that comes to mind relates to the power of networks, or better yet, the science of networks.

The creation of an interrelated group of African American or black studies blogs would possibly constitute an important system for sharing and producing knowledge.

Thanks, in part, to the popularity of facebook and myspace, the idea of social networks have gained wide visibility over the last few years. And the area of research known as network science has generated an extensive body of scholarship that illuminates, generally speaking, “how everything is connected to everything else.”

What if a couple of ethnic studies programs on the West Coast were in conversation with black studies programs in the Midwest, and all of them were exchanging ideas with African American Studies programs in the South and Northeast? Establishing firmer virtual links would be essential for expanding the vision of individual programs and shortening the distances between ethnic studies, African American studies, and black studies, for example.

As scholar Anna Everett indicates in the quotation above, the development of “virtual community” has always been central to the production of knowledge in African American history and culture. Thus, black studies might benefit by incorporating aspects of the science of networks into our modes of operation.

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