Friday, May 4, 2012

Black Studies & Breaking News in the Digital Age

There's been quite the discussion going on twitter--at least in some spaces--about a blog entry by Naomi Riley that really presented a negative and troubling view of young black studies scholars. Riley's entry gained increased visibility in large part because it appeared on a section of The Chronicle of Higher Education's site.

I suspect that Riley's entry also gained attention because of how widely it was discussed and rightly critiqued on twitter among large numbers of observers. Folks more skilled than me have been writing about Riley and the The Chronicle, so no need for me to elaborate too much. However, I was interested in the ways that I heard about the issue in part because it could reflect shifting ways that news travels in black studies.

I first heard about Riley's article from a tweet from scholar Erica L. Williams. A little later, she tweeted about a response to Riley produced by tressie mc entitled "The Inferiority of Blackness as a Subject." I've followed tressie since that time on twitter, observing her updates and online activism; she set up a petition that gained quite a bit of attention.

For now, what stands out to me is that two junior scholars--Williams is in her early years as a professor and Tressie is a grad student--led the way on my knowledge and continuing views of the issues. Years ago, I would have likely heard about an issue like this from senior scholars by way of email. But now, usually by the time that senior scholars email me about issues, it's a day after I have heard about it on twitter. 

Generally speaking (though there are exceptions), I hear more from younger scholars on twitter and more from senior scholars via email. My circles on email are obviously smaller, though they tend to send me longer, more involved messages. The younger, twitter folks tend to be connected to breaking news. Not sure where any of this fits in my developing ideas about what it means to do black studies work in the contemporary era, but it's something to consider as we're considering.

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