Sunday, January 20, 2013

Poetry projects: Digital Humanities or Afrofuturism?

Student using MP3 player to listen to poetry by Amiri Baraka and others

At one point at the Representing Race: Silence in the Digital Humanities panel, Alondra Nelson asked me whether or how I used the term "digital humanities." I explained or tried to explain that much depended on my audience. Agencies such as the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH), for example, prefer terms like "digital humanities" (DH), and that's the phrase people use at conferences such as the Modern Language Association (MLA).

On the other hand, when I'm designing courses at my university and trying to appeal to students interested in black studies and African American literature courses, I use the term "afrofuturism," (AF), a word that I also seems to appeal to more of the folks at the College Language Association (CLA) conference.

Scholar Maryemma Graham recently reminded me that we tend to hear "mixed media" more in some African American sectors as well. Our Black Studies program certainly uses "mixed media" more than we use "digital humanities" when it comes to our public exhibits and our listening devices, even though those projects rely on digital features.

Our mixed media exhibits featuring poets reading their works rely on a large body of audio recordings that have been transferred to digital files. In addition, our graphic design projects are fundamentally digital as well. Of course, it was my awareness of afrofuturism, not necessarily digital humanities, that first led me to make technology so central to our black studies and poetry enterprises in the first place.    

These days, both DH and AF discourses come to mind as I think about technology, black studies, and African American poetry projects.

Digital Humanities 

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