Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sistas Rocking Naturals and Digital Humanities

By Briana Whiteside

The continuing interest for healthy hair among African American women has prompted natural hair sites like Curly Nikki, Black Hair Media Hair Forum, Naturally Curly, and Nappturality: Black Natural Hair Care to offer advice and tutorials on hair care, hairstyles, and physical health. Collectively, these sites form interrelated communities where black women can go to receive support with short, transitioning, big chopped, unmanageable, wavy, curly, coiled, kinky, and damaged hair. Yet, what is not widely recognized is how all of these sites, and more specifically, large numbers of black women, participate in digital humanities.

For instance, via these sites women seeking information on elegant hairstyles, curly afros, or general daily moisturizing are encouraged to visit Youtube videos for tutorials on how to do quick up-do, blown out, or twisted looks and read testimonies of other women who are experiencing similar situations. They can even view – online – natural hair product appraisals, compare the latest products, and learn how to make their own hair concoctions from their kitchen before they buy.

Our “Sistas Rocking Naturals” mixed media exhibits, which have made use of electronic audio devices over the last couple of years have received large turnouts. The use of technology to expand consciousness about natural hair corresponds to common, popular approaches to building knowledge on the subject. Our younger sistas come to seek encouragement on their natural hair journeys, and they access the information through visual and audio means—digitally recorded statements from black women discussing their hair.

We might benefit by paying attention to how engagements with technology shape and influence how black women participate in natural hair communities.

Related post:
Digital Humanities   
A Notebook on style

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Black Studies Program.   

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