Friday, October 26, 2018

Collegiate black men and visual essays

A month or so ago, I gave students in one of my classes an assignment where they looked over articles by Matt Daniels and others at The Pudding, a company that produces “visual essays” about culture utilizing a variety of data. I had the students, all of whom are first-year collegiate black men, check out the following several articles:
• The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop
The 2,452 Wikipedia Pages on which Miles Davis is Mentioned
• The Largest Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender, Ever
The Shape of Slavery
Where Slang Comes From
• Newspapers: A Black & White Issue
• The Structure of Stand-Up Comedy
• How Music Taste Evolved
The Language of Hip Hop 

I asked them to identify the one that most led them to think differently about a subject. Can you guess which visual essay the young black men selected the most?

Nearly all of them selected "The Largest Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender, Ever" by Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels. They were intrigued b the finding that women have so few speaking roles relative to men in films. It's one thing for the guys to hear about gender inequity. However, seeing the stats in the article and reading the highlights of the data really caught their attention.

The responses from the students gave me an more incentive to think about how visual essays and data might complement our studies in an African American literature course.

• Matt Daniels, The Pudding, and African American literary studies

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