Friday, March 4, 2022

Teaching Data Storytelling: Beyonce & The Glass Ceiling on Black Art

Beyonce at the Grammys vs. Beyonce at BET

Kenton Rambsy 

I teach a senior seminar in the English Department that emphasizes data storytelling. Beyonce is a focal point of this course, which designed to equip students with ideas related to Black feminism while also introducing them to digital tools.

One student, Lucien Li, created a Tableau Public visualization based on the 53 of Grammy’s and BET awards that Beyonce had won since 2003 as a solo artist. The student’s chart highlights the fact that for the Grammy’s, Beyonce’s awards are mostly located in the “urban” category. At the BET Awards, however, Beyonce typically is nominated and wins in “general categories.”

Lucien’s digital essay builds on an Op-Ed published in the Los Angeles Times, “Beyonc√©'s Grammy snub and the glass ceiling on black art.” John Vilanova explains in the article that even though Beyonce is the most Grammy-nominated woman ever (with 62 nominations and 22 wins), her win rate of 35% is markedly low. Lucien wanted to explore this concept visually and highlight the challenges that Beyonce faces as a Black entertainer.

She used the FLOAT Method to organize her project, by first starting with a sound research question: What’s the difference between Beyonce’s Award nominations and wins at the Grammy’s versus the BET Awards?

The importance of beginning with a useful question cannot be overstated. The framing of this question facilitated Lucien’s ability to locate a data source and narrow her search and analysis to focus on two award institutions.

Beyonce is one of the most visible artists, yet the Grammy awards typecase her as a Black or urban artist. Beyonce was the gateway through which Lucien could begin to consider what institutional barriers impede upon Black women’s success.

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