Saturday, December 2, 2023

Technology and African American Literary Studies at SIUE

This entry is part of a series about 20 Years of African American Literary Studies at SIUE.

If you’re reading this blog, then you’re getting one sense of what it’s meant for African American literary studies at SIUE to employ technology for production, documentation, and reflection. This blog, our audio-visual exhibits, our programs using touchscreen tablets, our variety of online projects, and our whiteboard animations constitute key elements in our uses of technology.

When I began at SIUE in 2003, the most consistent tech-related thing I did was bring my CD player (yes, a CD player) to class and play music every day to start classes. Back then, I seemed comparatively hi-tech in comparison to most other literature professors. Nearly every semester, I played audio clips of Malcolm X and Baraka reading his poem, “Dope.”

When the classrooms at the university became “smart,” I started bringing flash disks, and in addition to playing music, I began showing visual images and other digital compositions.

In 2003 with some of my start-up funds, I purchased a digital camera and began documenting and organizing mini-exhibits. I also curated exhibits featuring photographs from the Eugene B. Redmond Collection. 

In 2008, I started this site with the initial objectives of blogging about “literary art, digital humanities, and emerging ideas.”

In 2010, I wrote a grant to purchase about 25 mp3 devices, which I used for hosting more than 100 audio-visual exhibits over the next few years.

In 2015, I wrote a grant for touchscreen devices and began hosting class sessions and exhibits.

In 2020, I began developing a series of websites through the IRIS Center, our DH Center on campus. In 2021, those collaborations accelerated when Meg Smith began as the research professor for IRIS. 

 In April 2021, I worked with Meg Smith to launch the African American Poetry Tracker – a digital resource that provides information about black poetry publishing histories in anthologies.

In October 2021, again working with Meg Smith, I launched the Novel Generator Machine – a digital resource that provides users with opportunities to search for novels by Black writers based on preferences and interests.

In March 2022, I began coordinating on the production of whiteboard animations focusing on African American literary history, among other topics. 

In August 2022, my colleague Elizabeth Cali and I launched our podcast Remarkable Receptions, as part of the Black Literature Network. In many respects, the podcast is an extension of those early audio exhibits that I produced and curated. 

In December 2022, my brother Kenton Rambsy and I launched our Literary Data Gallery, which showcases data-informed visualizations about Black artistic compositions, creative writers, and literary history. 

In January 2023, Cali and I launched our Multi-Threaded Literary Briefs – a project that includes interrelated commentary about African American fiction, highlighting a network of linked novels, novelists, literary histories, and various concepts.


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