[By Kenton Rambsy]
In his 2010 remix to his hit song “Power,” Kanye West tells his listeners “Now we all ain’t gon’ be American Idols /But you can least grab a camera, shoot a viral /Huh? Take the power in your own hands.” Kanye’s emphasis of taking the “power” into your own hands speaks to the ways that the use of new technologies during the contemporary era provides users with opportunities to participate in cultural and artistic production.
Consider how technology has influenced black writers, musicians, and internet users to create literary and musical compositions, re-examine artistic productions, collaborate on projects, present their ideas to diverse audiences? Over the past decade, blogs, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr have emerged as mediums that facilitate social trends and new forums of scholarship. These sites equip people with cost-efficient resources to produce content and reach large audiences.
Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University, serves as an example of how black scholars have used social networking as a means of further defining the field of digital humanities while simultaneously (re)examining black culture.
Left of Black, Neal’s weekly webcast, features interview with academic, authors, artists, and other figures discussing social issues. In these weekly addresses, guests are typically featured on the show via video conferencing software similar to Skype. In addition, his constant activity on his blog, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts makes him more accessible to those outside of the Duke University community—allowing him to provide up-to-the-minute commentary on political, literary, and social issues and a forum where he can respond to his followers’ questions.
These technological advances coupled with Neal’s scholarly interests provides diverse scholars with an opportunity to collaborate on varied subjects related to black life and present information through written, visual, and auditory mediums.
Over the next two weeks, the HBW Blog will demonstrate how using models similar to Mark Anthony Neal and other scholars provide new avenues for discussing and interrogating the works of black writers and musicians. The HBW Blog will highlight how technology complements the program’s mission of textual scholarship, literary recovery, curriculum change, and innovation by using visual and audio forms to discuss the work of Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Parliament-Funkadelic. Through social networking sites, the HBW is able to make divergent connections between literature, music, and politics by compiling information through our regular blog posts as well as the “break it down” and “coverage of” series to highlight developments in black literary culture.