Every Tongue Got to Confess

The 2019 Zora Neale Hurston Festival for the Arts and Humanities is rapidly approaching. As is the tradition for this event, the podcast project, Every Tongue Got to Confess is available. Every season of ETGTC is recorded at the Zora Festival. The last two years, those interviews have been conducted by Holly Baker, podcast producer for UCF Department of History (with some assistance from me). The host has been Robert Cassanello, but I agreed to take on the hosting duties for this year as Robert shifted to other projects. Of course, this all became more complicate when I accepted a position at Michigan State University. We crafted a special episode just about me, to give people some background on the changes.


Education 2035!?

I was lucky enough to participate in the Education 2035 workshop at MSU on October 31, 2018. Understanding the impact of technology on the educational experience is not a new question, but with the emergence of A.I., the possibility that computers can do some of the work of teaching is becoming more and more important. Indeed, I’ve done work with grading tools around writing. These tools, used in the right way, can be helpful with the basic work of grading sentence structure. They can tell you have written a run-on sentence. They cannot tell you if what you wrote makes sense. Does it reflect critical inquiry, knowledge integration, or analysis? These question require a person with knowledge to wrestle with what you wrote. The key to technology is that it remain grounded in the limitations of machine logic. While it may seem strange, bringing professors from the College of Arts and Letters allows the scientists to think about how we think about technology. Our talks where in a lightning round format. I spoke about Afrofuturism and how that framework allows to imagine the future differently. Art and design linked to Afrofuturism is deeply shaped by a need to provide tools for black liberation and uplift. What can it mean? Well, one slide simply reminded the audience “There are black people in the future.” A simple statement, but the implication for the present are meaningful. Black people will survive and they will continue to strive toward a better tomorrow. There struggle will challenge the mainstream to do better and that challenge can benefit society as a whole.

A Digital Teaching Praxis

As I make the transition to MSU, I recognize that a praxis I built at Rollins College is not easily forgotten. From Eatonville and Zora Neale Hurston to Hannibal Square and Tuskegee Universe, I find myself trying to sort through structures I built and the practice I want/need to continue. In the context of the Central Florida DH community, I was starting a process linked the UCF Center for Humanities and Digital Research (CHDR) around digital pedagogy and community engagement that was setting the foundation for the future. Thanks to ACS/R1 grant from the Associated Colleges of the South, I was able to organize a DH workshop with Scot French that took a cohort of faculty from Rollins College and UCF through a process of scaling up for using technology in the classroom.

As you can see from my little video highlight reel, rather than a workshop on a specific tools, this workshop was formulated around the idea of “digital intervention” within a course the instructor was designing. Using my “the simplest tool is the best" mantra, we were aiming to support the participants in a process of exploration linked to digital humanities practice. The final outcome were lesson plans created by the participants based on the tool they judge most effective for this course. You can see them online here. This was a requirement for the grant and the final home for these lesson plan is intended to the Florida Digital Humanities Consortium website. We were deep in a discussion about creating a teaching portal, but that process continues and I’m not around. As always, if you are not online easily, there is a question of whether or not you can get access to the information. I decided to make a pdf, which required some kind of cover image.

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The physical takeaway is often useful for DH project outcomes. I’m not sure this PDF is going to be widely circulated, but having it give me an option. My hope in designing the workshop was to create a cohort of faculty that would growing into a digital humanities practice together and participate in THATCamp Florida and support greater DH engagement on campus. My generative practice weaves classroom, community, and scholarly question into a practice. I think that process can be useful. I hope the 2017 cohort continue their engagement with DH, but now that I’m at MSU, the size and scope of the DH community on campus make for a different set of challenges.

More to come.

Reclaiming History at Network Detroit

I presented at the 2018 Network Detroit conference at Wayne State University. This was my first presentation in the region and in truth talking about my Florida themed work seemed a little odd. Not because it was not good work, but because as I move into this new position at MSU, I am seeking to vision projects that are rooted in my Michigan context. As I think about my DH work, I’m looking at frameworks that examine ideological links between people of color that can cross borders and capture ideology that unite the circumstances facing African-Americans. On the other hand, this work forced me to think about the structure and practice I used. I’m thankful for the great feedback I got from the participants.