DURHAM - Advancements in new technology have allowed today's young users to connect with their friends and the outside world fast. Twitter, texting, YouTube and Facebook are all popular new media networking tools.
"Mobile is considered the gateway. It's more pronounced in their lives and is considered Grand Central Station of their lives," said S. Craig Watkins, a social scientist whose research is based on the digital lives of young people and how mobile device is used to communicate with their peers.
The author of "The Young & the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for our Future" was the keynote speaker last week at a two-day Duke conference titled "Black Thought 2.0: New Media and the Future of Black Studies" at the John Hope Franklin Center.
Watkins, an associate professor of radio, television and film at the University of Texas, has studied youth and media culture for 12 years and digital media for eight years. He is currently the principal investigator for a three-year study called "Connected Learning Research Network," funded by the MacArthur Foundation on Youth, Digital Media and Learning.
Watkins said black studies in terms of literacy is teaching how using "social mobile media as educational devices is not just games and videos."
"The role of the black intellectual experience is extraordinary, which includes tenure, battling for resources and gaining respect in the 'Ivory Tower,' " he said.
Watkins said the idea of closing the inequality gap used to be to get lower income kids access to computers. Now that they have this access through schools and libraries, there is a challenge ahead known as the "digital divide," where lower income kids are still disadvantaged.
"It's beyond digital access; it's about literacy skills and how to use technology," he said. "Schools can be technology rich but academic poor. It's about creating curriculums to allow them to master technology."
When looking at issues of social equality, Watkins said "Digital equality equals digital literacy." He wants students to think about the role of technology in the world today and to think critically about the stories they create.
"They should think of themselves as having a stake in their community where they live and to create a process that will allow them to have a stake in their community," he said. "Social media is a galvanizing force to stimulate folks to participate in public life."
Mark Anthony Neal, Duke African and African American Studies professor, said it's no longer about access but participation.
"I hope we can have a follow-up event down the road to further address these issues," said Neal, organizer of the conference which attracted more than 60 participants and was video streamed to 1,000 viewers.
"For me, this was about taking stock about the revolution of what's happened. I remember the floppy disc and email," said Cynthia R. Greenlee-Donnell, a doctoral candidate in Duke's department of history. "As a professor in training, because of the power of Twitter, I have to reconnect with it because my students use it all the time."
by Faithe Day | HASTAC
Critiques of the “Ivory Tower” of academia have been levied for many years against academic institutions but in the final panel of Black Thought 2.0 there was a greater discussion of what it means to be a public intellectual in the 21st century and how social media is changing that definition. The fact that there has been some recent discussion on HASTAC about the use of the term “public intellectual” shows that social media is greatly changing the way that we interpret the idea of being “public” and the role or designation of the intellectual. Marc Anthony Neal (@NewBlackMan) was the moderator for this panel and he had previously published a video that asked the question “What if W.E.B. Du Bois had a Twitter” coming to the conclusion that Du Bois would have been a prolific tweeter. This references the history of Black public intellectuals that were invested in being accessible to and mobilizing their community. As Neal noted during the panel Martin Luther King Jr. would frequent pool halls in order to talk to people outside of his church community about social issues.
In the same way that MLK Jr. went outside of the community closest to him to impact a greater number of people, I believe that academics are being challenged to do the same thing. As it was stated during the panel social media, such as Twitter, gives intellectuals of all races the chance to interact with a wider community in a more accessible way. As Latoya Peterson pointed out most people have little information about what it means to be an academic and part of the importance of visibility and accessibility in academia as a professor and/or public intellectual is that we can address the misconceptions that people have towards or about academia. Not only is this a refutation of the “Ivory Tower” (mis)conception of academia but it also gives academics the chance to be active (an issue that was discussed in the third panel “From Jena Louisiana to Tahrir Square: Activism in the Age of Social Media”). Marc Lamont Hill of Columbia University discussed the trend towards romanticizing the role of discussion within academia by stating that it is important to remember that as academics we cannot just “think deeply” about things or talk on Twitter but being active is truly about getting out and doing something in one’s community.
The final idea that I found to be very important was a statement made by Latoya Peterson in which she said that there should be a move toward a “public embracing of intellectualism” which to me could be considered the role of the public intellectual in the 21st century. Not just to sit in a college or university and discuss issues and social change with those that are already interested in intellectualism but to actually utilize any platform of social media to broadcast your intellect into the public sphere. Everyone has their own community in which they can try and enact change, which might be just as simple as tweeting some interesting thoughts from a conference that you attended or posing a question to your Facebook friends. All of these example start discussion, and many times discussion is the beginning of active social change.
by Jasiri X | www.blackyouthproject.com
This weekend at had the pleasure of participating in a revolutionary conference called “Black Thought 2.0: New Media and the Future of Black Studies” at Duke University. Convened and hosted by Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University and host of the weekly webcast, “Left of Black”, Black Thought 2.0 brought together some the best minds in academia with initiative entrepreneurs and activist finding success online.
My panel was titled “From Jena to Tahrir: Online Activism in the Age of Social Media and Public Intellectuals” and it featured Dr. Kimberley Ellis BKA Dr. Goddess, Moyaz B from Crunk Feminists Collective, Dr Alexis Pauline, Dr Salamishah Tillett, Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies at the Univ. of Pennsylvania and was moderated by Univ. of Missouri Assistant Professor, Treva Lindsey. We talked about how the internet has changed the landscape of not only media, but activism as well. From the Jena 6, to the Arab Spring, to Occupy, and now Trayvon social media has enabled a level of organizing and engagement that we’ve never seen before. However in all those cases, there was still a need for activists to put in work on the ground.
It’s extremely important for our communities to be equipped with the technology and access we need to not only excel in new media, but create content and a infrastructure that we own. But it’s equally important for us to come offline and engage our people face to face where they live.
by Howard Rambsy II | www.siueblackstudies.com
If I wasn't so behind on my literary history projects and my grading of student papers, I would be inclined to take up the task of writing a history of black digital or online intellectuals. And maybe, the term "intellectuals" doesn't fully capture what I have in mind. Really, it would be more about folks who were collaborating on technology projects and participating in various online conversations.
Whatever the case, I received a renewed spark to my interest in these African American (digital) histories at the Black Thought 2.0 conference at Duke University as Lynne d. Johnson was discussing her participation in New York-based online discussion groups during the early 1990s. Now, I had first encountered "lynne d. johnson" in the late 1990s when I became a participant on Alondra Nelson's afrofuturism (AF) list serve. Mark Anthony Neal was there. Nalo Hopkinson was there, and many, many more were on the list serve.
Turns out, Lynne had arrived to the AF list from various other techy spots such as "New York Online." On the panel at Black Thought 2.0, she was running down some of her participation with online bulletin boards and list serves. She was briefly sketching her interactions with folks who got later major black sites rolling. Her narratives were a useful glance into the early years of an exciting black online or digital world that was accompanied by analog organizing in New York City. (I wish the panel moderator had asked her to say even more).
Mark Antony Neal could probably provide related narratives about his engagements with black technological communities that led him to afrofuturism and beyond. And then consider Nalo Hopkinson, a speculative fiction writer, whose social travels led her to AF as well. There was also the black film scholar Anna Everett, who eventually coordinated a series of AfroGeek conferences at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004 and 2005. Oh, and the poet Tracie Morris, an AF participant, has a long history of producing thoughtful experiments that merge sound and verse.
There are way too many participants in these intellectual tech histories to identify, too many projects to easily summarize. Nonetheless, attempting to chart some of the interactions and common participants in various locales over the years could help us to account for the development and dispersal of an expansive body of ideas. We begin to see clearer pictures of how we get from "New York Online" to "Black Planet" and afrofuturism to the AfroGeeks conferences to Black Thought 2.0.
by Faithe Day | HASTAC
A reoccurring theme during the Black Thought 2.0 conference, which is also reflected in Black Studies, was the idea of tensions between personas or a sense of double-consciousness. The main panel that discussed this tensionwas the second Panel titled“On the Grid: Teaching and Researching in the Digital” after the moderator brought up the question of having a public and private life in the digital world and in the real world. Howard Rambsy II discussed it in terms of a double-consciousness between the analog self and the digital self, while Allison Clark attributed this idea to “code-switching”. While only some of the panelists expressed a separation between their public and private selves in terms of their use of social media sites, I could not help but think of the idea of Black Twitter and the long history of doubleness when thinking about and/or enacting “acceptable” modes of cultural blackness and modes that are seen as “unacceptable”.
As @ruthellenkocher tweeted “The question of the public/private space inhabited by Black presence existed long before ‘We Wear the Mask.’ Do we foster it? #BT2Duke”. To me, this statement references a time that goes all the way back to slavery in which slaves were constantly under surveillance by their master or mistress and overseers that would punish them for anything that they did that would be considered out of line. Slaves cherished their free time because it gave them a chance to escape the tyranny of judgmental eyes in order to go back to a community of people that understood and supported them as Black people, not just Black property.
In many ways Black Twitter works in the same way because it tends to provide a place for Black people to leave the “White World” in order to become a part of a community that understands their struggle and their interests. Although Black Twitter has been used to mobilize a group of people around social action i.e. the Trayvon Martin tragedy, Black Twitter does not usually function in such a way. Many times Black Twitter comes to our attention because a topic that stereotypically represents the black community is trending i.e. #BasketballWives or #RHOA. At the same time, I go back to Ruth Ellen Kocher’s question because although it seems necessary to have a space in which we can discuss topics that might not be acceptable in a public space i.e. the latest exploits of Chris Brown, it seems problematic to separate what gives us private pleasure from more public spaces.
Who decides which modes of black cultural expression are acceptable or unacceptable? Is it only acceptable to discuss black cultural artifacts in an academic sense? As S. Craig Watkins discussed during his keynote there was a time in which it wasn’t considered academic to write about Hip-Hop and now there are many scholars that specialize in the field. While this is a movement from taking something that has given many people entertainment and enjoyment, will everything within black culture make that move and should it? Although I think that the final panel gave great feedback on how they balance entertainment and criticism (“The Twitterati and Twitter-gentsia: Social Media and Public Intellectuals”) I do wonder if turning a critical eye on these cultural expressions is just a part of being an academic or is it just continuing a history of differentiating between the spheres of blackness.
by Howard Rambsy II | www.siueblackstudies.com
What was especially notable about the Black Thought 2.0 gathering was its live ustream broadcast and live-tweets with the hashtag #BT2Duke. The in-room audience for the panels included 60 or so people, but the online viewers increased the audience to nearly 1,000 during the course of the day.
The twitter activity taking place was dynamic and offered a way of reading what observers were taking away from the panelists' comments and how folks on twitter were receiving what was tweeted. Someone on the panel would make a point; someone in the room or watching on ustream would quote or paraphrase the quotation and post it on twitter; then others would re-tweet or comment. It was an engaging interplay, social media in action.
In a way, it was an odd experience to see so many people using their mobile devices and typing on computers in a conference setting. Often, people sit and listen as speakers present ideas. However, in this context and in the age of quick social media, audience members are free to multi-task, packaging and distributing information as soon as they receive it. (There are limits and new possibilities with this approach, which might be worth further exploration at some point).
To the extent that conferences are often closed off for those who cannot afford the costs of traveling to a distant place and staying in a somewhat pricey hotel, the broadcasting and twitter features of the conference were important steps for new ways of presenting and sharing. The setup offered broad and diverse audiences (from various locations) access to the people and ideas being presented.
Moving forward, Black Thought 2.0 will stand as a model for what's possible when it comes to making conference proceedings more easily and widely accessible.
DURHAM Blogs, Twitter and online petitions are forceful tools that activists can use to galvanize support for local and national causes, participants at a Duke University forum said Saturday.
Social media can quickly draw attention to issues and lead to national and international news coverage, said panelists taking part in the Black Thought 2.0 forum on new media and black studies. Twitter users can release a flood of news as it’s happening, and social media can link like-minded people from around the world, creating international crusades.
“The petition, on-the-ground protests, blogging – a combination of these is creating a zeitgeist to talk about these issues more and more,” said Salamishah Tillet, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Saturday’s forum came just weeks after an online petition and Twitter users brought international attention to the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. Activists can use social media “to change the conversations about things that are important,” said Jasiri X, an emcee who uses hip-hop music for social commentary.
Social media also helped highlight the case of the Jena 6, black high school students from Louisiana who were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy after a school fight with white students.
And because of social media, Troy Davis, a Georgia man executed last year for murdering an off-duty policeman, convinced thousands around the world that he was innocent. A Twitter campaign argued for a stay.
“This represented Twitter at its best,” Jasiri X said. “It was such a powerful generation of tweet support (and) online town halls,” he said.
Jasiri X experienced the expansive reach of social media firsthand after he wrote a song about the Jena 6 that was posted online. Soon, nationally syndicated talk show host Michael Baisden played it on his radio show.
Jasiri X said he just completed a song about Trayvon Martin.
“I’m writing this song and putting it in a space to help lead a conversation about violence against black men and race in this society,” he said.
Twitter and blogs are also important in local protests, participants at the Duke event said.
“If you’re not on Twitter, you’re not getting the news first,” said Kimberly Ellis, a blogger and activist from Pittsburgh.
Fighting a casino
Ellis used her blog in 2006 to fight a plan to put a casino in her neighborhood. The casino plan died. She also said she live-tweeted during a protest of a G-20 summit in 2009 and found that mainstream news outlets were following hers and others’ tweets.
“Being the first to reveal the news is extremely important,” she said.
by Faithe Day | HASTAC
Through the beauty of the Internet I was able to spend Friday and Saturday watching and taking part in discussion via twitter on the Black Thought 2.0 Conference at Duke University that was broadcast via UStream. Here are my notes, which mostly reflect the questions that were addressed and some of the responses, from my interaction with the conference as well as some additional links that I found interesting. Look out for some more blog posts in which I will give my thoughts on some specific aspects of the conference.
Keynote Address: April 6th @7PM by S. Craig Watkins
Here is a link to the tweets from before the conference and the tweets that were written during S. Craig Watkins Keynote:
· Rhyme books and the creation of a culture of ethnographers that wrote down the realities of black experience in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
· Despite the fact that Black and Latino individuals take up a small amount of the United States population they have greater visibility on social networking sites such as Twitter i.e. Black Twitter.
· How are minority youth interacting with these social media sites and/or the Internet?
o The use of mobile devices to gain internet access; Steve Jobs and “holding the internet in your hand”
o What kind of experience does one have using the internet on a mobile device? How does this influence access?
· Similarities between Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till (Jet Magazine and the social mobilization of black individuals around an important cause).
Panel #1 9-10:15 am
The Chocolate Supa Highway: Precursors to Black Social Media
Abdul Alkalimat (University of Illinois)
Michelle Ferrier(Elon University)
Lynne d Johnson(Director of Strategy & Engagement at Whisprgroup)
Lee D. Baker(Moderator, Duke University)
· What will happen when there is greater internet connectivity?
· Michelle Ferrier noted that Technology is used to “divide and fragment”, but as a commenter stated from the audience black culture is about bringing together.
· The use of social media to connect people, but still being aware of the problem with connectivity.
· The idea that anything that we do to connect with others can be seen as a form of social media
o During the keynote address S. Craig Watkins drew connections between slaves using work songs to relay messages to each other in the fields and the use of leaflets during the Civil Rights Movement.
o Even the underground railroad was a social network.
o In many ways, Black public intellectuals have regularly incorporated aspects of social media into their platforms.
Panel #2 10:30-11:45
On the Grid: Teaching and Researching in the Digital Age
Allison Clark (Founder AMedia1/HASTAC)
Kim Pearson(College of New Jersey)
Simone Browne(University of Texas at Austin)
Howard Rambsy II(Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville)
Thomas F. DeFrantz (Moderator, Duke University)
· The big questions:
o How can we open up access to information? What does it mean to do open access?
o Do students need to know how to write? What is the new normal for writing in 2012? What can writing become for us as a community?
o The long-form that’s happening in electronic media that only some people have access to? What happens to the creation of the public intellectual when only some people have access? “Teach your kids to have a public persona”-Allison Clark
o The question of public and private life in the digital world and in the real world?
o What is digital literacy?
o How can we incorporate the digital into the classroom?
Panel #3 1:30-2:45 pm
From Jena Louisiana to Tahrir Square: Activism in the Age of Social Media
Jasiri X (Pittsburg based artist & activist)
Alexis Pauline Gumbs(Broken Beautiful Press/Mobile Homecoming Project)
Moya Bailey(Emory University/Crunk Feminist Collective)
Kimberly Ellisaka Dr. Goddess (artist, activist, historian)
Salamishah Tillett(University of Pennsylvania)
Treva Lindsey(Moderator, University of Missouri)
· Question 1: How has social media or New Media transformed your life as an activist? How has it changed the way you think about activism?
o Jasiri X: New Media has given him more of a “worldview” based on feedback that he has gotten from different people around the world. The internet encourages global thinking.
· Discussion of Black feminism and queer studies.
· We should be using the tools of our campus to start activism.
· The campus as “neutral place” in which we can enact change.
· There should be a greater move towards using the internet to connect multiple campuses and on and off campus communities.
Panel #4 3:00-4:30
The Twitterati and Twitter-gentsia: Social Media and Public Intellectuals
Marc Lamont Hill (Columbia University/Our World with Black Enterprise)
Jay Smooth (Editor of Ill Doctrine)
Blair LM Kelley(North Carolina State University)
Latoya Peterson(Editor of Racialicious)
Imani Perry(Princeton University)
Mark Anthony Neal(Moderator, Duke University)
· How does social media create or influence the presence of the public intellectual?
· What does it mean to be a public intellectual?
· Social media, such as Twitter, gives black intellectuals the chance to interact with a wider community in a more accessible way
· How do you get people to interact with an intellectual site or blog by balancing text on entertainment and Pop Culture while still critically thinking?
o Latoya Peterson discusses how you can use Pop Culture as an invitation into more serious discussion i.e. Sons of Anarchy and a discussion of race and class
· It’s important to not interact with Pop Culture, such as rap music, as low culture but to see both the pleasure and critical possibilities of interacting with this type of media.
· Marc Lamont Hill: The importance of protecting Black thought in an age of Neoliberalism and the influence of corporate interests on academia.
o It is also important to remember that as academics we cannot just “think deeply” about things or talk on Twitter but it is also important to go out and do something.
· Questions from the audience
o Wikipedia and what constitutes legitimate knowledge/information.
§ Latoya Peterson: Who gets to define what is relevant? What do we do when we share a language but not a culture?
§ The creation of and the debacle behind the Mackmende page on Wikipedia
o What do you do when white students are resistant to learning about African American Culture or the black experience?
o Are there some strategic ways for us to be activists?
· The importance of visibility and accessibility in academia as a professor and/or public intellectuals and addressing the misconceptions that people have towards or about academia.
by Camille Jackson | Duke Today
Scholars will discuss how social media enhances their teaching and allows them to reach new audience
Durham, NC - What would have happened if NAACP co-founder W.E.B. DuBois had Twitter? Or Harriet Tubman or any number of great black leaders of the past? Social media tools like Twitter have allowed a micro community of African-American scholars to teach in a public sphere, helping shape opinion in real time on current events.
More than a dozen of these prominent scholars will gather this weekend for a conference on the role of social media in cultural studies.
The two-day conference, "Black Thought 2.0: New Media and the Future of Black Studies," will be held at the John Hope Franklin Center (2204 Erwin Road) and is free and open to the public. (To register, click here.) Parking is available in the Pickens Center visitor lot across the street.
The program begins tonight with a 7 p.m. keynote address by S. Craig Watkins, the author of "The Young & the Digital." A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the John Hope Franklin Center gallery.
For those unable to attend, the conference will be streamed live on Duke's Ustream channel, and viewers can tweet questions for the panelists using the hashtag #BT2Duke.
Watkins is a communications professor at the University of Texas at Austin and researches young people's social and digital media behaviors.
The conference continues Saturday at 9 a.m. with panels "The Chocolate Supa Highway: Precursors to Black Social Media," and "On the Grid: Teaching and Researching in the Digital Age." Afternoon panels begin at 1:30 with "From Jena, La. to Tahrir Square: Activism in the Age of Social Media," and at 3 p.m. with "The Twitterati and Twitter-gentsia: Social Media and Public Intellectuals."
"In many ways Black Thought 2.0 is an attempt to encourage black scholars and academics to catch up to our audience," said conference organizer Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of black popular culture at Duke who has more than 11,000 Twitter followers.
"Given our rich tradition of public intellectuals, dating back to figures like Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, it just seems as though new media represents another way for black intellectuals to be in the world. Imagine what W.E.B. Dubois might have done with a Twitter feed?"
Other panelists include Jasiri X, a rapper who recently released "Trayvon," a tribute song for the slain teen; author Marc Lamont Hill, an education professor at Columbia University and the host of the nationally syndicated TV One program "Our World With Black Enterprise"; and Moya Bailey, a blogger for Crunk Feminist Collection best known for a organizing a protest as an undergraduate student at Spelman College against the rapper Nelly. Several Duke faculty will participate in the conference as well.
Neal will discuss the conference Friday at noon on WUNC-FM's "The State of Things" broadcast.
The conference is sponsored by Duke's Department of African and African American Studies, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, Left of Black and the Office of the Provost.
For more information, click here.