Students Voices that Reach Beyond the Classroom: Denison University’s Annual Podcast-a-thon
Kelli Massa Van Wasshenova, Doug Swift, Sarah Barney, Emily Walker
Aditi Singh was surprised her podcast was selected as a finalist. Her writing had never received much praise. But then, she’d never been invited to write in her own voice. Her audio story about rushing a sorority as a person of color allowed her to use that voice. First, her writing workshop class responded. Then an auditorium filled with students across the curriculum, and mentors comprised of professional audio producers, they responded too. Aditi would say that this event allowed her to find her voice.
Anyone who has found themselves looking for a place where topics such as trans discrimination, environmental sustainability, addiction and recovery, and immortal jellyfish come together, might be interested in attending one of Denison University’s annual Podcast-a-thon events.
This event is organized by the Department of Narrative Journalism at Denison University and is supported, in part, by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the “Writing in Place” program at Denison. Each year, students participating in the Podcast-a-thon competition produce audio stories rooted in a broad range of academic disciplines including queer studies, neuroscience, political science, geoscience, psychology, and educational studies.
Leading up to the main event, in which a winning class podcast is presented with the “Buzzy” award, students work with faculty members, visiting journalists, and instructional technologists to produce their podcasts. Support for faculty and students involves class presentations, hands-on workshops, and technology and software training. The ultimate goal for this event is to teach our students how to produce compelling, quality audio stories that can reach a broad range of audiences beyond a traditional academic paper or essay.
On of Denison’s Instructional Technologists and the Digital Media Specialist will lead this session along with two of the participating students. It will include: 1) a brief presentation on how the Podcast-a-thon has evolved over the past three years, including the support team and the technology; 2) a showcase of select short audio stories produced by Denison students during these events that touch on the sociopolitical theme of this year’s conference; and 3) an open discussion between the speakers and members in the audience.
The presenters would also like to include this webpage as an accompanying digital installation piece for the roundtable session: https://denison.shorthandstories.com/art-of-the-story-digitally/index.html.
Death and the Digital Age: African-American Cemeteries in the American South
Tracy Barnett, Benjamin Ehlers, Debra Taylor Gonzalez, Lynn Rainville, Ryan Smith
African-American cemeteries across the American South are vanishing—not from descendants’ memories, but from the physical landscape itself. For decades, infrastructure development and urban renewal project have disrupted the final resting places of Black men, women, and children; white city and university leaders have knowingly and unknowingly disinterred Black bodies, destroyed gravestones, and repurposed cemetery grounds. In other instances, the landscape itself strangles the dead. Ivy, kudzu, wisteria, and other fast-growing plants choke fieldstone, marble, and granite tombstones—obscuring them from the view of a well-meaning passerby or a curious descendant. Indeed, these mournful yet meaningful public spaces are critically endangered.
Connecting historians, activists, and community members, this roundtable explores African-American burial grounds in Athens, Georgia; Durham, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. Seeking to recognize and recover these sacred spaces, we have developed webpages, interactive GIS maps, audio podcasts, and video tours. Analyzing a southern college town at the height of Jim Crow-Era segregation, the Athens Death Project (https://adp.ehistory.org) measures racial and socioeconomic disparities in health outcomes and life expectancy during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Ms. Tracy L. Barnett and Dr. Benjamin Ehlers will share their work on this project. In North Carolina, Ms. Debra Taylor Gonzalez will showcase her work with The Friends of Geer Cemetery (https://durhaminplainsight.com), a group of concerned citizens striving for the restoration and preservation of the cemetery’s physical environment as well as the legacies of those within it. Dr. Lynn Rainville, meanwhile, will share ways to re-purpose social media platforms to share research about Virginia’s historic cemeteries as well as discuss her efforts to work with community members to create accessible datasets. Offering a portal for research and self-guided tours, Dr. Ryan K. Smith’s Richmond Cemeteries Project (https://www.richmondcemeteries.org) uses multimedia and other digital tools to explore white and Black cemeteries in Virginia’s capital city.
Digital tools in the hands of historians, preservationists, educators, and descendants have advanced the recognition and recovery of many of these grounds considerably, and helped prevent further encroachment. One challenge, however, remains: to connect with descendent communities more broadly and to build communication across sites and platforms. Given the threats these sites face, the task is urgent.
Computational Approaches to Book Reviews
Matthew Lavin, Melanie Walsh, Maria Antoniak, Dan Sinykin, Jordan Pruett
Between 2012 and 2020, numerous interventions in distant reading, cultural analytics, and/or humanities computing focused primarily on the trends and patterns discoverable in large scale corpora of literary texts. The selection of representative texts has been the subject of much debate. Katherine Bode has argued that computational literary studies fails to adequately capture “the historical nature of literary works and how they connect to produce literary systems.” Textual scholars, she argues, “conceptualize literary works as events, unfolding over time and space and gaining different meanings in the connections thereby formed.” Bode calls for a “data rich’”’ model of analysis informed by bibliographical and book historical perspectives on the critical and interpretive work of dataset production and suitable to model large-scale trends of publication, circulation, and reception–not solely textual features.
Bode’s critique is an important backdrop to the computational analysis of book reviews. Reader responses published in periodicals or posted to sites like Goodreads seem to offer an alternative frame of reference for the analysis of literary history. Book reviews center attention on the social processes by which texts become valued and recirculated or neglected and marginalized. But to what extent do computational approaches to book reviews instead replicating the assumptions of previous work? Scholarship by James F. English, Allison Hegel, Matthew Lavin, Andrew Piper & Richard Jean So, Dan Sinykin, Jordan Sellers & Ted Underwood, Melanie Walsh & Maria Antoniak has shown the range of insights that can be drawn from a corpus of book reviews and/or sets of book review corpora. Yet much of this scholarship has depended approaches where a machine learning model is trained on book review term frequencies and used to generate predictions of a pre-labeled category. If the model can successfully predict the category, it is typically reasoned that the category is both coherent and tied to patterns of book review language .
Our roundtable gathers several scholars working actively on computational approaches to book reviews. Our panelists are all working on English-language book reviews published in primarily American review media, though the panel will be of methodological interest to researchers working in reception studies and cultural analytics. Discussion topics will include: (1) how to produce data models of book reviews that adequately represent the reviews as textual objects produced and/or published by periodicals or digital platforms; (2) how to best featurize and represent relationships between reviews and the texts they review; (3) how to identify and work against the “ontological gaps and epistemological biases” raised by Bode and others ; (4) how to establish publicly available book review corpora to benchmark performance across the above goals, while meeting the distinctive ethical and logistical challenges associated with book review data; and (5) avenues of future research, including tools and resources for the study of reviews in multiple languages.
1. Bode, Katherine. “The Equivalence of ‘Close’ and ‘Distant’ Reading; or, Toward a New Object for Data-Rich Literary History” Modern Language Quarterly 78.1 (2017): 86. https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-3699787
2. Bode, “Equivalence,” 88.
3. Bode, “Equivalence,” 94.
4. See, for example, James F. English, et al. “Mining Goodreads: Literary Reception Studies at Scale,” https://pricelab.sas.upenn.edu/projects/goodreads-project; Allison Hegel, “Social Reading in the Digital Age.” Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2018; Marijn Koolen, Peter Boot, and Joris van Zundert, “Online Book Reviews and the Computational Modelling of Reading Impact” Workshop on Computational Humanities Research (2020); and Melanie Walsh and Maria Antoniak, “The Goodreads ‘Classics’: A Computational Study of Readers, Amazon, and Crowdsourced Literary Criticism” Journal of Cultural Analytics (Forthcoming 2021).
5. See, for example, Matthew J. Lavin, “Gender Dynamics and Critical Reception: A Study of Early 20th-century Book Reviews from The New York Times” Journal of Cultural Analytics January 30, 2020. https://culturalanalytics.org/article/11831; Andrew Piper and Richard Jean So, “Women Write About Family, Men Write About War,” The New Republic, April 8, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/132531/women-write-family-men-write-war; Dan N. Sinykin “The Conglomerate Era: Publishing, Authorship, and Literary Form, 1965–2007.” Contemporary Literature 58, no. 4 (2017): 462–91; Ted Underwood, and Jordan Sellers. “The Longue Durée of Literary Prestige.” Modern Language Quarterly 77, no. 3 (September 1, 2016): 321–44. https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-3570634.
6. Bode, “Why You Can’t Model Away Bias,” Modern Language Quarterly, 2. https://katherinebode.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/mlq2019_preprintbode_why.pdf.
Black Feminist Digital Vernaculars: A Roundtable on Moya Bailey’s Misogynoir Transformed
Ariel Elyce Stevenson, Adrienne Adams, Brooklyne Gipson, Ka’Lyn Coghill
Black Queer Feminist Scholar Moya Bailey coined the term “misogynoir” in 2008 and publicly introduced it in her blog “They aren’t talking about me” for the Crunk Feminist Collective (2010). This portmanteau contributed to the lexicon that Black women, both trans and cis, have long developed to describe everyday, popular culture, and structural encounters with anti-black sexism in and beyond the internet (Cooper 1892; Labeija 1968; Beal 1969; Combahee River Collective 1977; Crenshaw 1989; Higginbotham 1992). Like other cases of Black women intellectual production, the digital circulation of the word evacuated the genesis of the term from its creator (Bailey 2018).
This roundtable will discuss Bailey’s new book, Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance (May 2021, NYU Press), in order to further emphasize Black feminist grammars and genealogies (Spillers 1987) across Internet studies, media studies, digital humanities and Black feminist studies. Even as these digital fields have lacked a sincere engagement with Black Studies, Black Feminist scholars have theorized ways to articulate both Black women’s self-fashioning of digital technologies and the power differentials that undergird the architecture and uses of these same technologies. Such scholarship includes, but is not limited to, Alondra Nelson and Anna Everett’s early interventions (2002), Kara Keeling’s “Bamboozled” (2008) and “Queer OS” (2014), Kim Gallon’s “Black Digital Humanities” (2016) and Safiya Noble’s “Critical Black Digital Humanities” (2019), Catherine Knight Steele’s “Digital Black Feminism” (2016), Noble and Brendesha Tyne’s “Intersectional Critical Race Technology Studies” (2016), Kishonna Gray’s Black Cyberfeminism (2018; 2020), and Ruha Benjamin’s “New Jim Code” (2019).
With that in mind, discussing Misogynoir Transformed not only seeks to contribute to redressing the decentralization of Bailey and her scholarship in misogynoir’s circulation, but also serves as an entrypoint to consider the proposed frameworks, shared commitments, and possible tensions in this broader critical terrain. We hope to engage questions such as: Following the critiques of humanism forwarded by Sylvia Wynter (1984), Katherine McKittrick (2006; 2021) and Zakiyyah Iman Jackson (2020), how might we disabuse ourselves of a notion of black digital humanism/humanities? What words, memes, and hashtags are being used to incite violence and harm towards Black trans and cis women? Moreover, what language might we mobilize to describe the materiality of violence that Black women experience online? How are white supremacist ideolgies being portrayed through the lexicon used in Black queer spaces online, particually TikTok (ex: Top/Bottom gender role stereotypes being acted out in video format)? Finally, what are the possible conversations between work, like Bailey’s, that concerns quotidian uses of digital platforms and research agendas that grapple with the anti-black political economy of the corporate internet (Noble 2019)?