Black Speculative Digital Arts and Humanities – 2022


Course Description:
Black Speculative Futures–real and imagined representations of African heritage peoples and cultures that challenge a world built on white supremacist oppression–have been present and visible in literature, film, and music for many years. Such projects push us to understand worlds, histories, and futures outside of white male hegemonies that minimize difference and make heteronormativity all but compulsory. As we engage in the pursuit of disrupting these hegemonies, it’s important to consider and question relations in and between digital and physical spaces. The Black speculative Digital Arts and Humanities (DAH) can help us do this work.

The Black speculative provides us with a language to describe and represent the history and future of Black cultural production; it offers a vision of fantastic and real-world space through multimodal narratives about difference, belonging, and technologically mediated identity formation; it’s a “way of seeing” that challenges historical depictions of homogenous, whitewashed, tomorrows; it also offers a way to consider inclusive design practices when imagining and developing digital objects and spaces. We’ll ask a host of questions in this workshop, but one of the most important will be: as we expand our understanding of digital arts and humanities, how does Black speculative futures contribute to this work? Another will be: how might a Black speculative toolkit help us imagine a more inclusive digital arts and humanities? How can the Black speculative support our re-imagining of the relationship between the world and the earth?

Workshop Goals:
This workshop will include discussions, demonstrations, and hands-on activities. Individuals in this workshop will:

  • Participate in an introduction to Black speculative futures and its connection to digital arts and humanities
  • Explore approaches for making a Black speculative toolkit.
  • Analyze methods for designing Black speculative creative, research, and classroom projects.
  • Engage with and share Black speculative approaches to digital narrative-building, digital space creation, and digital embodiment.
  • Work on a small digital project of their choosing, either individually or in small groups.

Pre-Workshop Assignments:
Workshop Readings and assignments will be available in a shared Google folder before, during, and after the workshop. Technical skills and requirements: Although basic HTML and CSS skills are helpful for the creation of more customized projects, they are not prerequisites for the workshop; no programming skills will be required. Participants will want to have a device that allows them to work in digital applications.

Dr. Michael Sterling Burns is an Associate Professor of English at West Chester University. His teaching and scholarship evidence a continued interest in the connections between language practices and issues of social justice, especially in relation to African heritage people in the Americas. In addition to his work in First-Year Writing and the Academic Development Program (WCUs “Bridge” Program), Michael teaches courses in African American Rhetorics and Literatures, including the Afro-speculative course “Race and Space: Representations of Blackness on (and beyond) Terra Firma.”

Dr. Clayton Colmon is the Associate Director of Instructional Design for Penn Arts & Sciences Online Learning. His work lives at the intersection of critical race, gender, queer and utopian studies, as he examines the impact technology has on marginalized bodies and community-building efforts in digital spaces. He has presented and published scholarship on the significance of afrofuturism in literature, music, and critical pedagogy. Clay has also taught face-to-face and hybrid courses on digital rhetoric, American literature and science fiction.