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#BlackLivesMatter: The Digital Decolonization of Online Personal Narratives & The Rise of Transmedia Activism

Partially supported by a NULab Seedling Grant

This is a digital humanities project that seeks to understand the ways in which narratives are transforming with the rise of the Digital Age. As we continue to spend more of our time on social media and within various digital ecosystems, the way we create and share stories is changing. This project highlights the through-line between personal narratives, community formation, and the creation of transmedia socio-political movements. Focusing on the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, this project investigates the connection between white allyship, performative activism, slacktivism, and the interception of Black narratives in digital spaces.

In her essay, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”, Audre Lorde writes, “…we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate” (1984). Through rhetorical, narrative, and network analysis, our goal is to visualize the digital narratological, morphological, and affective changes that occur when personal narratives evolve into community stories and greater public discourse. This project is also deeply invested in community collaboration and working through the moral and ethical questions of this work through the adoption of feminist and cultural rhetorical practices.

In 2020, principal investigator Taryn Gilligan created a digital archive prototype using Omeka, where she aggregated Instagram and Twitter posts created by anti-racist educators, activists, and digital content creators during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests from June through September of 2020. Using the data collected from the archive, Gilligan will create a geospatial timeline to contextualize and visualize the symbiotic relationship between the protests and online socio-political movements. In the future, the project hopes to grow its collaborative efforts with anti-racist educators, activists, and digital content creators to not only show how personal narratives can build community, ignite socio-political movements, and create empathy but more importantly, to highlight and celebrate the personal and community stories that helped make the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests so impactful.

Principal Investigator

Taryn Gilligan, Graduate Student, English

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