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CCCC 2016: Does Black Twitter Exist? The Technological Politics of Researching Race and Social Media

Does Black Twitter Exist?  

The Technological Politics of Researching and Writing about Race and Social Media

Composed by:  Dr. Alexandria Lockett

Presented at:  CCCC 2016 (Houston, TX)

Abstract:  Although “Black Twitter” has been acknowledged by some mainstream media outlets, this cultural, linguistic, and rhetorical phenomenon is virtually absent from academic studies (Manjoo; McDonald; Ramsey; Sanders; Williams).  Nevertheless, a small body of literature about ‘Black Twitter’ is steadily emerging.  Alexandria Lockett examines the problem of how researchers talk about Black Twitter since this issue generates vigorous debates about its categorical and causal significance (Bonilla and Rosa; Brock; Clark; Florini; Sharma; Vassell and Burroughs). Even as the “blackness” of Black Twitter is recognized through racially coded language practices, some researchers dismiss the (rhetorical) significance of Black English (BE) (Banks; Graham; Reed; Richardson; Smitherman).  Twitter’s complex technical mechanisms (e.g. algorithms, archiving and “trending” functions) also intensify the challenge of studying cultural expression through ethnographic and linguistic methods (boyd; Gilbert; Sharma; Vats; Williams).  Thus, Lockett identifies some of the ways in which these debates reveal opportunities for developing more nuanced methodologies for studying the intersections between symbolic and technical systems.  Specifically, Lockett suggests that researchers studying social media should acknowledge how  their attitudes towards language and communication affects the research process.   

Transcript of Talk:  The content of this talk is unavailable because it is being revised for publication.

Bibliography for Talk


CCCC 2016

Location:  Hilton-Americas (3rd Floor, Room 335), 1600 Lamar Street, Houston, Texas

Date of Presentation:  April 8, 8:00 a.m.

Presentation Format:  Panel

Chaired by:  Christopher Carter

Race and Writing Methods: Investigating Racism through Autoethnography, History, and Technology

Presenters:  James Chase Sanchez, Iris Ruiz, Christopher Carter, and Alexandria Lockett


Brief Panel Description:  Our panel investigates racial methodology, emphasizing autoethnography, historiography, and technology.

Full Panel Description:  This panel proposes new Composition methodologies for a racialized 21st century–methodologies that promote sustained examination of colorblind racism. For at least three decades, scholars have critically examined race and racism as they intersect with language, literacy, pedagogy, and assessment (hooks; Martinez; Rose; Smitherman; Villanueva). However, diversity and inclusion efforts continue to be an important issue in the field because contemporary racism is weakening our ability to talk about race. The proliferation of documented incidents of overt racism (such as racial profiling, police brutality, and online hate speech) intensify/reflect the refusal to talk about race, or “colorblind racism” (Bonilla-Silva; Dovidio and Gaertner; Tatum).  Moreover, globalization and technology affect the scale of racialized commodification, consumption, and exploitation (Byng; Collins; Young).  These issues demand a renewed attention to the problem of race, rhetoric, and methodology.

Speaker 1: The Racialized Me: Autoethnography as Racial Justice

Autoethnography has long been a central method for Literacy Studies but tends to be taboo in Composition. Though Steven Alvarez explores his Chicano/a literacy practices through autoethnography in his Mexington, Kentucky project, and Charlotte Hogg discusses her rural literacy practices in In the Garden Club, these scholars use this method strictly as a literacy practice. Speaker 1 interrogates how autoethnography functions as a method for modeling racial justice in Literacy Studies and Composition. By situating narratives of the racialized self within a broader context of systemic inequality, Speaker 1 expands on the implications of a racist hometown as the setting of a Latino’s literacy narrative. By writing about race in this context, Speaker 1 expands on how race affects agency, authority, and silencing (Banks; Inoue; Poe). Combining interviews about race with friends, histories of one’s town, and memories of racism demonstrate how autoethnography promotes justice through using these methods as a form of liberation. Overall, Speaker 1 uses autoethnography to create justice through composing a racialized history of the self–a memoir of race–bridging the gap between Literacy Studies and Composition and their approaches to race.

Speaker 2: Shattering Glass Mirrors: Historiography as Racial Recovery

While the field of Composition is familiar with historiography as a research method (Octologs I and II), it has yet to formulate a critical, disciplinary history or pedagogical approach for teaching composition that accounts for absences of racial groups in dominant historical narratives. Histories of Composition written by J. Brereton, J. Berlin, and A. Kitzhaber do not adequately address minority populations such as Latin@s or African-Americans. While R. Ohmann, S. Crowley, L. Z. Bloom, and S. Miller provide a critical analysis of histories of Composition, exposing Composition courses’ involvement in middle-class creation, these histories also overlook these populations. As such, despite the fact that critical historiography was founded on the premise that Composition pedagogy and research ought to acknowledge lost or neglected histories, the field still fails to incorporate “racial recovery work” (e.g. the history of Composition in Black normal schools and The Aoy Preparatory School in El Paso) into dominant narratives. The absence of this history calls into question established histories of composition and suggests considerations of alternative pedagogical approaches as models for developing global, historical composition courses inclusive of ethnic minorities to provide a more “racially rounded” history.

Speaker 3: Taser Trouble: Public Discourse and the Mediation of Police Brutality

From Geneva Smitherman’s meditations on linguistic hegemony to Adam Banks’s evocation of politically engaged, multimodal poetics, writing instructors have long debated ways to research and teach the racial politics of public discourse. Wendy Hesford, Robert Hariman, and John Louis Lucaites demonstrate that such discourse occurs not just through spoken and written words but also through visual expression—whether photography, web imagery, television, or film. Speaker 3 expands current methods of investigating civic dialogue by concentrating on the mediation of violent arrests in South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Maryland, laying particular emphasis on rhetorics of citizen videography and police camera footage. In an era that finds officers “mistaking” pistols for tasers and regularly using deadly force against unarmed African-American subjects, the question of how to study the production and reception of impromptu documentary appears an urgent methodological concern. Speaker 3 addresses that concern by engaging with Nicholas Mirzoeff’s theory of “visuality,” which designates not just the condition of visibility but the historical habits that distinguish publicly see-able events from the abject, the unrepresentable, and the deliberately hidden.

Panelist Information:

  1. James Chase Sanchez, Texas Christian University (j.c.sanchez@tcu.edu)
  1. Iris Ruiz, University of CA, Merced (ruizirisd@gmail.com)
  1. Christopher Carter, University of Cincinnati (christopher.carter@uc.edu)

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