Week 5: Ethical Choices in Archiving

       With our digital archiving project, we’re faced with many ethical decisions, particularly about what artifacts we make accessible, how we make them accessible, and the ways in which we label, classify, and categorize the information we present. Decisions we make regarding which documents go into the archive as pertaining to Watts ‘65 is one way in which our ethical judgment comes into play. Another is in the ways we present this archive digitally (and how we seek to make it accessible via online searching using tags/metadata). Finally, and most relevant to what we’ve been doing this past week, the ways we title, describe, tag, and contribute our assigned artifacts will affect the ways researchers view them in important ways. This is the area in which I’ve been conscious of my decisions and subjective voice in this process, and how it could shape (and potentially damage) the goals of this project.
        One pitfall I’ve been contemplating as I’ve completed my descriptions and tagging metadata is the way in which our voices as complete outsiders to the Watts community can act as unwanted, subjective interpreters and cast the artifacts in a lens that speaks more to our views on these events than those represented in the documents. I’ve tried to keep my descriptions as dry and neutral as possible, using quotes from the documents to convey the writer’s perspective or goal, but I still worry about information overemphasized or left out based on my subjective reading of even these brief texts. While shades of this subjective perspective are inevitable in doing this work, I’ve been ruminating on how our perspectives as academics totally disconnected from this community could create more distance between our raw materials and the people trying to seek them out rather than less.
        As for the work beyond what we’ll complete in class (which, let’s be honest, will be immense, considering our limited time frame), I think the most important aspects to consider are how this archive and these materials are positioned on the web and the degree to which we have represented these materials ‘accurately.’ Tagging and metadata as well as search engine optimization will be key for the first point, and the presence of a “second set of eyes,” especially those of SCL staff or community members, would be the best possible case for the second point. Another way to think about it is considering both the way the archive is discovered and consumed to newcomers or outsiders and how it reflects on the community and events taking place within it.

¶ Week 5: Question

In the intro to Sorting Things Out, Bowker and Star write about the all-encompassing nature of classification systems, how they shape (and control) our everyday lives and their implications:

Remarkably for such a central part of our lives, we stand for the most part in formal ignorance of the social and moral order created by these invisible, potent entities. Their impact is indisputable, and as Foucault reminds us, inescapable…Each standard and each category valorizes some point of view and silences another. This is not a bad thing—indeed it is inescapable. But it is an ethical choice, and as such it is dangerous—not bad but dangerous. (3 & 5)

Week #4: The Family Unit

The lack of female presence in the film speaks largely to the larger trend of Black Nationalism which seemed to in part be centered on the re-appropriation of the Black male body and therefore Black masculinity. This topic makes me recall the image of Huey P. Newton which also serves to assert male masculinity for the Black Panthers and consequently works to negate or silence the Black woman. The film in a similar fashion rejects the female voice by focusing on that of the male. In retrospect this is very interesting as one can be led to believe that the uprising was merely a “fight between males”. Yet no one both in this situation or in something as the Black Panthers ever focuses on the fact the the Black woman facilitated the work the males within the Black Panthers did and that in many was they were active participants and supporters. Although these male centered power movements were problematic they were also distorted to reimagine Black masculinity as a threat and therefore a sort of behavior that needed to once again be oppressed. 

Week 4: Male Uprising

The main focus of the documentary was upon the men that participated in the uprising, on both sides. The documentary described the black community’s rioters as typically a 17 year old male, high school drop out, with no father, and the police and national guards (only made up of men) were also described, their male leaders sought out and interviewed for their opinion upon these black men. Both “sides” of the uprising were asked what had happened, but it was only in the times of asking the black community that we heard any female voice: the woman who explained that she needed a job, but needed a babysitter, and the cycle therein which was holding her back from a job. Other than this one woman, and the mentioning of the mother at the incident that started the revolt on August 11th, there was no major mention of females and the struggles that they had gone through, rather the focus was upon the men with no jobs, the men with no fathers, the men with only anger left after years of subjugation. The cry heard was for “brotherhood” and only heard by male voices, or the calls for “get whitey” played over the sound of burning cars was only that of males. While it was seen in the videotaping of the looting that black women, or the women being arrested to show that women were also taking part in the revolt to gain some footing in the events, the absolutely driving force (physically, verbally, and spiritually) was the black man demanding respect and finally taking it from the whites who held him back. As seen in some interviews, the men were explaining the demoralizing, and even unmanning, times that they were subject to police brutality; such as the only (and eventually first) black reporter that was sent into Watts, describing the humiliation of going on a date and being spread against a fence to be patted down while his girlfriend has to look on in silence, both unable to fight back or say a word. What this reflects is the loss of masculinity within the community of Watts and of any black man who had encountered the police. The documentary distinctly showed this type of imagery repeated when the last interviewed black man (whose face was never shown) played out the altercation between himself and police upon his arrest in the uprising, or the clips of men getting arrested. The documentary did not show women, did not seek out women for thoughts, only portraying the loss and downfalls of the black man. 

Week 4: Absence of Women and Limited Black Masculinity in Watts Documentary

     In the December 1965 CBS News Documentary, “Watts – Riots or Revolt?” the absence of black (or white) women reveals the lens with which the producers of the show view the events in Watts and their cause. Through on-air interviews almost exclusively with black men, the documentary contextualizes the Watts community through concerns about masculinity as the foundation of a civil society. The lone interview with a female Watts resident occurs very briefly when Governor Brown speaks to a mother of four about the welfare benefits she receives. The first question he’s shown asking in the clip is “What does your husband do?” She then asserts that she’s caring for the family without a husband and she’d gladly work if she could get a job that could allow her to pay for child care. The clip abruptly cuts to a man standing nearby directing his concerns at the governor, and the issue of employment for Watts women is not discussed again, nor are any female Watts community leaders interviewed within the hour. The presumption from the Governor’s question seems to be that the absence of a male ‘breadwinner’ is at the heart of this woman’s difficulties.
      As Gerald Horne points out, black leaders from the 1930s and 40s, like one of the few female community leaders we read about in Charlotta Bass, had been undercut and severed from Watts by the 1960s, but NOI and other cultural nationalist groups are also noticeably absent from the documentary. Women are largely silenced and absent: I saw two quick shots of a woman looking frightened with her hands up when police have pulled her and others out of the car and another woman whom police told to drop her purse before raising her hands, but neither woman is not heard. Also noticeably silent and absent are any legitimized depictions of black masculinity in contrast to the straight-laced, suit-and-tie, hyperrational masculinity exemplified by the host, Bill Stout. The frustrated mother of four is the only black women heard, and all black men interviewed are either community leaders, academics, and the lone journalist Robert Richardson, and all of these men conform to this narrow conception of a civil, “refined,” almost academic masculinity in dress shirts and pants, mostly in suits and ties. Black men shown are largely either community leaders calling for nonviolence and to keep the streets clear (like Martin Luther King and H.H. Brookins, the reverend who runs the chaotic community meeting in which the boy calls for the riots to continue in white neighborhoods and then speaks to the interviewers after a meeting with the deputy police chief), or, in contrast, individual black men without formal dress expressing largely impotent resentment and frustration (like the man who yearns for the television and other possessions people outside his community possess) or all out hatred bred from petty grievances (like the unidentified young man who describes how he firebombed different stores and hates the Jewish store owners on the block).
      The Watts community is depicted as either civil, rational men who mostly dress and speak like the host, or as disenfranchised, frustrated individual men who lack this agency granted by formal dress and speech. Even those who speak for the community compassionately, like Robert Richardson and the young Rhodes Scholar in law school, still appear in more formal dress to represent and explain the difficulties of their community (with Richardson calling out the only example of disrespect toward black women in Watts with his comment about housewives being mistaken for whores by police). No legitimate black nationalist, class-conscious, or feminist viewpoints are represented, only that of Daniel Moynihan, the white asst. Secretary of Labor who asserts that the “great humiliation of Jim Crow was a brutal assault on the personal integrity of the Negro male,” who took “the brunt of” this humiliation. Moynihan is given the most screen time of anyone other than Police Chief Parker, and his assertion about the economic frustration of the Watts community being felt principly as an emasculation of black men permeates the structure and voices represented in the documentary.

Week 4: The Women of Watts

Reflecting on the absence of women in the Watts documentary made me think of the voices of Wanda Coleman and Betty Pleasant – the women who have spoken out about the Watts rebellion. 
Much of the discourse surrounding the Watts rebellion is wrought with gendered terminology which is undoubtedly, exclusively male. For instance, in Betty Pleasant’s article, “‘Baby’ I Dodged Bullets While L.A. Burned” she speaks of “hard core rioters who were willing to die for the cause of the black brotherhood” (emphasis mine). The focus certainly did seem to be on the “brotherhood” as Pleasant frequently referred to participants as “the guys”. She even goes so far as to call it “Viet Watts,” likening it to war; specifically a war fought predominantly, if not exclusively, by men. Perhaps this emphasis on hyper-masculinity is one of the reasons Pleasant’s article is written with such separatism and conviction. I imagine that as a woman, it would be difficult to feel included in a movement of an oppressed community raising up against systemic racial injustices so heavily saturated with and centered around fraternal camaraderie, or the “brotherhood”.
Maybe this is the same reason Wanda Coleman states that despite the voices of, “James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and W. E. B. Du Bois . . . The hero I longed for did not seem to exist.” Coleman is right to mention this disparity. While James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates have been powerful voices for the black identity, both of their works are fueled by a paternal, and distinctly fraternal, individualism. For instance, in all his talk about “black bodies,” Coates only gives, periodically, a brief nod to the black female body: “the women around you must be responsible for their bodies in a way that you never will know.” While he is right to say that his son, a male, will not even truly “know” the ways in which women must protect and guard their bodies, he leaves it at that and does not attempt to go any further. It is troubling that Coates’ book, which sets out to encompass the black experience and is often hailed for doing so, leaves such a glaring gap when it comes to the experience of the black female. 

¶ Week 4: Question

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the role of gender in the documentary: in both the representation of the riots themselves and the accounts of what caused the riots. Specifically, I’m fascinated by the (non) presence of black women in the representation of the riot and black masculinity as a focal point of discussions of the riot’s causes. In what ways are women an absent presence in the film? What did you see as the overall effect of the manner in which black masculinity, black male role models, and the black family were discussed in the documentary?

Week 4: Digital platforms in the classroom, Twitter as a Resource, and more resources

1.     I’d like to discuss 2 digital platforms, Facebook and Google Classroom. Both have their limitations in regards to scholarly work, but both provide unique collaborative opportunities inside and outside the context of a class.
       Facebook is the only social media platform I frequent, and while I periodically lament the hours I spend aimlessly scrolling, I’ve come to realize that, through the culling and collating of my own preferences over time, my feed has become largely a content aggregator for articles surrounding teaching, education policy, race/class/gender, public policy, and politics. Over time, I’ve opened, responded to, and liked many links posted by a small number of friends relating to these issues that are important to me, and so, because these handful of people are actively reading and posting things everyday, these types of linked articles are my main interface with Facebook (with the occasional cat picture, hah). I’m not visiting the New York Times homepage or reading NCTE or MLA journals with any regularity, so Facebook has become my primary source of news and professional, personal development. As a member of one or two private groups and group message chains, I think Facebook can also be an informal place for like-minded individuals to share and receive feedback (in varying degrees of depth) on scholarly work discovered, created, or in the process of being created. An English cohort member at LMU and published poet uses group messages to share new poems and get feedback, and I think something similar could work among academic working on research as well.
       Google Classroom is a tool I mostly use as a basic class blog upon which I can post and collect homework as well as share resources, handouts, and notes from class. However, I’ve heard about several colleagues at my school using it in more innovative, intriguing ways to engage students. One teacher posts discussion questions to students on the ‘feed’ in class, which he projects onto the wall. Students discuss prompts with their partner and then posts their response (and often questions related to the reading) to the discussion thread, which then becomes visible to the whole class. The teacher can then choose questions from the thread, and students can see the ideas and questions that are most common among their peers, making connections and also giving them the sense that they weren’t alone in their opinions or confusion regarding a text. Another teacher does this open forum before class, similar to the way these blog posts function for this class. She gives students the option to both generate and respond to posts on the first run, which, for many of her senior students in their first honors class, allows them to observe the level of discourse and learn from the model provided by other student’s responses regarding symbolism, literary analysis, etc. This teacher mentioned that the Classroom has a very user-friendly mobile platform, so when she posts both pdfs and the prompt there, she finds better student engagement because students can do their reading, check over the discussion threads, and even add their comments while waiting for the bus, in their carpools, after soccer practice, etc. For this teacher, these threads have guided the course of her instruction and in-class discussion the next day, just as they have in this class.

2. I found the syllabus and resources for several of course that took place at HILT, especially the De/Post/Colonial Digital Humanities Course, to be quite helpful as jumping off points for more scholarship in the various hybrid fields this class in particular covers, largely dealing with the intersection of digital spaces and postcolonial discourse. The syllabus provides many examples of other digital archives for students to peruse, providing many examples for us to observe strengths and limitations of the medium and how we can improve on these models for our own archive. I also really enjoyed a link to an article in the Digital Pedagogy Lab by Jesse Stommel called “The Twitter Essay,” focusing on a great activity that allows students in a first year writing/rhetorical arts course to both sharpen and condense argument with precise language, but also remove the stigma of ‘text talk’ and twitter syntax as uncouth or immoral forms of discourse.  Since I’m still struggling to navigate twitter’s interface, the curated slides of Lee Skallerup’s Storify of the conference was very helpful for me, a ‘cheat sheet’ to navigate the overall structure of the conference and choose the examples and links that looked most interesting to me.

3. My Best Sources on Digital Humanities Pedagogy – I culled almost all of mine from one issue of CEA Critic dedicated to DH pedagogy and a book of essays called Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles. The items with asterisks were ones I didn’t get a chance to read but still want to.

CEA Critic (Vol. 76, Number 2)
Making the Leap: Incorporating Digital Humanities into the English Classroom– Ann R. Hawkins
Introducing Digital Humanities Pedagogy – Luke A. Iantorno
Listening in on the Conversations: An Overview of Digital Humanities Pedagogy
– E Leigh Bonds
Teaching Attentive Reading and Motivated Writing through Digital Editing – Amanda Gailey ** 
From Text to Tags: The Digital Humanities in an Introductory Literature Course
– Sarah H. Ficke
Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Hitting the Wall and Bouncing Back – Maura Ives

Week #4: Evolving Social Media

Our last discussion garnered a lot skepticism with regards to the usefulness of online social networking sites. Despite the sentiments that many of us expressed I do believe that as technology continues to become more influential and sites as these are more normalized t something such as Twitter can be converted into a space of collegial and communal discussion. The notions that these spaces are devoid of an academic atmosphere have more to do with one’s own personal use of them than their actual capacity. With that said, I would venture to say that at this point I view Twitter more as a place for ephemeral group work. As the discusion #digped demonstrated there are people utilizing the site for reflection and brainstorming, although the success of the conversation can be questioned I think the intent is clear and rather positive. There is an attempt and a move towards appropriating social media sites and platforms into the academic sphere. The article “What do Girl Digs” does a good job of showing how a social media platform can succeed at this task.