With this presentation, Dr. Kishonna Gray illustrates a framework for studying the intersectional development of technological artifacts and systems and their impact on Black cultural production and social processes. Using gaming as the glue that binds this project, she puts forth intersectional tech as a framework to make sense of the visual, textual, and oral engagements of marginalized users, exploring the complexities in which they create, produce, and sustain their practices. Gaming, as a medium often outside conversations on Blackness and digital praxis, is one that is becoming more visible, viable, and legible in making sense of Black technoculture. Intersectional tech implores us to make visible the force of discursive practices that position practices within (dis)orderly social hierarchies and arrangements. The explicit formulations of the normative order are sometimes in disagreement with the concrete human condition as well as inconsistent with the consumption and production practices that constitute Black digital labor. It is, in fact, these practices that inform the theoretical underpinnings of Black performances, cultural production, exploited labor, and resistance strategies inside oppressive technological structures that Black users reside.
The following is a transcript generated by Otter.ai, with human corrections during and after. For any errors the human missed, please reach out to email@example.com.
T.L. Taylor 00:33
Oh, I have a few remarks I’m gonna read them because I want to make sure I hit the notes I wanted to hit. So let me just introduce Kishonna to you all. So Kishonna Dr. Kishonna Gray is assistant professor in communication and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a faculty associate at Harvard’s Berkman Center and was previously a recipient of the MLK Visiting Professor position here at MIT. So I think a number of you got a chance to know cuz Kishonna first If you hadn’t before then she’s also been a faculty visitor with our friends down the road at Microsoft New England, the social media collective, because she is the author, or co editor of numerous books and articles, including her foundational 2014 work, race, gender and deviance and Xbox Live 28 teens edited collections woke gaming and feminism in play, and recently intersectional tech, which I was very excited to get my physical copy of the other day, black users in digital gaming, and she also has a book currently under contract with NYU entitled black cyber feminism, or how intersectionality went viral which I know all of us are really excited for. Because Kishonna is a highly sought after speakers I’m sure many of you know, and we’re lucky to have her today. And she regularly addresses both academic and industry audiences such as the Game Developers Conference. She’s the winner of a number of awards over the years, most recently, the Evelyn Gilbert unsung hero award from the Academy of criminal justice sciences. And when I read that I thought, Oh, I think that your brokenness is increasingly sung and I hope even more so. Because she is an amazing scholar and person. Any of us who know Kishonna, know that she is not only a vibrant intellectual force, doing some of truly the best work out there, but one of the most generous and collaborative people we’ve met, and I really say that from my heart. Let me just say a few more words about the impact her research has been making over the years I first met Kishonna through our shared interest in gaming and was really immediately struck by how generative her work was. It was a really important moment in my own intellectual trajectory to engage with her research. And it has affected game studies in profoundly important ways centering issues of race, gender, intersectionality and justice. She’s inspired scholars, both old and new, to expand what we’re tackling and I really feel Like, I mean, especially I meet so many Junior scholars for whom to Shona is just such an important way point in their trajectory. And I think I know I’m really grateful to have her in the field for that. I consider her one of the key people pushing the field and doing some of the most truly most important work out there. She’s always beautifully balancing what I think of as an attention to structures of oppression and exclusion. But with the vibrant and lived ways people resist survive and thrive. And that is a delicate balance to try to do in in really good work. I wanted to to that because Shona is as much a scholar of media and technology as she is of games. She’s written on social media as well as critical theories of race and technology. I think she does an amazing job situating games within a broader conversation, and that is, in fact, one of the things I so value about her work and, in fact, I consider this most recent book in particular, and I’m going to show it to plug it again, really a kindred to the kind of work received from people like ruha Benjamin, Andre Brock, and Sophia noble and their recent monographs. So I really see her contributions as vital, not just for game studies and people interested in games, but anyone thinking about critical Media Studies and technology studies and so if you can’t tell I’m a huge fan girl, and very honored to be able to introduce her today. So Dr. Gray,
Kishonna Gray 04:20
to you’re gonna have me cry in it. Thank you TL that was such a beautiful and generous introduction, introduction. Um, I think you know, sometimes, you know, we don’t take like a moment and like sit with you know, like, the impact that we might have like, on on people and like on fields and I think that was um, after hearing you know, your words TL and, you know, you’ve you’ve expressed this like before, like, I’m just, I often like say, like, I’m just here so I don’t get fined, right. I’m just here doing the things just so I can, you know, get tenure and like, I think I get caught in like the, the routine of just like the academic grind of like, we’re doing things okay, I did this too. Get a promotion we do this like so I can be marketable do this, I can get a job do this, I can get tenure, you know, and and, you know, I think I had to just like stop for like a moment and just like say hey, like, I’m especially with this book and like how everybody is just like, like engaged with it and like it’s just like, a it’s it’s really humbling, you know, I don’t I don’t have any more words like beyond that just say that. It’s very humbling, thank you so much on to and thank you, you know, it’s like the MIT community for inviting me like to, to, to come and share and to learn from you all and, you know, we learn from each other and I think it was just like, release, like such a I enjoyed my time and I know, it was a stressful time. You know, like, whenever I was, I was there and and it was one of those things I didn’t really like take in like just like how significant that moment was like to be there like in that space, like, you know, and then whenever I tell people they’re like, hey, like you read MIT for him like yeah, and I’m in my mind, you know, cuz you all are just like regular ass people. To me. I’m like, Yeah, they’re like, wait a minute. You were there. You know, like with these amazing scars, these like was Sasha Yeah, Sasha’s coattails cool, like, you know, I think I didn’t like it, I took it for granted, you know, just how powerful that time was, and just you know, how much you all like, you know, thought of me and my work like to be able to join you all, like in that space. So, I’m forever grateful and I’m humbled. And and the other thing, you know, I’m writing books is interesting, I’m gonna get to it. I’m so sorry, I have so much to talk about. I need to like, shut up and just like, get to what my words, this is why I have to write stuff down. Now. I’ve reached a point in my career where I have to write it down because I just started thinking about all these things that I want to talk about. But I think this is something especially like for junior folks, people were like thinking about like writing books. And, you know, like, for students who are like in this space, it’s so interesting, because you spend so much time intimately like connected to this work, right? Like, I’ve been writing this book for a while now. Right? And it’s like out there in the world. And it’s so brand new for everybody. Like for me, like I’m ready to go on to the next thing, you know, to talk about or you know, um, But you know, so I always say that because I still I don’t know how to do like a book talk, I kind of approach this as like a book talk. So you know what I’m gonna do, it’ll be like an overview of like, you know where I’ve come from, you know, I can give you like brief snippets, like from the book. But I also want to like talk about, let me share the screen. And I also wanted to make sure I share the right thing, and I’m not sure if you all will be able to see me still, hopefully, you can still see me somewhere on the screen. And you can see okay, thumbs up. Thank you. Thank you so much. Um, I was in the, when I was thinking about putting this this talk together. There was a quote from it was like, an accidental interview that I did, right. So last summer, I started you know, you know, most of you know, I’ve got kids, I’ve got two kids now, they’re seven and nine now. So we library hop, right, you know, we spend most of our days, you know, kind of like exploring the different libraries. And we did that while we were in Boston, you know, we did that like and we were in Phoenix. And now you know, there’s like an amazing network of like, you know, Public Library. So, you know, we spent some time you You know, last summer, you know, we wanted to on the library’s like on the south side. And I was paying attention to these young folks that were gaming, right? They I don’t think they were supposed to be gaming, but I think they had there was like some plan programming they were supposed to be doing but they had their phones out, right? And I could tell what they were they were playing fortnight and these phones, right. And so I started like these conversations like with these with these young folks. And I just want to say, you know, just what they were doing really was just so, such a powerful example of what I mean by like this concept of intersectional tech, let me let me let me let me read this quote, right, let me let me just also just read what what I’ve written intersectional tech was born out of the desire to elevate the innovative cultural production of black users inside tech, often being touted as poster children for the digital divide. The technical capabilities of black folks are often overlooked as they may not fit within traditional modes of engaging with technology. Now, I’m not interested in exploring reasons for the digital divide. My work could care less about the digital divide. Why? Because it begins from a deficit model without ever interrogating how marginalize folks may engage differently because of a lack of resources or a lack of access. Now moving away from this deficit model of what people don’t have, it is necessary to explore the ways black users create hybrid infrastructures recognising the importance of physical and digital spaces and their technological innovativeness. So I want to engage with this quote. So back here, I told you all like the story about me being at these libraries, I started talking with these young folks and this quote stuck with me, right? Ain’t no internet at home ain’t no Wi Fi. I stole this galaxy. If I wasn’t here in the public library, there’s no telling what I’d be doing. Damn show wouldn’t be fortnight at hearing or reading these words. What might you first direct your attention to? Now if I provide you with additional additional context that this youth is a he’s a black boy, he’s from Inglewood to neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. He’s from a single parent household is over A brother recently died from gun violence. Now traditional methods for researching would automatically pathologize his experience, the deficit deficit model would want to engage the individual reasons for his family’s realities. Maybe a concern researcher wouldn’t want to engage the structural barriers leading to his exclusion. Some scholars would totally ignore these realities and say that all he needs is access to the internet that is solve his problems. Some might focus on the criminal aspect of silt, stealing and trying to find resources so he can avoid this life of crime. Most of us will turn on that white savior complex and activate our white guilt to feel bad for this kid because we have more privileges than he does. What we would fail to do is explore how in spite of all of this, this young human has found a way to still participate and engage in a space that gives him a temporary break from his realities. The question that I immediately asked myself when derrius made this comment was what can I learn from him? What can I learn from what He has created and designed and constructed. This question allows me to engage in his realities. It allows me to engage in the structural barriers the institutional oversight and the public neglect. It also forces me to engage in his intersecting identities, and this is intersectional tech. Through this framework, I explore the ways that our identities intersect with technological tools, artifacts and systems that have been mobilized to draw connections between digital and physical spaces in realities. Gaming has become the glue that binds my projects where I explore how black users engage with physical and visual, textual and oral practices to illustrate how gaming can be used as a catalyst for educating and supporting other users of digital technologies. Gaming is often a medium that’s outside of conversations on blackness and digital practices. And it’s one that’s becoming more visible, viable and legible in making sense of black techno culture. intersectional tech implores us to make Visible the force of discursive practices that position practices within disorderly social hierarchies and arrangements, be explicit formulations of the normative order are sometimes in disagreement with the concrete human condition, as well as inconsistent with the consumption and production practices that constitute black digital labor, but also our pleasure and our desires. So you know what intersectional tech is, but how did I get here? The development of this project has been a decade in the making, but using the words of black creator Khalif Adams in 2000 2014 was the proverbial backbreaking straw, I read this quote, I felt like both the gaming space and the real world had hit this level of toxicity. That was unsustainable. And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t know what or how to express how I felt about them. So I sat down, thought about what good can we do in the gaming space and how we could affect change in whatever small way we could as an entity. Then the Eric Garner incident happened and it was the proverbial backbreaking straw. Many black users around games often remark that they have a moral obligation to serve their community and mobilize their platforms for community support, especially because they just play games. Take the death of Eric Garner by the New York Police Department, for example, Eric Garner is to come to the state shape state state sanctioned chokehold by Officer Daniel pantaleo for selling loose cigarettes. His death captured on video catapulted the already invigorated Black Lives Matter movement, often signaled by the phrase I can’t breathe. There was a plethora of responses to the unarmed black men dying at the hands of the police, including responses from the gaming communities. Cleve Adams, co creator of the gaming podcast spot on me stated that he wanted to use his gaming and podcasting platforms to bring awareness to depths of the unarmed by the police. His spawn for good initiative was one of the first to censor gaming technologies to discuss Black Lives Matter. He used twitch to stream messages about the racist treatment of black people by law enforcement and generated funds to help the family of Eric Garner cover burial costs. During the two day event, Khalif also provided information on other cases of police abuse of power, including Mike Brown and his zeal for there was constant backlash and resistance by gamers who suggested that twitch was not the platform to express support for Black Lives Matter. But Khalif Adams affirm that he streams for those who wants to be the change they wish to see in the world. I offer this example as one of many that can be interrogated through a lens of intersectional techno culture. While public discussions around gaming culture often focus on the toxic elements, negatively impacting the marginalized, there are thriving groups utilizing online environments and their related tools to sustain their communities. trolls and other toxic actors may dominate certain conversations in public and private spheres. However, we must begin to to focus on the communities that black bodies in particular create and sustain. gamers who live stream on Twitch mixer YouTube, I don’t even think mixer is a thing anymore, while experiencing racism and harassment also expressed that they are able to create networks of black gamers, streamers and others others demonstrating the innovativeness of black digital practices in gaming contexts. From console to mobile gaming to multiplayer, and streaming, these spaces have become increasingly trans mediated incorporating visual, aural and textual media across technological forms of media. The concept of transmedia describe the way that new technologies have been used to extend traditional mediated narratives to other forms of media and takes into account the shifting patterns of movement by both texts and audiences across distinct but interrelated platforms acknowledging the physical along with the digital. Utilize here, I explore the complicated relationships that black users have within structures and how they use these technologies to recognize, acknowledge and complicate the role that blackness has had in the everyday practices and production of these users. Hopefully this place for you all say I might have to go to
does that plan for you all? Somebody give me a thumbs up Okay, perfect, perfect.
Kishonna Gray 16:33
All right. So take care now, for example, is weird because all the screens are like up there. I don’t know how to find like my notes anymore. But yeah, so you’re here now. Take care now for an example, created by Momo pixel. herna allows players to customize an avatar who can smack away as many white hands as possible, as they attempt to touch locks, twists, braids, and relaxed black hair. The game quickly went viral both the game and its resin captured a convergence of powerful contemporary racial and gender dynamics and histories from black hair politics, so the history of white supremacy as it relates to the hyper policing and surveillance of black women’s bodies, yet the game’s power reflects its rejection of these histories, and its embrace of a virtual and physical clap back. The games intervention, censoring of blackness and embrace of resistance all embodies the game’s refusal of a ratio from its from its conception to reception. herna exemplifies the yearning for transformative games by censoring the experiences of black women the exists existence of such a game let me make sure to go here mobile pixel, I want to make sure we’ll say her name. She’s the creator of hair now. By experience by censoring the experiences of black woman, the existence of such a game is disruptive in itself as it illustrates the power and potential to use video games, online technology and gaming culture to highlight The experiences of black women and other marginalized communities resisting and otherwise challenging dehumanizing representations. Now I come back to the concept of space and making sense, excuse me, I come back to the concept of space and making sense of mobile pixels contributions. Space does not simply exist as a given, but it’s constructed and affects and is affected by those with the most power. In this way, space is not just a passive backdrop to human behavior, but social and social action, but it’s constantly produced and remade within complex relations of culture, power and difference. It is this rejection where scholars offer a more critical constructionist notion of space that informs my work, and attempt to make playing the importance of space and the creation and construction of black women’s identities. More specifically, this reflection explores how black women make sense of spaces that they occupy, especially that they are not that’s not traditionally crafted or constructed for them. By interrogating the actual back and forth travel from Digital to physical spaces that black women engage, we are able to see how they sustain their identities support social movements both online and off in a form of discursive activism. So hair now can be viewed as a form of discursive activism which refers to speech, or texts that seek to challenge dominant social discourse by exposing flawed assumptions, or representing reality in order to rewrite the norms and practices of society. Nancy Fraser considers discursive politics as an essential strategy of political resistance. This discursive activism disrupts the sensibilities of sacred symbolic space that has been constructed and reimagined by those who restrict black women’s access into those spaces. Now I explore the everyday practices of excluding black women, not in a traditional sense, or by black women are excluded based on perceptions of inferiority, but in the progressive landscape of white women’s feminism, anti blackness black man’s protectionism for black woman that produces a particular kind of domination or there’s an idealized notion of womanhood and blackness and black woman are not included. Well not explicitly stated, a lot of my work provides this revisioning and reimagining of black woman’s rage, which is typically viewed as a destructive emotion offering no value to modern society. Lord offers a Audrey Lorde excuse me, Audrey Lorde offers a compelling critique of rage, and engaging the useful aspects of this emotion while also balancing its limitations. The systematic devaluation of black womanhood has given rise to not only interracial oppression, but intra racial practices of devaluation, and exclusion as well. We continue to see the proliferation of black women’s historical misrepresentation, repackaged in contemporary ways, from anjan mama to Sapphire to the angry black woman. These caricatures of black women are using attempts to flatten the complexity of black womanhood. Simplifying the intricacies of black woman’s anger, sexualities and relationships and rehashing them as stereotypes to try to attempt to control black women’s bodies. This demonization becomes dangerous as these singular narratives to limit societal engagement with black woman. There’s no holistic understanding of the roots of these images. Thus, the anger that emerges from black woman in response to these controlling images is loaded with information and energy. The information and energies generated from the rage among other emotions provide black woman with an arsenal to transform the rage into advocating for liberating and transforming the disenfranchised, disenfranchised experiences of marginalized folks. And as Audrey Lorde states we have to use that anger, you know, from Audrey Lorde. To bell hooks. They’re theorizing a black feminine rage proves useful as a tool to weave through the structures of oppression inside gaming technologies. And these digital spaces crafted by black women, there is a process to engage with the rage so often called by Society, we have to undo the haunting of that demonization that came in response to our rage, suggesting that our anger has no legitimacy. The black women within the work that I’ve done within intersectional tech in the previous work that I’ve done, they mobilize their rage in strategic ways validating each other’s feelings, while society deems them as destructive and inappropriate. Just as Audrey Lorde Bell Hooks just as they did in creating public spaces for the expression of black female rage, especially in academic spaces, these women to create intersectional counter publics. Their work inside the spaces of digital gaming provides spaces to heal the intersectional wounds and collective traumas from white supremacy, black patriarchy, white feminism, and so many others. These spaces validate the rage of black women’s experiences. A Bell Hooks asked the question, why is the rage of black folks about white supremacy made to appear ridiculous, the centrality of Bell Hooks this question adheres to the necessity of black woman’s race to generate the attention needed to begin making structural changes to transform lives. Black woman in gaming deploy storytelling, critical theorizing and Remembrance practices to comprehend, resist, transform and heal from the patriarchy, the racism, the colonization in the history of slavery, and constructing, creating and sustaining spaces for their for their intersectional realities and gaming. Now, what does all this have to do with the derrius? In his opening quote, it is necessary to begin exploring the contributions of black users through a framework that I am calling and it’s inside intersectional tech. It’s called hybrid infrastructures. Now I’m hearing dings I want to make sure that everybody can still hear me give me a thumbs up to yell if you can’t. Okay, perfect. Now I want to sit before we get back to dairies. I want to share this other story.
On a winter morning in 2014 for black woman met digitally and an online forum to discuss their varied experiences within the onslaught of the GamerGate campaign. GamerGate as most of us know began as a problem surrounding ethics and visual video game journalism, were intimate relationships influenced the objectivity of video game reviews. This quickly devolved into a harassment campaign against women by mostly men who were being forced to accept the inclusion of women and increase diversity in game narratives. These four women who identify racially as black mostly expressed their concerns over invisibility, as they recognize that white woman’s experiences with harassment were privileged. These women employed the hashtag solidarity is for white women borrowing from Mickey Kindles work on Twitter to express concerns I’m being ignored while experiencing intersecting oppressions harassment and hostility online. On a spring morning in 2015, these same four women met physically in New York City to support a rally for Rikiya boy, this movement led to the say her name campaign a national call of action for black women and girls who are victims of police violence. This specific protest that these four women were a part of Have it was heavily criticized for failing to generate a critical mass. It was a signal for some of the lack of seriousness seriousness taken on women as victims of police violence. The turnout for that protest, in contrast to the one for Eric Garner in the same city, or Freddie Gray in Baltimore, during the same time reflects the continued devaluation of black women’s lives.
As one of the women articulate it.
It’s like we are out of place, like we are taking up too much space. Our concerns and voices are never heard. But we show up and show out all the time for black men. We’re like Space Invaders, until some work needs to be done then they call us raineesha are tasty diamonds. 21 If you read the book, you’re going to read a lot from tasty diamond. This point, excuse me, this concise and powerful comment was made after the rekia Boyd rally raineesha also known as tasty diamond 21 on Xbox Live, sent this Facebook Messenger message to me. Excuse me, sent this messenger to me while we’re marking on how Few people showed up to the rally a stark contrast to the Eric Garner rally. In this small statement, she uttered a common refrain that black women hold about their experiences within social movements of being ignored, overworked and undervalued. This example highlights the continued invisibility of black women in social arenas. This example also highlights the utility of multiple modes of communicating and engaging for black women in public and private spaces, starting from gaming platforms to their physical mobility in urban spaces for protests, argued that these black women are reimagining their public spaces creating intersectional hybrid spaces that illustrate the fluidity Enos, the fluidness of their movements from the digital to the physical and often back to the digital. While the intersectional trans mediated hybrid practices in which women engage in gaming communities reflects the ways that they create meaning out of different texts, cultures, practices, and spaces, bridging multiple to create a hybrid summation of experiences. So what does derrius have to do with this Everything let me go back to his quote. And his short powerful statement derrius articulated not only his reality but a particular future rooted in digital blackness and supplemented by physical spaces. The library in his neighborhood is the place he can get access to the internet. He figured that out. His reliance on mobile technologies has enabled him to engage in this leisure activity, but it also connects into the world. And he also shared a story of not being able to engage in Pokemon Go. And so he and his friends had to make up they made up their own game utilizing the AR technologies from Snapchat to do so. They also heavily relied on mask, an organization on the Southside of Chicago men and mothers and men against senseless killing. These women occupy physical space so their children in their neighborhoods can move freely without the fear of violence from moving from corner to corner. So what kind of questions Am I asking now now that I’ve put derrius at the center And making him the expert in his own life. What kinds of questions then should we be asking?
hopefully you can see that screen there. I’ll read here. So I’m gonna I’ll switch my energy a little bit. So you know, that was kind of like the book talk. This is like gonna switch gears like into like the future work. But before I get here, I want to also, I want to show you this map, I think it’s important that we kind of like, see, let me go to, hopefully this, this is made bigger on your screen. And I need you all to visualize the space that I’m talking about, like the space that darious resides, right. So here I have just like a screen capture of a few city blocks, right. So on the left, this is the Wi Fi map from Chicago. Chicago touts itself as being one of the most wired cities in the United States right. Now, if you see that little blue dot over there, I’m not sure if you can see my cursor but that blue dot indicates the closest Wi Fi hotspot. publicly available, Wi Fi in this neighborhood. Now, I didn’t provide the comparison map. But if we were to look on the north side of the city, if we were to look like Lincoln Park, or if we were to look at like Magnificent Mile or the Gold Coast, this map would be full of these blue spots. Okay. The next map that I want to show you is also is the Chicago the CPL locations, Chicago Public Schools. These are the the library, excuse me, libraries, these are the libraries that are in there, we’re sitting in the neighborhood. Now, this is a pretty good number of libraries, right? So a lot of people you know, often talk about, you know, how, you know, some of us in certain neighbors like don’t have access to the libraries, right? So we can talk about them being under resourced and not having like enough adequate staff or not having enough like collections and models. That’s a different conversation, but just the fact that they have these libraries in their neighborhood that they can freely access and go to I think it’s very significant. Okay. Now the next map that I want to show you is the M This is the pokemon go stop map right not say the significance of Pokemon But just for right now just keep in mind this is Southside This is Inglewood. If you were to look at the north side of Chicago, if you you would see, I think I may have a map here we go, you can see that there is a multitude of pokey ghost stops and in different areas of the city, but in Inglewood, there’s just these couple minutes associated with the park I believe there’s a statue probably a statue that needs to be torn down. To be honest, I don’t even know whose This is but but it’s like associated with like a statue of somebody right? Now, when these kids were they were they were talking to me whenever I was there again this this is like some accidental research but it just made so much sense. You know, I gave these kids like the space to talk and what they said was profound. They have articulated their realities like to a tee right? They said that of course they feel that the the the fact that they’re black and live on the south side that there’s not an investment into the structures that that exists like within their neighborhoods, right. And so for me, I’m like, Oh, well, we can easily just call up these you know, whoever makes Pokemon GO night. antek we just call them up and figure out, hey, let’s get some more pokey stops down here, right? Because Surely this is not racism. You know, this is not rooted in legacies of like redlining, this is not digital redlining, right, this is just, you know, some simple neglect, right? So whenever we tried to like figure out how to get more pokey go stops in their neighborhood, we were told that their neighborhood probably wasn’t ideal, because it’s not a safe neighborhood. They don’t have sidewalks, and they they’re there, they needed to have like this, this, this idea of safety before they they just implemented, you know, these pokergo stops, right. So we felt structurally that there were going to be some there were some exclusionary practices. And but they said that if there were significant landmarks, and then this neighborhood could have some pokey go stops. So what we this is part of the larger project that I’m working on, we would have done it this summer, but we didn’t but what we wanted to do this summer was basically say, Hey, there is significant history here. And I didn’t want those young folks to feel like that their neighborhoods weren’t valuable and didn’t have anything to offer them. Like there is significant history here. So we Went to the archives let’s see if that if that screen is here we went, we searched up, like all kinds of archives where these young folks could see that they come from rich traditions of music, traditions and sports traditions. And, you know, we found out that, you know, the first series that was in the city of Chicago was on one of the corners, like in their neighborhood. So the students like they were given, like, this sense of like pride, you know, around their neighborhoods, because all this history had been lost to them. Right. And so I think I thought it was just very interesting that we use like, pokemon go to like, you know, revive a lot of these history and like, go through the archives, you know, you know, dig through the crates, you know, like to, so they can see that where they come from, like, you know, these amazing histories, right? Um, but I want to get back to like the questions that were asking you in the questions that these these young folks really made me start to like dig deeper and like think about so you know, some of the guiding questions that you know, that are informing, like a lot of this future work. How did geographically isolated youth utilize publicly available tools and technologies to develop hybrid networks across communities The their reliance on Wi Fi their reliance on public spaces, their reliance on you know, their these physical spaces needing to be safe was very significant. And I think that that’s something that a lot of us like digital scholars and media scholars like don’t contend with enough, you know how important the physical space still is? Secondly, how have these hybrid networks influence and develop the creation of culturally sustaining spaces? So I’m sure like the folks you know, of course, you know, the folks at Niantic are like are fantastic, but they probably didn’t even think, hey, when we’re deploying these things, like, Are there Do we have to also contend with like the histories and the legacies of exclusion and segregation? You know, those are one of the things that they didn’t anticipate having to think about, about how the different conversations that they would need to ensure you know, equitable access across like the cities, how do the culturally sustaining prep spaces impact how you develop, develop computational makers, maker practices, the fact that these youth were using these AR technologies, Let me slide over to this.
The fact that these youth like were able to like utilize like these technologies like they were at experts at it right they had to be experts at it because there’s there’s not like a mass of STEM programs that are coming in and like teaching them how to do all these things. And I think that also comes from like this deficit model where you know, we’re coming in again, we’re teaching these kids these spaces. I learned so much from these kids I had never heard of like any of these like, tools that they were utilizing on a regular basis. Snapchat was important wiki to like, Whoa, like I didn’t even know what these things were and so they introduced me to them and what these youth were doing, you know, whenever they were trying to like make their spaces significant you know, they would go in like tell stories, especially like for them, especially with mass its Mothers Against senseless killing group, like they develop what beautiful narratives like with these women because they spent significant time with these women. Let me know if I’m running out of time too, because I just get really excited about this. And I want to make sure I’ve gone off I’ve gone off the my notes, I’m just talking now so I can easily just go so make somebody stop me. But like whenever they were just talking to these women when they found out you know, these beautiful stories and these rich narratives in history, and then so they basically they made the people buy Significant significance of the space so you know, while we could say okay, this was the first jazz musician here this is the first you know, you know, Mississippi blues you know club that was here like whatever we do that that these youth are keeping people at the center of what they’re doing and really highlighting the importance of like the women who were like in these spaces want to finish these questions because these are really important questions. What are the everyday activities and forming use computational thinking and making practices and across these different sites, you know, from the things that we’re doing here you UIC, Chicago Public Libraries and mass what are the design principles influencing prolonging engagement with the culturally sustaining computational makerspaces I really I think it’s important that you know, we we start we have more of these like collaborative like relationships and really I’m gonna be honest, I want to utilize like in my institutional privileges to give these women some money like these women are doing I wish you know, I wanted to have some video but I didn’t I hadn’t gotten IRB approval like for that part yet to basically show you all this, but you always like should look up You know, just how mask it’s Chicago, Southside these women put their physical selves on the line, so their young people can play. And I don’t think we we take that for granted, like how, you know, people who are just excluded, and then what people do to make sure that people that they can still participate. I think about that, that that’s something that we don’t engage with enough. Just a little bit about this future project that I’m working on. Y’all know, I’ve been at multiple institutions, right. And I always try to connect with the communities that have these kinds of the locations and the communities that I’m in. And so I, you know, starting from, you know, working with like young young folks in the app and Appalachian region, whenever I was at Eastern Kentucky, you know, basically, you know, these young folks, these poor white kids are excluded from from anything that you all get, they talk about dial up still, some of them may have dial up, there’s no broadband, there’s no fiber optic wires. There’s none of this in the hollers of Eastern Kentucky. These kids are excluded but they are still figuring out ways to like participate and stay It’ll be a part and I think those things need to be illustrated and how I do even you know, whenever I spent you know, my my time in Arizona, you know like connecting to like, you know the Yaki you then you know, Mexican and Mexican American youth there’s this town in Phoenix is called Guadalupe. Now you would think that you have just like, teleported to like some wild west past, you know, there’s still dirt roads and you know, there’s maybe like a stop sign. Like, it really just seems like this old, you know, town from the Wild West. But these youth are just like, okay, we’re excluded from a lot of these practices were excluded from these STEM fields in these stem camps, you know, so we weren’t to bring these things like to these kids, but we went away with learning so much from them, we didn’t teach these kids anything. We were learning so much from them. And also, like with the work that I’m trying to do, like with David, David Neymar, you know, working with like, the youth looking at favelas, and Gabrielle Richard, you know, this, you know, she’s trying to do the same thing like looking at like youth in rural Pennsylvania and also looking at like youth in Philadelphia, like this really like we’re wanting like to just to just allow these young folks to be like experts in their All lives and just realize like, you know, just what they’re able to do, you know, from these exclusionary practices, I feel like I’m running out of out of time. I know I am. Um, let me I think there were a few more slides Don’t worry about those slots, because I want to hear from you all, and especially as like, you know, I’m building like this future work and you know, making it making sure that I’m staying connected to like that the project of like, intersectional tech, like this future, you know, this future work is just really like, realizing like the potential of like, you know, what this work could be and what, what, what I’m trying to do, so I want to make sure to make space I think, I know we’re run out of time. I’m shutting up now. Okay, I’m gonna turn it back over to you to I don’t know who gets it. I’ll stop sharing right now.
T.L. Taylor 38:42
That was great. You weren’t running out of time. It was terrific.
I feel like this is over in like 15 minutes. So I want to make sure yeah, okay. Okay.
T.L. Taylor 38:53
Good. There’s a lot of stuff we can follow up on. So I think we can open it up. There. Those of you who are MIT folks are in the panelists group and you can chime in, raise your hand whatever, we’ll get it going and those of you who are in the attendees panel, feel free to toss a question in the q&a. And we can get that question to catch Shona. know if there’s any I can try to kick one off while people are putting their thoughts together. I have a question. It’s a little bit maybe about meta conceptual I, I was I found the point you were making about rages praxis and mobilize rage kind of finding a place for that in the stories, the work we’re doing. And I immediately was thinking about Andre Brock’s interventions now on pleasure in the libidinal and how we start, how we can sort of start grappling with that and I’m just wondering if you think like, what, what does the future of critical Media Studies critical internet studies look like? If we really start taking those interventions serious Is it a method a lot, you know, methodological interventions? Is it? You know, conceptual things open up in different ways? Sort of.
Absolutely. That’s a fantastic question. I know me and Andre, we’ve had like, a lot of conversations around this because I think we approach we have the same end goal. But I think how we approach is like a bit differently, right? You know, he’s really, you know, inspired by, you know, exploring, like, you know, like, pleasure and desire and focus, like on joy and going away from that deficit model. You know, I think he would probably route like, a lot of the work that I do, like, within this, like Afro pessimism, right, of how, you know, like, a lot of like, the, the jumping off parts in the jumping off points of like, a lot of my work is is rooted like in like, sexism, racism, white supremacy, right. And, you know, and he, you know, he always he is like, pushing my thinking into thinking, um, and so like exploring, like, how are we outside of like white supremacy, right. And I understand I appreciate you know, you know, his, his questions and his challenges like to that but i Often saying like as much as I would like to like look at you know, folks whose lives and you know their realities outside of you know, structures of like oppression and outside of like white supremacy Um, so much of what we do is still is intimately like connected to those realities right so it’s hard for me so so I could easily like you know, turn that off I’m pretty privileged person I could like say, Oh, you know, we have these things outside of that. But immediately, like for instance, if I talked to like, you know, a person like named derrius and you know, he expresses all these kinds of things, it’s hard for me to just like ignore that and say, okay, but so what did you had to steal that phone? You’ve got this you got it now, you know, let’s just enjoy it and enjoy the nice things and have joy from it. Right? Like I have to contend with like the realities in which, you know, he is he’s residing, and then when he’s done with our fancy space and all the fancy money that we brought in and all these fancy things that we can do, he has to go back home, you know, to his neighborhood, right? So and I think that it’s, it’s important to like for me in my work, because a lot of them you know, I don’t I don’t I don’t try to say that, like I’m an expert like within the other folks, the people who are in these in the projects that they’re the experts in their own lives, they’re the narrator’s right. And one of the things that they often Express, to me is like gratitude for giving them like words and language to express what’s happening around them. Right. And I think that that’s something that like, you know, early on, like, early in my work, like, um, you know, I was in these communities, you know, with these other black women, and they, you know, just couldn’t understand why, why they weren’t accepted in like, you know, these spaces and why things they were being called these words they were being like, and so, and then I gave them like the language because it was new to me online disinhibition which is, you know, like a framework that utilize early in my work where when people say and do things online that they normally wouldn’t do in person, which we know is that’s all out the water nashit but, but they weren’t so good. like learning that and being able to put like words and language and, and frameworks, you know, to what they’re experiencing on a day to day basis, me introducing them to like a word like microaggression, you know, and it’s something that I’m not teaching them anything they know these things but they just like having just like the language of helping to, like make sense like of their realities, right. But it also like equips them with, like the strength to, like, maneuver and to, like pivot away and to like, create, you know, these alternate futures, you know, that are like, Okay, I get it. We know white supremacy is a thing here. Sure, we have, you know, jumping off points from like, you know, who we’re what our reality is, especially for like the reality of like, being black in America, you know, too. And so I just think that it’s it’s important that we just acknowledge that we don’t have to be we don’t have to succumb to the to the the atrocities associated with the legacies of like racism and like oppression, but we can be inspired by what we’ve been able to create, in spite of, you know, and so I think that’s that’s that’s the untangle You know, that, that we often, you know, find ourselves within, especially like in black media among black media scholars, you know, and, and for me, you know, there’s nothing that I’m all I’m doing is making legible the stuff that’s already there. I’m not I haven’t created a thing, I just put a fancy word to something that exists already, right? intersexual tech is just a fancy way so I can get tenure. I’m just here so I don’t get fine, right? But I’m not doing anything new. Mobile pixel is intersectional tech, you know, these black woman and Xbox Live and sexual tech derrius and his dopest friend whose LARPing you know, making up like Pokemon GO games. They’re intersectional tech because they have cobbled together like pieces of things that they have access to. And they have, like, carved out like a little space for them. That’s, that’s free from from all the things that they have to experience, you know, and I think that’s, you know, that’s just what I want to like make legible to my academic audiences. Why? Doesn’t matter are we going to like transform their lives and like magical ways? You know, we probably aren’t, right. But maybe somebody will give me some money to make it better for a day or it’s like improve their conditions for date, right, I’m gonna just be all the way on is, you know, I use language of like, you know, transformative potential liberatory potentials. And, you know, but I also like, recognized, like, the limits of that, you know, I’m not improving their lives, but they are thankful that for for one that, you know, so many of these kids said, you know, thank you for listening to us, you know, so many other scholars before me have come into these spaces and didn’t, didn’t think they had anything to offer. And the fact that you know, I’m gonna be drawn, I’m gonna cry, like, you know, these kids thanking me for calling them experts, you know, like, you are the expert, like you’re living these tough lives and you’ve given me a chance to just to talk to you like, I’m honored to be able to be here and talk to you for a few minutes. I just want to make sure that other people know how dope y’all are. Yeah.
T.L. Taylor 45:57
Yeah, that’s, it’s it’s it’s actually Beautiful Thing way to put it because I think that one of the things I really value about your work to Shona, and I mean, I’m an ethnographer. So maybe I’m always going to be a little biased to that. But the way you really do show the complexity and nuance and it that people have in their everyday lives without diminishing the critical structural intervention and and, and making that visible you as I said, I tried to say you do an amazing balancing job of those two things. So yeah, thank you. Yeah, stop crying, dammit. You’re getting some love in the chat. I
know. We might we have a
T.L. Taylor 46:35
Yeah, you are. And we have one question in the q&a. And I just did kind of scanning. I don’t see a raise hand feature for the panelists. So if there’s one of the if there’s an MIT person who wants to go there is Nick raised his hand okay. So and then I’ll and then I’ll pull the q&a question after Nick goes.
Nick Montfort 46:56
Hi, sorry for not manifesting visually. That’s okay. Kishonna, thanks very much for your talk. And I, you know, one of the things I wanted to ask about actually the the question I have is related really to this other sort of digital divide with, like traditional type of media, and things that are sort of high culturally ratified. And then things like games, because to me, one of the questions is not to dictate people’s media diets or what games they play. But you know, dariya should know about more pixels, games and like that, that seems to be like an important connection and intersection to be made. And one of the issues there is when you go into the public library, which is a wonderful resource, and it’s Black History Month, there are books that are showcased for you, you can ask suggestions of the librarian. You can even get this for other for comics, you can get this or graphic novels, you can get those suggestions for, you know, DVDs, although that’s antiquated These days, but, you know, there’s there’s lots of media that are made available and sort of curated. And there’s their suggestions for this, but the librarians are unlikely to know about video games reflecting African American experience. And so it seems to me like Part Part of the issue and actually that, you know, one of your contributions here is making those types of connections and intersections that by developing these lists and raising awareness of what people do that people like, game devs of color this weekend and such. And taking up the slack from these traditional institutions, that you’re providing more awareness of what’s going on in game spaces here are their, you know, what, how do we further that project, you know, for all sorts of people who don’t know about the games, for instance, that deal with their lives.
That’s a fantastic, fantastic question, Nick, um, you highlighted a couple things I want to make sure to, to, like engage with. And I think one of the, one of the, the benefits of this project that you just reminded me of, like the importance of libraries, right. And I think sometimes we take that for granted. You know, like, even, like, in my own classes, you know, I’m always like import, I’m, I always have a project that’s built around like going to the library and connecting with the library and and trying to find like databases, right. And I think one of the things but but I always that always exist outside of gaming, right? You know, I never, you know, always have to, like, you know, like, identify like a project and relate to like history or something like more traditional, but I think you you highlight, you know, this disconnect, you know, between like librarians and like the things that like some of us do, like, you know, identify like the gaming scholarship and like, you know, the things that like you can engage in and then it also like you made me um it made me think about, you know, some of the the
Kishonna Gray 50:03
I don’t know if you all know Liz Phipps wero do you all remember she’s a Cambridge librarian. She’s the librarian at Cambridge boards the kids the school that my kids went to. I love talking about her and invoking her name she’s the one that gets got in hot water but with the Dr. Seuss books you remember she refused the books from you know, first lady Melania Trump, um, but she unveiled this entire world of like librarians and like Information Science and how white that space is. And I think I wasn’t like aware of that. So I not shocked at the disconnect like let me also like fill you in, like on like a little bit of the background like from, I was only able to like connect with dairies and like his friend groups, because the librarians didn’t really know how to reach them, right. They were in that space. But they and then also need to say that the librarians were also trying to get them to always put their phones away to write and to like, engage Unlike the traditional books and like, hey, put that away this, that’s not reading, that’s not. And so she was like diminishing, like a lot of what these kids were doing. I’m like, and I wanted to say I didn’t want to, like, you know, because my kids were they’re just participating. I wanted to be a parent, I didn’t want to come in. I’m keyshot I have a PhD. I know all the I don’t want to do that either. Right. But it led me know that it was important to establish this relationship, you know, with the librarians just so they can realize like the potential of them being able to utilize traditional library like practices and to reach like young folks like derrius and his friends, right. And then you know, and so I think one of the things her initial like response was like, Oh, well, should I find books that have like fortnight themes to them or something like, I’m like, sure, but but but there’s some games like how about having these kids make games so twine was the thing that I introduced her to I’m like, okay, you want them to like develop literacy and like put words together. So you know, one of the things that we did you know, during that summer was having them like make games like utilizing you know, twining like the the tech space When they’re, you know, for folks who don’t know, and so these weren’t like things that she really wasn’t aware of, right. So, you know, I, I, again, it’s important to establish like, you know, relationships and, and, and, and again, like I said, I didn’t want to go in there like, you know, just telling her like all these things but I think it was just important for her to just kind of reframe her thinking a little bit, let’s not diminish and devalue, you know, these, get them with these games, let’s try to use this as a jumping off point to get them to reach the point that you’re trying to get them to do. And like creating stories and writing stories. You know, I hadn’t even like introduced her to, like, you know, the, like, even seeing video games is like an actual text, you know, so. So like you said, you know, like, Nicola, she wasn’t even like, aware of like, the beautiful, like worlds behind like Assassin’s Creed, for instance, you know, there’s beautiful narratives inside like Assassin’s Creed. And so it’s just a way to get her, you know, like to just think differently, you know, like about what a texts could be and how we can read different texts. And I think that was, you know, you know, to your point, I think that was like a, like an important intervention, just to make sure that if I’m not there, like, I can’t be at every library, you know, making sure you know, like, like she recognized that I just want to, you know, I think it’s been trying to, like develop like the or have that relationship, you know, with some of the libraries, especially the ones on the south side and West Side of Chicago. Yeah, there are other questions. My bad. Did they answer your question then? Or sorry? I just started talking.
T.L. Taylor 53:25
All right. Yeah. He said, Great. Maybe I’ll take the I’ll read the one from the q&a from one of the attendees. So this is from famous Sylvia, Sylvia era. Dr. Gray, thank you so much for this presentation. And how do you think that black women journalists and communicators could collaborate to in this process for more positive narratives in the media and digital spaces? And then virtual hugs from Brazil? They add?
Kishonna Gray 53:53
Yes, yes. Yes. Um, that’s a fantastic question. Thank you for asking that. I Had? I don’t know, I don’t quite know how to do that, right. I’m gonna talk about a recent conversation that I had, you know, I won’t name on this person’s name, but she’s like a, like a journalist, like digital storyteller kind of like person. And, you know, I think that that a lot of journalists come into projects with an assumption about things already. Right. So this particular journalist had had an idea about something, they wanted me to contribute to this project in a particular way. But they didn’t take gaming seriously. Right. So you know, she’s full of like assumptions about games, you know, full of like, you know, some of the constructed ideas and images like about games. And so it the relationship didn’t start on equal footing, right. There was not like an equitable like relationship where she’s like, you have something to offer. I want to hear what it is. She came at it from, like, I have this particular project. I have this story I got to do, can you help me reach my end goal, right. And so and that that was a problem. Right, you know, because she already has it in her head. And so she’s trying to find bits and pieces for me to fit into this narrative that she’s like, created already. So I think that we have to, like, take a step back. That’s not the first place that we need to start where you have this idea and then you find people to fill that in. I think the relationships have to be part of like the foundation what we build, you know, these projects around. There’s another example hopefully, you know, I’m gonna say this, you know, there’s, um, there’s been a story that folks from ABC and Good Morning America have been trying to do for like a long time. So I’ve been in communication with this lovely person. She’s a lovely human, right. So I’ve been in communication with her for about six years, trying to get things off the ground. And so just last week, she was like, okay, the producers are finally interested in doing this like this, this exposition like racing gaming, right? And the thing that they want to do is to like establish is to like do an experiment where a black person’s like playing a game They get called the N word like they she wants to do like that, that that porn thing, you know, like the thing where we like experience, you know, black people’s pain right? Now six years ago, seven years ago, maybe I would have been like, okay, sure, let’s do that. But for me, that story is Oh, that story is gone, because we know racism exists in these games already. Right? But because journalism, you know, hasn’t really like taken like gaming seriously, you know, because like, the moment that they did take it seriously, like on a large scale, you know, that it was GamerGate. And the focus was on like, hey, let’s what’s women’s experiences in here? They couldn’t even think intersectionally about how much more awful like the space could be for women of color in particular, right. So there was like, there have been like a lot of misses. And then like, in this moment of black ops matter, they’re like, Oh, my Here we are. Let’s try to like make sense of like the racism in the space. Now. I don’t know this. Probably bad for her because the story’s not gonna fit what her producers like the people at the top thing because they’re like racism is a game How does racism happen against? They’re having basic conversations that we had decades ago already, right? We’re beyond that. And and for me I was trying to tell her like, you know, a place that that might be more generative to have this conversation is to see how the technologies have advanced in a way to protect people from the harassment that they’ve experienced in the space. Like, I can curate my space, I can curate my stream so that there’s a bot that will, you know, without all of the instances of racism and sexism, I can protect my space. That’s a cool story, like what are the things that people can do to like, protect themselves? The fact that I might be called the N word or be asked to make a sandwich like that. That’s nobody wants to do that. So again, to get back to your question about how there has to be like a relationship and I think it’s far too often. Like I said, a lot of journalists are just coming at it with a particular they have a question that they want to answer to. We all have questions that we own it. Want to answer right? But I think those questions need to be generated in a more collaborative way. Right? Just like for me doing like a research project, I never go into a research project. Well, like research questions again, especially if they involve human others. Like if they involve people, I need those people on the other end, I want to tell them, Hey, I’m interested in this. What do you think about that? What have you like so in a more of like, more of an exploratory kind of way, because the minute that I create a research question, I’m establishing a bias. I am coming at it already from like a particular place where I think something in the space and I’m asking the questions you’re about to try to get me to like that endpoint. Does that make sense? I did a lot of talking on there.
T.L. Taylor 58:39
No, it’s a great. Yeah. Well, the story you’re suggesting journalists tell it’s a more nuanced, right. And it’s it also gives agency of agency looks different and Yeah. All right. Kelly, Kelly wagman had her hand up. And thank you so much. I was wondering, it’s clearly really, really impressive. In this local, like very localized work that you’re doing, and I’m kind of curious how you connect with people on a kind of broader scale who are doing similar work in their local communities, kind of like what kinds of tools do you use to connect? And do you feel like you have the kind of broader support community and how does that play into them? Local work?
Kishonna Gray 59:24
Um, that’s a, that’s a great question how think about how to how to respond to that. So I don’t go into these projects with a with assumptions already in mind, right? I the first thing I do is just develop relationships. So people who play games are important to me. And so I try to go to where they are. Of course young folk are important to me and supporting young folks especially like black and brown young folks, you know, underrepresented youth are very important to me. You know, so that’s why so whenever I like I was working like in Kentucky, you know, I just Went to where these young folks were, you know, you know, the making connections. So every summer, like had a lot, I had a Latino Leadership Camp, like through through my lab where, you know, migrant farmworkers children who, you know, the young folks who were working round youth who were whose parents were working on like farms in Eastern Kentucky, you know, what come and, you know, we would, you know, just, yeah, I would, I would just provide them with like a space right. And I just want them to and I think the the relationships then informed in the projects that come out of it, right. Um, and that’s like the same thing that I did like I’m on the south side, it was an accidental project, you know, because I’m just I’m watching and i guess like STL so the ethnography is like we’re always like watching and observing and and just allowing cultures and people to just like be an exist and then we just figure out ways to to try to leverage those like relationships sure for our own research, but also how we can like just make those things like legible to other people. So while this is yes, like a very localized like, like project I immediately saw the connections from the things that I was doing while I was in Kentucky, you know, to the things that I was doing when I was in Arizona and and all those I’m still asking the same kinds of questions. How are these folks utilizing like technologies like around them to support and sustain their communities? And what does that look like? You know, I think that question is been able to travel with me like in all these spaces, so you know, I know you know, there’s like these desires really to like scale up and I think that’s the thing that you know, whenever I’m trying to get money to support these projects was to was like you don’t need money just do what you want you don’t need money Oh, she’s big about that. Right? I want money I just want money to give these folks I want to give them all these miles I want to take why folks money that’s what I want to do. But I think you know, it’s it’s it’s really important that you know, like when folks asked me to like scale up like a project and how can we like make this you know, transportable across different spaces if I create like a like, like a thing can we also implement this thing like here and and i think that you know, the ethnography Mi also wants to just recognize that there is something special to like localize spaces like something like the dynamic that’s there, you know, in that neighborhood and Guadalupe, like outside of like, Phoenix is different from the dynamics, you know, in Inglewood and Southside of Chicago, and that’s different, you know, from, you know, Hardin County and Kentucky, you know, that the, you know, those those things are like different too. And I think it’s, um, the and it’s, it’s important that we just make sure that we approach these projects and allow the uniqueness and of the spaces to stay distinct and to be distinct. I think that’s part of like, you know, what I talk a lot about, like black cyber feminism, which is, like, another project, like that distinctness of like communities is like very important. You know, a lot of folks want to generalize and say, Hey, this can go here, but I like it’s okay, you know, to have like some some of that distinctness right. Um, hopefully that hopefully that that that answered,
answer your question.
I’m sure it did. And you’re gonna nod and say yes, because you’re a kind person.
T.L. Taylor 1:03:00
Somebody asked the question, I’ll read it. There’s been a lot of Thank you comments for the talk, but I want to read the sub parts the one she just left. So it’s more comment while people think of questions that they want to get in here. Thanks Kishonna this from Lisa parks. I appreciate how your analysis highlights the unequal digital infrastructure across different communities. But at the same time emphasizes the agency eg innovation, resourcefulness, creativity of black youth, hoping we get their expertise to challenge the biases and blind spots of digital elites. Your work serves as a crucial bridge here. Thanks so much and keep up the amazing work. I just didn’t want that to get lost in that. Absolutely. Absolutely. Other Other questions? It looks like amber Ambar Reyes. Yeah, in jeopardy.
Ámbar Reyes 1:03:45
Yeah. Hi. I was wondering in your perspective, how can storytellers and cultural institution in general can co create with their own communities in order to foster our dialogue about their public spaces and improvement.
Kishonna Gray 1:04:04
Hey, I’m glad you asked that question. I realized as I was reading this talk that I failed to knit, like the importance of tasty diamond, like from our research, she’s a streamer. And she, she considers herself like a digital storyteller using like dish like streaming technologies. And I think it’s just so beautiful how she has just has is adamant about the kinds of stories that she’s telling on the streams, right? So I know, you know, from the amazing work of, you know, like TL Taylor, we’ve got, like, a lot, a lot of work, like from Mia Consavlo but we got like a lot of folks who are like, like focusing like on streaming, and the scholarship that we’ve gotten from a lot of these places, you know, illustrate that, you know, a lot of the desires of streamers are to like build, you know, large like, you know, platforms and they get followers and so I you know, monetize platforms and like they’re like, there’s that that capitalist desire, you know, for for that right. And I think that’s, that’s very important. That’s very powerful. And something that I’ve witnessed One of the there are, there’s a community of black women that I follow, who have accepted their small niche status of, you know, a variety streamer, boutique streamer, whatever we want to call them. And they realized they just said, we’re just going to talk about this black content. If people join us, they join us. And if they don’t, then they don’t. One of the beautiful things that they do is like whenever like a game is released, like a cinematic trailer or something, they immediately like connect, you know, what they’re seeing on the screen to actual history and actual, like traditional ways of like engaging like with content. So for instance, I’m thinking about the example Do you remember the the image that I had, there was a black woman and a black woman’s rage? That screen hit that that beautiful, dark skinned woman who was like yelling and screaming like we could we could feel her pain in that right? Well, that was part of the cinematic trailer for Assassin’s Creed. Now Assassin’s Creed freedom from the downloadable content not like the main game, but it was freedom cry, where we follow at a while. At a wall as the pirate, and he happened upon, he was the story from the cinematic trailer is different from the game content. But the cinematic trailer shows him as a boy sure from his mom and sold into slavery and like a young age, and so he was free. He freed himself from slavery. And he started to be like a pirate on the high seas. But he happened upon, you know, this small community like in Haiti, where he saw the institutional slavery that was still thriving, right? And he said, Oh, hell, no, I’m not gonna deal with this. And he basically took it upon himself to destroy and dismantle, he killed a lot of white folks, right? He destroyed the institution of slavery. And I was like, you know, like, the precursor to white like the Haitian Revolution, right, you know, it kind of gave us like, some of that background. But I think that it’s really important how how, you know, tacey diamond in particular, like utilize like her stream and connected to other black women to like, tell these stories, you know, she said, okay, a lot of folks are not gonna learn, they’re gonna go like play this game and then go read about you know, the different revolutions that happen. You know, I cannot United States or North America. of South America. And so she said, you know, we’ll we’ll do that work for you, you know. So just using that that game and that cinematic trailer, you know, she, she talked about, you know, different revolutions she talked about like Nat Turner, she talked about the different rebellions, she talked about Harpers Ferry, you know, we learned so much just from her stream, because she said, most of y’all are not going to take no African American Experience class in college. So I’m gonna do that for you. So that there was a beautiful way that she was creating like this, this, this, these, like, co creating like that, that knowledge like with her, and then the folks, some of us who were coming into the stream, you know, we were adding the things that we knew, and it really created, you know, just these beautiful spaces of just like exploring, you know, like black history through gaming. And you know, like it all like it was the jumpstart was that cinematic trailer was like, okay, you’re not just gonna plop down the slave narrative and not give us any more context or background, right, we’re gonna make sure to like fill in those blanks and fill in those holes and let you know what the lasting legacies of like slave slavery, destroyed black families and communities so we want to make sure just to just to bring that back. So I I think streaming is like really like the place where you can see like a lot of this beautiful, you know, digital storytelling and the CO creating, like knowledge and telling these local life stories, I think, you know, those are really beautiful spaces to go see. Um, it’s, it’s interesting I just I was I just recently wrote a piece with, um with my graduate student Brian Chan’s shout out to Brian, I’m not sure if he’s in this space or not. But we were looking at like, the different pathways. Um, how like black men, like for instance, they a lot of like the most popular black men who are streamers, they have applied to that traditional like narrative to their streams, they want to build huge platforms, they want a lot of followers, they do a lot of the performative kind of over the top kind of thing, hit that like button, you know, or the, you know, like all that kind of stuff. They do like a lot of that performative kind of thing, like with their strings. Um, and I think some of them recognized that they were trying to apply this template, but because of the bodies that they’re in, they would never be able to reach that potential of like their white male counterparts? Right? So and I think that that hit a lot of them hard, right? And some of them said, you know, they they’re out here being buffoons and engaging in Qunari. And, you know, a lot of you might not know what those words mean. But you know, they were doing some very, you know, performative blackness and Syrah typical black kind of performances, like on their strings, and they didn’t feel comfortable with it, you know, like, over time, like people were like, expecting them to continue like engaging like in this in this kind of practice. Like, for instance, there’s one, there’s one streamer who he was just like talking regular, he didn’t have a lot of high energy. He didn’t. And then people were like, like, you’re not funny anymore. You’re not engaging anymore. And he was like, wait a minute, well, why are you here? He’s there and he realized that he’s just entertaining these people. So that kind of hit him hard, like in a way where he’s like, you know, these people aren’t here for me, you know that. It’s like the entertainment value that is very important. There was also another streamer in particular, this black, this black man, he would mask his voice when he would go into these spaces like to talk so yeah, the kind of like a chipmunk kind of like thing going like in his space and he’s funny, he’s over the top. He had never in his early strings he never showed his face but there was one stream where he did show his face. And then his followers, these loyal followers, like engaged like racism, well, I didn’t know you were a nigger. Like, that’s like one of the quotes, like he copied his screen captured that and he has, you know, he, he, it hit him hard because he was like, I’m just being like a funny guy trying to engage in folks trying to make a few dollars in this space too. And then but I can’t do that because you automatically think that there’s something different about me and my content because I’m black like that. That didn’t sit well with him either. So it’s really interesting how like, you know, like, you know, we were I don’t know how we look at like waves of streaming now. Are we in the second wave or what I don’t know what this is to I’ll leave it to the like, help us think about things like that. But in this new wave of like streaming, a lot of black man in particular, I see you have been have become an have gone more internal and you know carry you know are creating like their their spaces like for other people like them as opposed to you know like the outward you know front facing kind of like kind of things because of the racism because they realize they will not be able to be equals like they’ll never be ninja you know it’s what’s on extra space I’ll never be mentioned like you don’t want to be ninja Don’t be ninja Be yourself
T.L. Taylor 1:11:24
like that Don’t be ninja don’t I want I thought I saw Thomas’s hand but now it’s gone to mustard. Was there a glitch? Are you? Um, I think you you answered it but I was interested in in. So you you talk about your work being Catholic like in the middle of activism on of course research. And I’m interested if you find any resistance in either of both spaces, you know?
Kishonna Gray 1:11:50
Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of folks, they don’t they don’t set out with the project of resistance, right. Um, you know, so even um, I know some folks like the women who you know I talked about them meeting up like an Xbox Live and then saying, Hey, we need to go show up. So like this, this rally like to support like rekia Boyd and Ricky Boyd’s family. You know, they were like accidental activists, right. You know, they didn’t intend they were just saying, Hey, we need to show up. We need to do something even Khalif you know, Khalif Adams, you know, didn’t set out saying hey, I’m an activist like in the space, you know, they were just like, hey, we’ve got these platforms, we got to do something, we just want to like, raise like awareness. But I think that’s how maybe like a lot of even like activism, like even happens, right? You just happen to be at a particular space at a particular time. You know, just think about like the power, for instance, that social media have like in the moments in the death after like Mike Brown, right? A lot of these people just had phones, they were able to like record, and then they were like, okay, people are watching us, we’ll give you the information, we’ll give you the story. And these people, you know, became the frontlines of like, you know, a very significant movement like to advocate like for Black Lives, right. And so I think that there’s although you know, Of course, there is, you know, a lot of actual, like structural actual, like intentional work that’s behind activism too. But I think there are a lot of folks, you know, who are just who just happen to find themselves, like so moved by something, and so immersed in something, they’re like, you know, I gotta do something, you know, I we can’t just sit by we can’t just do this. So, I think, you know, that’s where it’s like, you know, a lot of these folks don’t intend to, you know, engage in like this resistance, you know, this activist work, but it just kind of it kind of falls into their their lap, if you will, um, I’m even thinking about, like, early, early, and like, you know, dissertation days, like, you know, like around like, you know, the late 2000s miles seems so long ago. Yeah, like 10 years ago, over 10 years ago. What years is 2020 My goodness, I’m like 2008 2009 we were me and the friends that I was with like we were trying to like boycott um, it was one of the Laura Croft games were boycott. I can’t remember what year it was all the it’s so much times escaping me now. But if you are a member The cinematic trailer around one of the Laura Croft games, it was like alluding to her possibly being raped in the game, right? And we were just not okay with that framing, and, and all that, you know, it was we didn’t generate a critical mass, you know, we didn’t you know, a lot of folks were trying to get people to, like, show up at like GameStop like on, you know, the night that they deployed the game and say, Hey, this is awful, we’re not gonna support right now. We were, we were doing the most right but and I think like a lot of them from that group, you know, recognize like, hey, even though we don’t have the bodies of the numbers, you know, we can still do this work like in other ways, right? So a lot of them have, you know, gone to streaming now, you know, they develop these blogs, and they’ve, they figured out like other ways to like utilize their platform to just like raise awareness. And I think that those you know, those although small scale you know, I think those you know, kind of hint at like resistance like practices and activism as well. Yeah. You.
T.L. Taylor 1:14:55
Time for more, three more questions. From attendees, you can throw something in queue q&a.
Kishonna Gray 1:15:06
T.L. Taylor 1:15:09
Maybe and just Oh, good. Ambar.
Ámbar Reyes 1:15:13
Yeah, good. Well, if anyone leave, no one wants to. Ah, I was wondering like you already mentioned that in each community is different. And you don’t want to generalize, right. But I was wondering if, like, what difference did you find in like rural areas? And like CDs and how like, if they you’d use different like the technologies they use in different ways to approach and also like, how different it is from the US to rescue 40 cents. Yeah, they’re also working.
Kishonna Gray 1:15:50
Yeah. Let me start with the second part of your question, especially since you invoke Brazil, there’s a community of black men that I’ve been following for you know, probably since like, two days. thousand seven. It was, it was, um, right after the death of Trayvon Martin there was this group of like black men that were talking about, you know, their experiences, you know, their experiences with police their experiences with like security guards. And in that group, um, they they came to find out find out later that a lot of them were from different parts of the world, right we, you know, we found out that, you know, some of them like, you know, from the United States, some of them some lived in Puerto Rico, some from Brazil, somewhere in Nigeria, somewhere in a in, in the UK. Now, this, it was very, it was a very contentious group of folks right now, these are all black men, they all identify like racially as black, you know, ethnically, you know, nationally, like different identifiers. And they the initial conversation was that, you know, as black men in the United States that dominate the conversations about you know, black men across the world, and then they like the conversations were very contentious. I remember even like one conversation where, you know, there was a black man, that was like, saying like to the black men of Brazil is like, well, you don’t you, you don’t even identify as black only when it fits you or only when you want to, like engage in like that conversation around, you know, like your, your Afro, you know, identity, right? Um, and then there was even like conversations around like, you know, like accents like for the for the men and the British men so they were making fun like, oh, you’re British you British, like it was it was really bad. They were like, poking fun at one another. But it was like, you know, some something happen Oh, shit, I remember the, um, leading up to the Olympics in Brazil, you know, and a lot of the violence that was happening like to, you know, clear spaces, you know, pave the way for all these things that they were building. And then like, I think there was a lot of like police violence that you know, made it to like it made it to our media, like in the United States where we’re just saying, and then it was it was a comment that somebody said they said, Well, I guess the ghetto looks the same everywhere. That was like one of the comments that one of the May, where they recognize that they they are dealing with like similar experiences, just you know, across the The board and that what what what unifies them was the the blackness, their black masculinity, you know, kind of like unified, like a lot of their experiences. So while there were, you know, of course distinct oppressions and distinct things that are happening, you know, they just realized, like, the similarities like, like, among all of them, right. So, you know, I think there will be like, like, the questions that I would then ask, you know, some of the men like in, in Brazil was different than, you know, what I asked like the men, the brown black men, like in Puerto Rico, right, you know, their connections to like legacies of like slavery, like, are you even, like, you know, are they were they even, like, aware of like, the legacies of slavery and like, what’s happening, you know, even space in place, you know, making the comparisons between, like, you know, housing projects, like on the south side of Chicago to like, the favelas like, you know, Vittoria, you know, so they’re all these, like, conversations that were that were that were that were similar. They were different, but they get us to, like similar ends and like, you know, similar in the end is similar, right? It’s just the pathway to get there. Now, there, it was very challenging.
Ámbar Reyes 1:19:03
Kishonna Gray 1:19:06
the work in Eastern Kentucky was very challenging. So I had to, like, you know, like, I’m thinking about what relationships that you know, I was, you know, trying to build and going to visit like, you know, like, like families like, you know, there will be Confederate flags outside, you know, their trailer and you know, I’m trying to say, Hey, you know, can your can your kid participate like in this in this after school group can they come to Richmond, you know, during the summer, you know, for a couple days and like, stay in residence in the dorms and, you know, I am so I had to, like contend with what me in this body, you know, looks like like in this space. Um, I think there was like, a lot of racism, you know, challenging a nice way to put it. That’s right, Kayla, you remember these stories? Um, I there were and there were different conversations that were had right. But I think that it was all it was. Because I knew how to use like the language to talk about, like their their class oppression, that was something that the families understood that they knew. And that it allowed me to start making, like the connections between like class oppression, and like racial like oppression and like talk about like the degrees of whiteness. And, you know, all I did, I wasn’t able to like go as far as I wanted to like with some of those conversations. But that was also like the moment where I incorporated families and a lot more because I think the work needed to be done with their families around talking about conversations with like race. Um, so but I didn’t, I wasn’t able to do like, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t have funding I need money to to do these things. I didn’t have like, a lot of the funding and like the money like to do a lot of this work. But I think like a lot of these kids like I had to tell some of the kids like don’t call me colored, okay, you don’t have to cut please don’t call me color. You know, like I had to deal with that. But that didn’t stop like the work and the internet and stop me from like seeing really like the beautiful contributions that these poor white kids Hey, you know, because I recognize, you know, just like, you know what they’ve had to like experience and endure, you know, didn’t live in me I just realized that they never had like the pathways to like understand, you know, like although they may be poor but there’s like some white privilege here you know there’s so there was there was a lot of work you know that that that that I needed to do there yeah I don’t know how else to say that I haven’t really like unpack those experiences in a way that I need to that’s a future book right? That’s a full professor book. It was wild.
T.L. Taylor 1:21:27
I like how you’re giving me a hard time about money. I want you to have all the money. That’s me. Alright, we’re almost approaching 630 I don’t actually know what our formal in time is. But are there any other questions? Any? I’m just kidding. I’m scanning multiple monitors and we are
Kishonna Gray 1:21:52
here I haven’t gone through the chat at all.
T.L. Taylor 1:21:54
Feel free to look in and I think Emily is raising her rate. I love it. It was like actual physical hands free Yeah, go ahead, Emily. I’m just wondering
Emily Grandjean 1:22:03
if you can, if you’ve noticed, the people you sort of observed talking about, not just sort of piecing together different ways of engaging in these gaming communities, but maintaining their infrastructural sort of connection, like talking about different, like mapping out different places to find Wi Fi or different places, certain digital devices, like how, how did they think about that? If they did?
Kishonna Gray 1:22:29
Absolutely, the only reason why I have those maps is because I really just couldn’t believe that there really was no access. Right. And that it’s not that I didn’t believe the kids. I think it was just one of those moments. I’m like, we’re in the city of Chicago, like I don’t care that this is the Southside This is Chicago. Surely you have Wi Fi surely you have these things. Surely there are pokey go stops, but I think that was my naivety and like, it was like a crash course that I had to like, you know, acknowledge my own ignorance or Round the racial politics of the city of Chicago. And you know, I’m from the I’m from the south, we have different kinds of racism, right? There’s not this residential, you know, racism, you know, where as you know, it’s, it’s, um, I remember as a kid, you know, they’re like, you know, in the south, they don’t mind living next to you, they just don’t want to work with you. But like in the north, they don’t, they don’t mind working with you, they don’t want to live next to you. So I think that’s one of the things you know, I got kind of got a sense of this, like, my time in Boston realizing like seeing real racial, like segregation, residential, like segregation, and also like, so just being here, I’m just like, in my mind, I’m like, whoa, hey, kids, let’s go up to millennial part. Let’s go up here and like, just play, like Pokemon Go, let’s just do it. And then just seeing, oh, gosh, just seeing security officers whose job it was to keep them out of that space. That that was kind of hard for me to contend with. Right. Am I here we are, we’re not doing anything, we’re playing a game we’re playing Pokemon Go. And that was like, around the time where a lot of people were talking about playing Pokemon Go while black and in talking about, like, how they can’t just go into like all spaces. And so this was like, in the moment, this was like brand new to me to where I was just like, wow, like these these realities are still ever present like even even in this space. So I think that, um, I I’m trying to think about making sure that that like I I answer your question, but I think that the the realities like just just hit me that you know, I have to make sure and again, it was an accidental project here. We’re just having fun. I’m like this is giving like the youth like something to do, but it really you know, made me realize that there was like a lot of like background that I needed to do before I even entered in a project like I tried to do some but I never want to do too much where I’m coming at it with like all these biases and all these like assumptions right? And so I just try to keep I’m just to try to keep that balance of
and also, you know, me being in this body being an academic researcher trying to like approach things like an objective ways machine. You know, that’s that’s not like not true at all like it’s I try I try to strike that balance I hope I’ve forgotten, like your question trying to think about, you know, just like that that reality too. So hopefully hopefully I answered that I can’t even remember what your question was. And we I’m so sorry. That was really just thinking about in the moment where the security guard is basically said, No, these black kids can’t be here. And they have to go like they kick kicked us out. They kicked us out. How even in the place where I live right now. They were trying to kick me out of like, my own own house because we don’t live on the south side. We live on campus, right. And so on the campus, you know, they have been mobilized like police black bodies. And so, you know, if there’s a certain time where you know, black people just have to go You have to get back to the south side or go back to the west side. And because we were here after hours, it really felt like like sundown town, like almost where it’s like, you know, we’re not welcome here. So, you know, I’m married to a big black dude, and I tell him like, no, you’re not gonna go get That pizza from outside at eight o’clock at night, I’m gonna go down there because I know security is just right around the corner just waiting to like, you know, get you out of this space. So, you know, I hope you don’t have to like contend with those realities as well. Sorry, Emily, did I answer your question?
T.L. Taylor 1:26:19
I can’t tell him yet. It looks like she’s saying thank you.
Kishonna Gray 1:26:21
Yeah. Okay. All right. Okay.
T.L. Taylor 1:26:25
Well, you’ve given us just a heroic amount of time and just incredible things to think about and, and the answers to the question. So thanks so much. Kishonna. I would give you a round of applause. Yeah, it’s been great having you here to kick us off on a terrific, terrific New Year series. I was just pulling up. Andrew put a link to the ark upcoming events and there’s two different things happening next Thursday, another of the sessions on deepfakes and then our colloquium is Justin Reich speaking on failure to disrupt why technology alone can’t transform education. So I think we have another another really good kind of critical intervention conversation ahead. So thanks again Kishonna. I’ll kick it back to Scot, if you I don’t know if you have any further things you want to say to wrap up?
Scot Osterweil 1:27:21
No, I mean, I just have delight I am pleased and great to talk was just a word of housekeeping folks keep an eye out. Some of these talks will be live like this one, some will be pre recorded. If they’re pre recorded, they’ll be available at a week before you’ll need to do you’ll need to keep an eye out to see which is which. They’re pre recorded, and they’ll just be live chat at this time these days. But in any case, again, thanks, everyone, for showing up for a great start for this program. Friday.
T.L. Taylor 1:27:55
Take care. Bye all