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Nenna Orie Chuku, DIS Dean’s Strategic Fund Awardee

By Ian G Evans, on 17 June 2019

My application to the DIS Dean’s Strategic Fund 2018/19 was for support to attend two events. The first was the Anticipating Black Futures symposium on Friday 31 May held at the University of Birmingham. The second was a two-day conference, Digital Diasporas, organised by the University of London and held at the University of Westminster on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 June.

The Anticipating Black Futures aimed to consider and explore the futures of Black people in Britain. As the interdisciplinary symposium sought to respond to the current lived experiences of Black people in Britain, the day was a great chance to hear from a range of researchers and practitioners exploring Black studies. The symposium was also an opportunity to gain advice and tips from Black PhD students and early career researchers on their experiences navigating academia. As a Digital Humanities postgraduate who is exploring information systems designs, data visualisations and constructs of space and place within the African diaspora, Florence Okoye’s (AfroFutures_UK,) “Re configuring Community Led Smart City Design Through the Black Quantum Futurist Framework”, Julian Thompson’s (Rooted By Design) “Designing Equitable Futures for UK Black Communities”, were really insightful and interesting entries into conceptualising decolonised design and ways of thinking about current practices in constructing space and built environments. As my research produces and uses oral histories, I found Aleema Gray (University of Warwick) presentation on “Bun Babylon: An Oral History of the Rastafari movement in Britain 1936-2018” a stimulating critique and approach to insider researcher methodologies, in particular the ‘I & I Approach’, which established a research framework and encopasses an on-going feedback cycle.

The Digital Diaspora conference aimed to explore the relationships between digital technologies and diasporic communities. As I have been exploring information systems and data used in humanitarian projects, Mirca Madianou (Goldsmiths) keynote titled “Technocolonialism: Digital Humanitarianism as Extraction” provided a wider perspective and critique of digital humanitarian and technocolonialism. From reading a number of articles and critiques on Black studies in Digital Humanities, the chance to attend Roopika Risam (Salem State University) public keynote titled “Mobilizing New Digital Worlds: The Stakes of Postcolonial Digital Humanities” was a brilliant opportunity to hear about the practicalities and barriers in conducting Digital Humanities scholarship with a decolonised, postcolonial or/and feminist lens in academia. From the numerous panels on offer at the conference, Iris Lim’s (SOAS, University of London) “Digital Ethnography vs. User Experience Research: Comparing approaches to studying ‘users’ in the digital government of immigration” provided an interesting insightful methodological reflection and entry to the differences and similarities found within digital ethnography and user design in the area of e-governance in immigration. The closing plenary panel on Mapping Migration consisted of three presentations that explored data visualisations (Dana Diminescu, Télécom ParisTech/DiasporasLab, with “e-Diasporas Atlas: Exploration and Cartography of Diasporas in Digital Networks”), ethical implications of collection personal data (Funda Ustek-Spilda, London School of Economics, with “Ethics of Refugee Statistics and Social Imaginaries of Migration”), and the problems with apps used in humanitarian initiatives (Tobias Blanke, King’s College London, with “Migration, data, humanitarian apps and platform economies”).

Many thanks for award!

Nenna Orie Chuku

Digital Humanities postgraduate student

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