What Time Is It?

If I could become any kind of new media composer today, I would be the AfroDigital version of Jimmy Jam (a name I have always adored) and Terry Lewis, with every and anything that would entail, all the bells and whistles that we have come to expect from them and all the new surprises awaiting us, and just when we thought they were done!  If you grew up listening to the SOS Band, Cherrelle, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation, Klymaxx, and, of course, the Time (and so many others), then you might have a sense of what I am getting at here.  I know that their music doesn’t translate simply as a digital movement, but it is their collaborative presence that I have in mind: what I thought of, way back when, as my generation’s version of Ashford and Simpson (who fueled the music of Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, and so many others.)  You just know when you are in the presence of these folks’s creations which seem to take on a life of their own for many moons to come.  I think that’s what digital spaces have to offer black communities: a unique AND African-Americanized presence that you come to know and incorporate into how you live your life.

I think about digital presence a lot lately, moreso than before, because I am more conscious of the digital spaces that I inhabit.  Immediate, in-time interactivity like twitter is sometimes important to me, but not always.  Even digital texts that are not updated can offer me multiple experiences, voices, and mental images vs. the usual, calcified and static repository of non-dynamic texts.

Here are some texts that I have come to enjoy because every time I enter them, I am, in fact, ENTERING something, becoming part of someone’s/something’s dynamism. Though the text doesn’t really change, I am still offered a new experience, a new way of hearing and seeing, each time I enter.

Johndan Johnson-Eilola’s “Polymorphous Perversity in Texts”, in the summer 2012 issue (16.3) of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy offers me a way of thinking about academic research and writing where the ideas just literally jump out at you.  On top of that, Johnson-Eilola even offers an 89 MB zipped archive for readers/players/co-imaginers to go off and play some more.

I was inspired by this collaborative movement (movement is the best word I have because text just doesn’t seem expansive enough).  This movement represents a course called “English 696e: Spatial and Visual Rhetorics” at the University of Arizona. The collaboration of amy c. kimme tea, adrienne crump & elise verzosa, crystal n. fodrey, anita further archer, jennifer haley-brown, ashley j. holmes, marissa m. juarez, londie t. martin, and jenna vinson allows you to see the work of a classroom as a relational space of understanding, conflicts, and contradictions so that we can now EXPERIENCE a whole range of perspectives.  I can’t imagine a better entry point into a classroom and its composing.

I like the possibilities that such digital texts offer me.  In my ideal world, I would re-mix all of this with a Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis vibe.  It is only when I imagine the kind of new knowledge-making that Johnson-Eilola and English 696e’s collaboration make possible, alongside the presence and worlds that black cultural icons like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have created, that I can imagine any reason and purpose for building digital competencies, code fluency, and tech skills.