James Baldwin, #BlackLivesMatter,
and Networks of Textual Recirculation


by Melanie Walsh / @mellymeldubs To navigate this slideshow, press the arrows or click the menu in the bottom left corner

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“The Negro in American Culture”

WBAI-FM January 1961

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious,
is to be in a state of rage almost all the time.”

After playing the video, click away to advance



“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious,
is to be in a state of rage almost all the time.”



“To be black a[nd] conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage”


Basic outline


Data and methods

Beyond the hashtags

“Beyond the hashtags: #Ferguson, #Blacklivesmatter, and the online struggle for offline justice”
by Deen Freelon, Charlton D. McIlwain, and Meredith D. Clark

“40,815,975 tweets matching…45 keywords that were posted between June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015 and had not been deleted or protected as of July 2015”

twarc

twarc

twarc hydrate bth_ids.txt > bth_tweets.jsonl

Documentation translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili, and Swedish

Documenting the Now

Documenting the Now


jq

jq

jq -c "select(.text | test(\"James ?Baldwin\";\"i\"))" bth_tweets.jsonl > bth_jamesbaldwin.jsonl

#BlackLivesMatter-Baldwin Findings (So Far)

How often were people mentioning Baldwin?

How often were people mentioning Baldwin in comparison to other African American writers?

  • Barack Obama (126,870)
  • Martin Luther King (34,608)
  • Malcolm X (29,093)
  • James Baldwin (7,326)
  • Audre Lorde (1,634)
  • Langston Hughes (1,401)
  • Maya Angelou (1,236)
  • Toni Morrison (843)
  • Gil Scott-Heron (583)
  • Claudia Rankine (556)

How were people talking about Baldwin?

How were people talking about Baldwin?

Which kinds of texts were quoted from?

Which kinds of texts were quoted from?

From what part of Baldwin’s career?

From which parts of Baldwin’s career?

Which quotes were most popular? Why?

Which quotes were most popular? Why?


20% of all tweets contained a variation of these words:
“To be black a[nd] conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage”


tweetsofanativeson.com

tweetsofanativeson.com


Next Steps

Next Steps

Future questions

  • Can we computationally identify what makes “protest” literature?

  • Can we computationally identify text mutations?

  • Can we operationalize the identification of quotes from a corpus of Baldwin texts?

  • Can we use the networked structure of Twitter data to think about how texts travel between networks of people?