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Presented By: Digital Studies Institute

DISCO Network Graduate Scholar Lightning Talks 2024

S. Nisa Asgarali-Hoffman, Jasmine Banks, Pruneah Kim, Pratiksha Menon, Hagar Masoud, Tynesha McCullers, Elise Nagy, Ria Rajan, Jessica Rucker, and David Tortolini

Gray and blue event flier with the schedule of talks and speakers' headshots. Gray and blue event flier with the schedule of talks and speakers' headshots.
Gray and blue event flier with the schedule of talks and speakers' headshots.
DISCO Network Graduate Scholars Lightning Talks 2024
Thursday, April 18th 2024, 4:00 - 6:00 PM EST

Register to attend on Zoom:

Event Description:
The DISCO Network Graduate Scholars Program is designed for graduate student researchers committed to developing interdisciplinary work about the intersection between digital technology, culture, race, disability, gender, sexuality, and liberation. Our Graduate Scholars conduct research in collaboration with our six DISCO Network principal investigators: André Brock (Georgia Institute of Technology), Catherine Knight Steele (University of Maryland), Lisa Nakamura (University of Michigan), Rayvon Fouché (Northwestern University), Remi Yergeau (University of Michigan), and Stephanie Dinkins (Stony Brook University).

In the 2023-2024 academic year, we have ten DISCO Graduate Scholars: S. Nisa Asgarali-Hoffman, Jasmine Banks, Pruneah Kim, Pratiksha Menon, Hagar Masoud, Tynesha McCullers, Elise Nagy, Ria Rajan, Jessica Rucker, and David Tortolini. Each DISCO Graduate Scholar will give an eight minute “lightning talk” on their research affiliated with their DISCO Network lab.

GROUP 1: 4:00 - 4:50 PM

“Drifting through the Technosphere” with Ria Rajan (Stony Brook University)
As a digital nomad, I am deeply interested in the present future—specifically, the cyber future. This is the future I feel most primed for. When I consider this future, I am self-reflexive about my relationship with cyberspace and the embodied technologies of our daily lives.

Generationally, a post-colonial millennial, who grew up on the move through changing environments and shifting landscapes, weaving in and out of times and spaces is my modus operandi. This has played a significant role in shaping my relationship to places, duration and traces.

Movement and stasis are the primary lenses through which I process the world and continue
to be a source of inspiration and inquiry. This idea of mobility has led to a creative practice that is inherently itinerant and iterative, with a focus on intangible, ephemeral and transient experiences –- IRL and online. For this talk, I will address how my practice-based research highlights ontological modes of production and hybrid media objects.

“BPG[Dot]Com: An Examination of Black Grief and Commemorative Practices in a Digital Context” with Tynesha McCullers (North Carolina State University)
"Death is a part of the human experience; it is inevitable that individuals will experience loss throughout their lifetime so finding ways to grieve and cope will be necessary. Death is a part of the human experience; it is inevitable that individuals will experience loss throughout their lifetime so finding ways to grieve and cope will be necessary. Cultural rituals and practices surrounding death, grief and commemoration vary and are shaped by several social positions of the bereaved including religion/spirituality, race, gender, class, and nationality. Prior to the inception of the internet and in the days before social networking sites (SNSs), death and grief were managed based on proximity to the deceased. Today, the internet has shifted not only the ways people experience dying (Andersson, 2017) but also how the bereaved cope with death (Willis & Ferrucci, 2017). Kania-Lundholm (2019) writes “media communication technologies and social media…have contributed to the expansion of death and mourning” so they are no longer simply private but now public and sometimes global events. In a society that is becoming more technologically advanced, the shift from institutionalized commemorative rituals to personal rhetorical modes of communicating and coping with loss online, is more common. Therefore, mourning on social media platforms can be viewed as an extension to various other sociocultural practices as they relate to loss, grief, and commemoration.

Previous research on the use of digital technologies to express grief and cope with loss, centers itself around six themes – thanatechnology (Sofka, 1997), fans grieving celebrity deaths (Sanderson & Cheong, 2010), cultural expectations in communicating grief (Boss & Carnes, 2012; Prigerson & Jacobs, 2001), online grief practices (Lingel, 2013), (in)appropriate etiquette for sharing and reacting to death (Wagner, 2018) and affordances/limitations of SNS policies for bereaved users (Moyer & Enck, 2018). While current scholarship on death, grief, and commemoration via digital technology is ongoing and presented in a universalizable way, minimal attention has been given to the roles that demographics play in death and mourning in technology-mediated culture. In an effort to extend the scholarship on death, grief, and digital commemoration practices, this project broadly asks “how have communication technologies impacted the grief and mourning practices of Black people”. By examining Black people’s uses of communication technologies and social media platforms, in their grief and commemorative rituals, we can gain a better understanding of ways to support them as they cope with losses that are inevitable."

“미역국 (miyeokguk) asmr: Recipes as Ritual in the Computational Present” with pruneah Kim (University of Michigan)
In this talk, I hope to briefly speak on an ongoing project, titled 미역국 (miyeokguk) asmr, that investigates the sociopolitical possibilities that open up when we turn to the repetitive but always different motions of ritual in our computational present. If digital capitalism is predicated on prediction, where does ritual take us? Drawing from Romi Ron Morrison and Loren Britton’s[1] (2021) attention to ritual over prediction, I want to know what happens when we position recipes as a practice of ritual. Where does this take us? What if we attend to recipes as a mapping of movement, a choreography, instead of a means to an end? I’m especially interested in playing around with the genre of recipe, precisely because of our taken for granted framing of them as a predictive practice. So much so that recipes operate as the base analogy to coding and algorithm, a full disservice to recipes in my opinion. The attention is paid to the product. And we fail to notice and value the already present movements, encounters, intentions, history, intellect, impulses and sociality that occurs around it. My hunch here is that there is a lot to gain in noticing these things.

This project is part of my broader dissertation research that aims to explore the worldbuilding possibilities of food in BIPOC communities, especially within queer Asian diasporic communities in North America.

“‘The arms are as long as printed exclamation marks!!’ Women’s Health DIY Print Cultures, 1970-2016” with Elise Nagy (University of Michigan)
This presentation takes up women’s health DIY print cultures of the 1970s and 2010s. I explore the self-representational visual/textual artifacts therein as a kind of “reproductive technology” in their own right. I suggest that these texts raise a particular set of questions and possibilities related to women’s material embodiment, reproductive capacity, and anti-determinist claims, staked on the page and on the body. Primarily glancing off of the earliest edition of what would become Our Bodies, Ourselves, then titled Women and Their Bodies: A Course (1970), by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective; Mira Bellwether’s 2010 zine titled Fucking Trans Women; and micha cárdenas’ 2016 piece “Pregnancy: Reproductive Futures in Trans of Color Feminism,” this brief presentation explores how each of these texts can be better understood in conversation with what Michelle Murphy has theorized as the “protocol feminism” of feminist self help: “a form of feminism concerned with the recrafting and distribution of technosocial practices by which the care and study of sexed living-being could be conducted.”

GROUP 2: 4:50 - 5:20 PM

“If You Know, You Know: Black Digital Culture and the Right to Opacity” with Jasmine Banks (University of Michigan)
This research delves into how Black users navigate the complexities of the digital, leveraging the existence of Black digital spaces that are cultural hubs for everyday discourse and camaraderie, expression, and community while challenges and systemic biases still permeate these environments. Drawing on focus group discussions with 19 Black social media users, I examine the discursive formation “if you know, you know” a sentiment, a feeling of just knowing that a meme, a hashtag, or online moment was/is a Black cultural moment. I investigate this phenomenon through the lens of opacity—the deliberate choice to eschew transparency as a means of navigating the digital landscape. I discuss how users leverage opacity to foster community bonds, assert their right to privacy, and maintain control over their cultural identity within the digital sphere.

“Babri retold: rewriting popular memory through Islamophobic humor” with Pratiksha Thangam Menon (University of Michigan)
The strategic mobilization of humor by Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) groups online contributes to the mainstreaming of supremacist ideologies that inform extremist behavior. Analyzing the social media recontextualizations of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition as case studies, this talk examines how online instantiations of Islamophobic humor contribute to the Hindutva revisioning of popular memory. This talk expands the understanding of how Islamophobia is normalized through the shifting affective framing of the Babri Masjid demolition, from shame to schadenfreude, from tragedy to comedy, and from a threat to Indian secularism to a necessary act of paternalistic disciplining. Studying these shifts through specific examples of Islamophobic humor builds upon previous insights into: (1) the affective regimes by which Islamophobic ideas are made palatable to a wider audience, (2) discriminatory speech as an act of pleasure, and (3) how both of these work toward the reworking of popular memory in service of the Hindutva political project.
“Keep it Black, Keep it Brief, and Keep it Online: Lessons from a Pedagogical Influencer” with Jessica A. Rucker (University of Maryland-College Park)
Using Andre Brock’s methodological intervention, Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA), in conjunction with the theories and conceptual frameworks of the Black Radical Tradition, Black Liberation Pedagogy, Digital Black Feminims, Black cyberculture, and Oscillating Networked Publics, I ask How does Parking Lot Pimpin’ create openings for audiences to learn about Black life and both understand and take part in the Black Freedom Struggle? My findings, which draw from Parking Lot Pimpin’ as a case study, document how Bogues skillfully mobilizes digital tools, platforms, and technologies and effectively educates the public about Black life in ways that thrust forward the Black freedom struggle, by drawing from and adding to Black archives, and builds on scholarship from the fields of American Studies, Black Digital World Making/Black Digital Socialities, Black Vernacular Cultures and Oral Traditions, and Critical Race Studies.

GROUP 3: 5:20 PM - 6:00 PM

“What’s in my Digital Cup?: Specialty Coffee Roasters and their Digital Discourses of Flavor” with David Tortolini (Purdue University)
Specialty coffee roasters in North America utilize flavor and our senses from a Western-centric perspective and reinforce Western-centric worldviews when they showcase coffees on their websites. They approach the way a cup of coffee tastes, feels, is described by using Western-centric ideologies and definitions. The Specialty Coffee Association’s Coffee Flavor Wheel is the primary tool used in the industry. As an accompaniment to how the flavors are shown, you see some coffee roasters weave flavor into storytelling when they are retelling stories of adventure to describe where the coffee comes from and how they were able to source it. Thus, coffee roasters use flavor as an identity marker and defining tool of communities and populations outside the West.

In this talk, we will explore how colonialism has impacted our senses by examining the digitalization of flavor by specialty coffee roasters in the United States. By analyzing these digital spaces, we will uncover how flavor is used to define and categorize communities and regions across the globe. Additionally, we will investigate the consequences of relying on Western-centric ideologies to describe our senses in both digital and physical spaces. "
"Parking Lot Pimpin’, an online series created by Lynae Vanee Bogues, unequivocally and unabashedly teaches about contemporary Black life and the histories that shape it by using digital tools and platforms in ways that create multiple openings for audiences to learn about, understand, and take part in the modern Black freedom struggle. She creates these openings by teaching in the locations and places where Black publics are, but where accurate, credible, and reliable information is not always: social media platforms. In this study, I consider how Parking Lot Pimpin’ connects to and builds on a long history of African American history-defending, truth-telling, and activist memory-work and demonstrate how Bogues is an example of, a new theoretical approach which I call, a pedagogical influencer. A pedagogical influencer is a social media user who leverages their content knowledge and technical expertise to establish credibility across various digitally mediated spaces to educate and teach audiences about specific historical topics through a constellation of repeated words, phrases, concepts, mannerisms, and gestures within a specific economy, industry, or field.

“Wooden Room_Wedding Room” with Hagar Masoud (Stony Brook University)
"Wooden Room_Wedding Room is a socially engaged, multimedia installation project that addresses the traumatic impact of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It sheds light on this violent practice, which involves the non-medical, ritual removal of external female genitalia, often without consent, and is widely seen as a patriarchal instrument to dominate girls' sexuality. FGM is prevalent across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, rooted in cultural beliefs about femininity and marriageability. The project aims to raise awareness about the physical and emotional pain inflicted by FGM and advocate for its end, emphasizing the importance of protecting girls' bodily autonomy.

Wooden Room_Wedding Room installation reimagines the colonialized interiors of Egyptian middle-class living rooms in a gallery setting, where narrators share their experiences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that occurred in such spaces. The ambiance includes serving Traditional Egyptian tea and tropical fruits.

“Ambiguously Brown: Resisting the Myth of Racial Authenticity in Genetic Ancestry Testing” with S. Nisa Asgarali-Hoffman (University of Maryland-College Park)
This study analyzes YouTube videos made by Caribbean content creators in which they reveal the results of their direct-to-consumer ancestry tests. I analyze these reveal videos, the user comment threads attached to them, and the role of YouTube in hosting these videos, to capture the popular discourse around the relationship between genetics and racial identity. By employing Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA), I seek to answer questions of how Caribbean content creators discuss racial identity, and in particular how online discourses of race negotiate, codify, or disrupt neoliberal notions of authenticity.

I focus on videos made by creators who specifically identify as being from the Caribbean or of the Caribbean diaspora. Through the lens of Caribbean Existentialism, I discuss how content creators and audience discussions around racial identities coalesce into a new project of “racial formation” (Omi & Winant, 2015). I unpack how racial authenticity is being reconstructed and deconstructed in digital spaces and interrogate the ways in which the conceptualization and mobilization of authenticity are intertwined with white supremacy.

Accessibility statement: We strive to make our events accessible to all participants. Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) services will be provided. Funding for CART was provided by the Disability Navigators Program within the U-M LSA DEI Office.

For all inquiries about this event, please contact Cherice Chan, DISCO Network Program Coordinator, at
Gray and blue event flier with the schedule of talks and speakers' headshots. Gray and blue event flier with the schedule of talks and speakers' headshots.
Gray and blue event flier with the schedule of talks and speakers' headshots.

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