Week 1: Why are we here?

Hi All,

If you’re reading this post it’s because you’re interested in or registered for this course, which is great. Since we are not meeting this week, this (long winded) post is meant to serve as our introductory class stand-in. So hello. I’m Professor Adrienne Keene, an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies. My bio and Brown profile are here, if you’re interested. My interests in this course come from my experiences writing a blog called Native Appropriations for the last eight years, where I examine representations of Native peoples in the media and popular culture, and explore ideas around cultural appropriation. I also am very active on twitter, and see both mediums as having a large amount of potential for creating positive change (despite the trolls and hate mail). Last year I was very active in the #NoDAPL movement, and that involvement also stirred an interest in this course. So here’s me, in gif form, in my office the night before class trying to finish all of this up:

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the syllabus (it has it’s own page along the left side of the screen), which is living document/work-in-progress (meaning the readings and timing of assignments may shift as we feel out the semester). Read through it, and decide if this is a course you’re willing to make a commitment to this Spring. The course will require work, but will also require a classroom community that is generous, thoughtful, critiques with love, and is open to consenting to learn in public.

This class is very much an experiment. It is born out of my own interest in social and new media, but also an interest in seeing if we could take a class out of the purely theoretical and emerge with tangible skills that support community and social justice. But because it is an experiment, it means I will be learning right along with you, and things might not always go as smoothly as we hope. So I ask that students are willing to embrace the process and be flexible as we stumble along.

The readings are very interdisciplinary, I don’t agree with all of them (and you should also feel free to question and problematize as we read), and some may be review for those of you well versed in media studies, but I wanted to take an American Studies perspective and critical lens on the conversations around new media, looking at issues of power, racism, sexism, identity, feminism, and more. My approach was to choose readings that I felt were a bit more accessible, though some are still admittedly a little dense, so we can get to the heart of the topics at hand. You’ll see academic books and articles, but also a few blog posts and online pieces (with more to be added–feel free to contribute if you have ideas), and podcasts/audio stories. The one required text to be purchased for the course is a graphic novel.

After reading through the syllabus you’ll see we’re focusing in on creating audio stories for the semester, but stories that are grounded in community, social justice, and a desire for positive change. I originally had hoped to work in multiple mediums as per the course description, but it became clear in building the syllabus that we would be stretched too thin, so I chose to pick one medium for us all to learn together.

Your assignment for this week is simple. I would like for you to start brainstorming about a possible site or idea for your story, and why that is something you’re interested in. As we move through the course we’ll be following the models laid out by the text and podcast Out on the Wire, so we will build out the stories piece by piece, and the stories emerge from the relationships that you build. So it’s not expected that you’ll have a perfect story idea to pitch now, I just want to know where your interests lie.

Examples: Do you work with a community based organization that is doing important work? Do you feel there is a student, student group, or issue at brown that does amazing things and doesn’t get enough attention? Is there a cause you’re passionate about and want to support? Is there an artist/musician/creator that is pushing boundaries and you’d like to capture their story? Is there a historical story of the land Brown is on that you would like to share? and on and on. Don’t be limited by these by any means.

Please fill out this google form by TUESDAY JANUARY 29th at 5pm EST. 


There are 20 spaces in the course, and this needs to be a hard cap since there are many hands-on aspects. I plan to offer the course next year and beyond, and if you’re a self directed learner this webpage will continue to updated and the readings are all linked on the syllabus. To provide some context, currently there are nearly 90 students with the course in their cart, and I don’t have a numbered waitlist. I am still deciding the most egalitarian way to determine who is able to enroll, so will keep you posted before next week once I see the final interest level. Please use the additional information on the form to let me know if this is a course you desperately need for graduation this spring.

I truly apologize for not being there in person this week, but I was invited to speak on a panel long before our teaching schedule was out, and didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to engage with some amazing, radical activists and scholars I deeply admire. I’ll fill you in next week, I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about, and I think the themes we’re touching on for the panel will strengthen the course.

So that’s it! I’m excited and a little nervous, but hope that you’re excited too!

Wado (thanks),

Prof Keene

Week 1 recap and assignments: