A while ago I attended Jessica Johnson’s presentation on history and memory in the digital age, and struggled to think about what her presentation meant to me, and how I may interpret it in the context of this course. Levees has really been a turning point for me in Lee’s filmography, and has provided a way to think through a lot of concepts I’ve struggled with throughout the semester, including some of Johnson’s conclusions.
One of the most interesting concepts posed by Johnson is the role of statistics and data in understanding history and shaping memory of slavery. She discussed how statistics, to
I wanted to continue the conversation we had in class on Thursday when Professor Parham introduced the question of: Why does representation matter? Keeping in mind the role of data and art. I felt like most people valued art a lot more than data, and I wanted to push back a little of the undervaluation of numbers in representation.
Data is important- in the simplest of terms- for documenting experiences with an evaluative function in a more concrete way than artwork may. I do agree with many students that often times data can be seen as reducing experience into statistics, but I think it’s also important to remember how difficult it would be to create art without being able to draw on historical data. In our class discussion, we placed an emphasis on pitting these two modes of storytelling against each other, (this is a little late but I wanted to tie in Professor Johnson’s talk from March as well) but I think there is a definitive value in combining these two resources.
The inclusion of data in story telling is particularly compelling. These numbers are useful in terms of providing a tangible way to evaluate an experience. I think the incorporation of data can often elevate an artistic work by bringing in elements of truth and reality. In Professor Johnson’s talk on digital humanities, she introduced this new concept of evaluating and telling history. Through incorporating data from historical archives with mediums of technology, a comprehensive depiction of the past can be created.