Digitized Diasporic Memory is an award-winning graduate thesis project by Candide Uyanze conceived during her MDes in Digital Futures at OCAD University. It explores the relationship, intersections, connections, and divergences of experiences between Black diasporic people. With an understanding of diaspora as networked, rhizomatic, and tentacled, the project seeks to create a space for connection, in an environment where connection is not easily accessed or sustained.
Digitized Diasporic Memory can be described as a...
- non-linear interactive documentary
- conversational archive
- relational database
- open-access library
- collective memory bank
- digitized memory
- chain of memories
The project brings to the fore the possible connections between Black diasporic experiences and narratives. It addresses the need for intra-diasporic validation, belonging, understanding across differences, and knowledge-sharing.
Digitized Diasporic Memory is a study in technologies, platforms, and software applications that can be used to facilitate iterative audio storytelling within the African diaspora.
The project is made up up three components:
- Database of Memories: An archival database was developed to gather crowd-sourced audio memories. To put the collective database to test, a month-long, participatory study was conducted where seven people of African descent residing on Turtle Island responded to the stories and anecdotes of other participants with their own. You can read more on the study here and access the database here ↗.
- Interactive Network Graph: A web application was developed to map and visualize the connections between the study's submitted stories in a non-linear manner. You can interact with the network graph and listen to the stories here ↗.
- Website: It's the website that you are visiting at the moment!
Meaning of the Title
The name Digitized Diasporic Memory is a nod to The Last Angel of History, a 1996 Afrofuturist documentary/fictional narrative hybrid directed by John Akomfrah and researched by Edward George of the Black Audio Film Collective.
In the film, the narrator mentions the concepts of “sonic Africa”, “digitized diaspora”, “sonic worlds”. In the following segment, writer Greg Tate details how the sampling era collapsed all eras of Black music onto a chip to form a digitized race memory, allowing for Black creatives to freely reference and cross-reference previous generations and sounds simultaneously.
You can view the segment here:
Besides The Last Angel of History, the thesis is influenced by a number of theories, concepts, themes, and artworks relating to:
- traditions of orality in the African diaspora
- collective memory
- knowledge sharing
- the "fediverse"
- decentralized networks
- digital memory
- non-linear storytelling
- transmedia storytelling
- interactive documentary
- “rogue” archives
- participatory research methods
The project is heavily inspired by Anne-Laure Le Cunff's idea of personal networked thinking and expands into collective thinking, or what she describes as mind-to-mind networks (several individuals connecting their ideas). In a public notebook/digital garden on metacognition and networked thinking, Le Cunff describes the concept as follows:
The Internet is a giant mental network. In theory, it would be possible to create a miniature version of the web by creating one node with some content (an idea, a thought) and to ask people to create a branch of that node with a label of their own—based on what the initial node made them think about. People would keep on adding nodes, which would create interesting stories, like a non-linear cadavre exquis.
Another major inspiration for this work is Tabita Rezaire’s video artwork PREMIUM CONNECT. The work explores the function of ancestral and traditional memory, and how it relates to technology, computer memory, quantum physics, Ifa Divination, and the underground network of plants.
As one of the protagonists explains, we only live for one lifetime and can only remember so much as one human being. However, by tapping into our collective and/or ancestral memory, we can connect to a worldwide web of sorts, where we access the memory of many lifetimes. You can view the segment below:
To read more about the works, inspiration, and theories which ground the project, consult the Digitized Diasporic Memory thesis document.
About the Creator
Candide Uyanze is a multimedia, multidisciplinary, and multi-hyphenate doer of things based in Tkaronto and Anishinābe Akì territory. She's been described as a producer, digital artist, video editor, photographer, designer, researcher, teacher, daughter, sister, and friend. Her practice explores diasporic storytelling, immersive web experiences, open source tools, accessible media production, African languages, and speech recognition. Candide holds an MDes in Digital Futures from OCAD University and an Honours BA in Communication and Digital Humanities from the University of Ottawa.