Introduction to D’Arcee Charington Neal

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A picture of a black man with a shaved head and dreadlocks wearing glasses, and dark blue lipstick

If you’d asked me anytime before 2017 what the term “digital rhetoric” meant, I probably wouldn’t have any idea aside from a picture of Aristotle rocking with an iPad in my head. These days, I think of it as one of those amorphous undefined kind of terms that showcases the wealth of all things it can be, while simultaneously carving out a specific niche in our current world of cyber culture, and this is why I like it.

For me, it represents the different kind of intentionality that resides in the content throughout the digital world, and my particular brand of interest lies in Audionarratology, or digital audio work. I was introduced to this concept through a class I took on audio rhetoric at the University of Maryland, and in it, we learned to apply the foundational tenets of pathos, logos, and ethos in audio work and I realized that I’d never bothered to think about it. We all know when we’re listening to Britney Spears or wallowing in some in Aqualung why we love to feel the energy of our music, and how it affects us; but we often don’t consider how such things are constructed to make us feel certain ways. For me, audio rhetoric is another way to tell stories, and I have a MA in Creative Writing from London as well as an MA  in Rhetoric from Maryland so it is the marriage of these two ideas that drives the beauty and vitality I see in the work. I know these days that podcasting and Audible are hot commodities. But in my opinion, that’s weak.

“Audible is Weak.” -me.

Yes I said it. WEAK. (I am not a fan of Audible.) There is very little immersion in hearing someone tell me about Lizzie Bennett’s day as she secretly pines away for Mr. Darcy in her sunbaked room in Longbourne. I’d rather hear her furious scribbling as she breaks a quill in anger, the swish of her petticoats dragging along the carpet stomping back and forth as she wonders whether or not she really loves him. Audio work should be a movie in your head, but most people have gotten comfortable with the idea of someone reading something to you, and that’s not the same. If you wanna hear a sample of the kind of work I do, or what I mean, take a listen here. But as I said, that cannot be on Audible. Take my love of movies and audio and combine it with a passion for African American theory and  disability studies, and you have my three love interests all in one. Through that class, I worked to create a different vision based out of Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower,” and situated in Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto,” where a technovirus has ravaged cybernetic cities turned people into monsters; using a wheelchair user with an electronic AI as his assistant for my protagonist. I wanted to build an audio world come to life where disabled people are the heroes and not simply objects of pity, inspiration, or revulsion. And it kinda took off from there. 3 years later I find myself in a PhD program here at Ohio State University and I’m building a much bigger expanded version of my initial dream as my dissertation.

A series of character sketches for the main character Kyrie, in my audio novel, called Spectre AV. He is a black man with long dreadlocks, who is seen in various poses with his futuristic wheelchair in different configurations as a machine and a motorcycle, with his AI attendant, Eden. Art by Joshua Clarke

My work these days is producing examples of what I am hoping to coin called, Afrophantasm, or the idea that in certain communities, how black disabled people are seen of as living ghosts considering the intersection of performance, bodily value, and assumptions of double deficits. I aim to combat this idea and turn it into a strength, and so that’s what my audio novella called Spectre AV will aim to do as I research and showcase different ways that ableism permeates in Afrofuturism, giving us future black bodies a bad start. It’s a lot of work. But between myself, my character Kyrie, and my kitty Shuri (aptly named for the Princess of Wakanda) we’re getting it done!

A black cat sitting in a wheelchair with a pink smiling heart sticker over head.

Here with the DRC, it’s my goal to learn more about different ways to work with digital media, and to get exposure to more kinds of academic work as I learn how to enhance my storytelling and production capabilities. I’m excited to get to share my interests and inspiration with all of you in the community, and I look forward to learning more about everything! I want to show that black disabled people can be an asset in the creative arts and that we have multitudes of experiences that can be used to further the knowledge of the world, and so through the Collaborative, I’m here to learn a lot, make new connections and hopefully introduce folks to a new kind of thinking, as we move forward in the world of digital media.

About Author(s)

D'Arcee is an English PhD student studying disability and black digital media in Afrofuturism. He believes the future is both accessible, and in Wakanda, forever.

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