Informatics Seminar Series
Winter Quarter 2022

Friday, January 14, 2022

“Black Aesthetics: Interventions in Digital Media”

A.M. Darke
Assistant Professor of Performance, Play and Design, Digital Arts and New Media, and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
UC Santa Cruz

Abstract:
Across digital media, Black people are portrayed in ways that are derogatory, inaccurate, stereotypical, demeaning, and otherwise harmful–if we are depicted at all. The representation of afro-textured hair is noticeably limited, with options ranging from comically large afros, unstyled “dread” locs, and misshapen cornrows. Black character models for games and 3D media are often one-dimensional racial caricatures; the savage, the criminal, the mammy, the athlete, the fetish, the muscle, the braggart.

Through projects like ‘Ye or Nay? and the Open Source Afro Hair Library, artist A.M. Darke discusses her critical approaches to constructing Black identity in virtual space.

Bio:
A.M. Darke is an artist and game maker designing radical tools for social intervention. Still in the class war. Now in the pandemic. He’s in the combination class war and pandemic. Assistant Professor of Performance, Play & Design, Digital Arts and New Media, and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, at UC Santa Cruz, Darke also directs The Other Lab, an interdisciplinary, intersectional feminist research space for experimental games and new media. Darke’s recent work includes ‘Ye or Nay?, a Kanye West-themed game about Black culture, and the Open Source Afro Hair Library, a 3D model database for Black hair styles and textures. Darke holds a B.A. in Design (’13) and an M.F.A. in Media Arts (’15), both from UCLA. He has completed residencies with Laboratory, NYU Game Center, the Open Data Institute, and the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon. Additionally, his work has been shown internationally and featured in a variety of publications, including Kill Screen, Vice, and NPR.

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