Preview – Black Vernacular: Reading New Media

Black Vernacular: Reading New Media
Sunday, March 10 | 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center
Room 6AB

martine syms
Martine Syms, publisher for Dominica

The Black race and media in the United States have had a somewhat muddled relationship ever since Americans began consuming content through media of their choosing. Since the popular, yet racist radio show from decades ago, Amos ‘n’ Andy, to current television channels like BET that are specifically catered to the African American population, Black culture has been an undeniable factor in media production and consumption.

But how has the Black race been represented in the realm of new media? Self-described conceptual entrepreneur Martine Syms will attempt to tackle that topic at this year’s SXSW Interactive festival.

Syms, who holds a degree in film, video and new media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has been examining vernacular art, design and film to determine how Black artists are represented in media, and analyzing how these artists are able to cultivate and distribute their content using these media. This area of interest has been particularly close to Syms as an author and visual artist.

black vernacular
Black Vernacular, the topic of Syms’ SXSW Interactive panel.

“This panel is a continuation of the ideas I considered in my book, Implications & Distinctions. As a graphic designer, I’m very conscious of visual culture and how concepts like race, class and gender are visualized,” Syms said. “I think it’s useful to interrogate these positions and take note of how they’re changing.”

Syms, publisher for digital publishing company Dominica, hopes this session will inspire both designers and African Americans to create artistic and contemporary foundations for themselves moving forward.

“I hope attendees, presumably design professionals, leave excited about the visual capital that they possess,” Syms said. “I want people of color to go out and build themselves as ‘subjects of interactivity.'”

I was able to catch up with Martine before her panel and ask her how she’s enjoying SXSW so far.