H e ll o. . …
In today’s post-modern world, storytelling surrounds us. It’s at our kitchen tables, at the bar with our friends, in our families, even in our politics – and most notably on our phones, televisions, in our books and films, not to mention our laptops. A story on Instagram, a novel on our shelf, our favorite feminist websites, even the albums we listen to are all (frequently) designed to serve a fundamentally narrative purpose. To tell a story. To reach an audience. These stories concretize our experience in life whether that be by communicating realities of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, or philosophy. And yet, perhaps because they surround us, perhaps because they swarm through the proliferating media around us, it’s easy to undervalue stories and the art of storytelling – and the roles storytelling plays in our lives. A tradition originating from the Western African region of the world reminds us of how deeply stories shape us insofar that it aims to capture the value of stories and storytellers across multiple mediums of expression: the griot. According to West African tradition, the griot is a storyteller; he acts as a carrier of tradition so that he is able to communicate various aspects of culture and history to various groups of people. The griot is seen as a trickster, not in that he’s mischievous or deceptive (which he sometimes can be), rather the griot is a trickster because he doesn’t present himself in a constant, superficial form; he shapeshifts in order to present the most effective, cogent story to the particular audience who needs to hear it. However, the message doesn’t change (though it can evolve – more on that later). It may be presented differently in order to fit the mold of whatever social sphere it is entering, but the concrete message about reality doesn’t falter. That message, in its multiple variations, serves to illustrate to communities what they value and who they are. Adam Banks, in Digital Griots: African American Rhetoric in a Multimedia Age, argues that in the digital world, griots acclimate to a new environment and become bearers of the tradition in newfound digital spaces, i.e., digital griots. A present-day example of Banks’ digital griot is an actor, writer, director, comedian, rapper, singer, musician, Donald Glover. This multitudinous introduction alone is exemplary of the griot tradition – he is a versatile figure. Glover is able to master many forms of entertainment (not to mention the modes of technology within those forms of entertainment) for the sole purpose of telling stories – and to shapeshift as he reaches different audiences. This website aims to analyze his career and create an immersive world through which to read about the everyday stories that he’s telling and how he is telling them. In other words, this website is meant to showcase Glover as a griot through the many different facets of his multi-modal career. And to tell that story to an audience that is simultaneously academic and everyman, disciplinary and every day. What better way to do it than a website on the Internet? The space in which Glover has not only made his career but continues to thrive as an influential and versatile figure. In the same vein, this project works in an immersive fashion in order to best showcase those several modes – films, music videos, image, song, text – the shapes he takes, so to speak, and as a result, I do not make a linear argument about my subject. Instead, I have shaped episodic examinations of the several forms Glover’s work has taken. These episodes, in the shape of blog posts (whose content frequently includes multiple forms such as film, song, and music video), not only provide access to the several media I discuss but, perhaps more importantly, as I will illustrate throughout, invite the reader to comment, converse, challenge and/or extend the story I am telling about Donald Glover as a digital griot. The blog posts do not have a sequential order insofar that you must read one post in order to understand the next. However, the post titled “What Does It All Mean?” would benefit you the most if it is read last. This digital experience, the Donald Glover Experience if you will, allows us to take a dive deep into just who he is. And to rediscover the valuable way storytelling works in our lives. So, welcome. I hope you enjoy your time here.
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