Tonia Sutherland | University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Wednesday, October 28, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM (EDT)
Moderator: Patricia Garcia (Assistant Professor, University of Michigan School of Information)

This talk considers the social and cultural tensions created by the proliferation of publicly available digital records and data relating to the deaths of Black people in the United States. Engaging questions at the intersection of archival studies and digital studies, and disrupting the narrative that Black people’s lives are disposable, Sutherland presents several cases that interrogate and challenge the ways that deceased Black people have been commodified from the analog era through the digital era. Focusing on the entanglements of documentary practices and Black lives, Sutherland calls attention to the tensions between monetized clicks and the emotional agency of images; the impulses, ethics, and consequences of digital resurrection; the fight against the silence and erasure of oblivion; and laying datafied bodies to rest in a time when the Internet is understood to be an expression of forever. In this talk, Sutherland examines marked tensions and liminal spaces—between memorialization and commodification, between digital permanence and historical oblivion—building and shaping her arguments from a deep exploration of and engagement with Black digital remains.

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Tonia Sutherland portrait
Dr. Tonia Sutherland

Dr. Tonia Sutherland is assistant professor in the Department of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where she is also the director of the SOURCE Hawaiʻi research and community engagement lab. Prior to joining the faculty at UHM, Sutherland was an assistant professor in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama. Sutherland holds a PhD and an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Computing and Information (formerly the School of Information Studies), and a BA in history, performance studies, and cultural studies from Hampshire College. Global in scope, Suther­land’s research focuses on entanglements of technology and culture, with particular emphases on critical and liberatory work within the fields of archival studies, digital studies, and science and technology studies (STS).

Sutherland’s work critically examines the analog histories of modern information and communication technologies; addresses trends of racialized violence in 21st century digital cultures; and interrogates issues of race, ritual, and embodiment in archival and digital spaces. In her work, Sutherland focuses on various national infrastructures—technological, social, human, cultural—addressing important concerns such as gaps and vagaries; issues of inclusivity and equality; and developing more liberatory praxes. Sutherland is the author of Digital Remains: Race and the Digital Afterlife (forthcoming). She is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies at New York University and a member of the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2)’s Scholar’s Council at UCLA.