Motherboards, microphones and metaphors: Re-examining new literacies and black feminist thought through technologies of self

Tisha Lewis Ellison, David E. Kirkland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article examines how two African American females composed counter-selves using a computer motherboard and a stand-alone microphone as critical identity texts. Situated within sociocultural and critical traditions in new literacy studies and black feminist thought, the authors extend conceptions of language, literacy and black femininity via the agentic, powerful and knowledgeable selves of African American women, constructs that are often missing from the scholarship on young African American women and their practices of self-definition. The motherboard and microphone serve as analytical constructs for understanding critical new literacies and subject malleability, which crisscrosses in complex configurations across the experiences, histories and relationships that carry meaning for those who struggle through scenes of silence. Motherboards and microphones act metaphorically as technologies of the self, which resist and reformat cosmologies of black femininity that have long patterned gender oppression. The findings suggest that technologies exist everywhere, and technology related to literacy and language exists in many forms, including vocabularies of motherboards and microphones. The authors conclude that using such vocabularies for expressing identity can work through the power of metaphor in its richest sense to offer new conceptions of self, whereby the subject becomes a personal artifact capable of immense transformative potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-405
Number of pages16
JournalE-Learning and Digital Media
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications

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