Debt of Gratitude: Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Politics of US Latinx Twitter

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Twitter Profile, September 2020

This essay, which engages in an analysis of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s invocation of “for you” on Twitter in comparison to those of twelve other US Latinx writers, has two goals: to identify broader key trends in the discursive strategies used on Latinx Twitter and to make the case for the urgent need to ethically document and archive contemporary Latinx Twitter production. The author moves in the direction of generating a public academic archive of Latinx Twitter by publishing online a limited corpus of Miranda’s “for you” tweets as well as comparative visualizations of how Miranda’s use of “for you” in tweets parallels and differs from other Latinx writers’. In addition to modeling the flawed process of archive-building in the hopes of encouraging other scholars to thoughtfully share their own Twitter archive processes, this essay analyzes the strategies used by some US Latinx creative writers to navigate Twitter and how these strategies may speak to the writers’ understanding of the relationship between institutions, audiences, and aesthetics. It specifically highlights the digital work of Cuban American playwright Marissa Chibas, Puerto Rican poet Rich Villar, and Puerto Rican writer Charlie Vázquez on Twitter as a counternarrative to Miranda’s aesthetics. Much work remains to be done in order to understand how Twitter acts as a vehicle for Miranda and the multitude of US Latinx writers who connect with audiences and each other as a means of translating emotion into action or profit or something else altogether.

Principal Investigator

Elena Machado Sáez
Email: ems040@bucknell.edu

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to the expertise of Emily Sherwood, who served as the Assistant Director of Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship at Bucknell University in 2017 and trained me to use TAGS, Twitter Archiver, and Voyant. I am also grateful to Diane Jakacki, Todd Suomela, and Christian Howard-Sukhil, who provided support for this project at its later stages.

Project Website

Project Status

Published

Funding

  • Untenured Junior Faculty Leave, College of Arts and Sciences, Bucknell U. (Spring 2018)
  • CSREG Scholarly Development Grant, “Hamilton and the Digital Archives of Latinx-Caribbean Writing,” Bucknell U. (2017)

TwitLit Project: Spring Semester Work and Looking Towards the Summer

          Spending the spring semester working on the TwitLit project was, for me, an engaging and hands-on first experience with the Digital Humanities (DH). As a research assistant, I worked with another student assistant, Meg Coyle, to document and record data on tweets in 2019 related to the writing community. Christian Howard-Sukhil, the head of the project and the DH Postdoctoral Fellow at the university, trained us to use Python scripts developed for scraping Twitter as well as Twarc tools developed through Documenting the Now (DocNow)  in order  to collect tweets (and accompanying metadata) that contained different writing-related hashtags. Using these scripts, we can record the number of tweets that contained a particular hashtag within a given time period, as well further information on each individual tweet, such as the timestamp or the number of likes and retweets. 

          From here, we are looking to expand the interpretation of this data into new avenues and to find ways to shed more light onto the sizable writing community on Twitter. For example, currently there are line graphs on the TwitLit website that display the growth of some of these hashtags, with analysis on what this data could mean. We have also speculated on ideas such as displaying viral tweets from the Twitter writing community on the website, in order to show what is drawing the most attention from inside and outside the community. One particularly exciting idea, which we unfortunately are unable to undertake without physically being at the university, is the geographic mapping of these tweets. It is possible to record the “geo-tag” of individual tweets, and through this we would be able to map where the writing community on Twitter comes from in the world, and further interpret this data and ask why tweets are concentrated in one place or another. Throughout the summer we plan to continue thinking of interesting ways to display the data we’ve collected and to keep the DH community at Bucknell updated through these blogs.

My TwitLit Adventure

Since the beginning of 2020, it has been an awesome experience working on Project Twitter Literature (“TwitLit”) in an effort to break down Twitter literature over the course of the past couple of years. I was stranger to the technique of “scraping” or “scrubbing” tweets, but was immediately engaged with the idea when I heard about the opportunity. I have always had a love for writing and in this new age where social media is everyone’s outlet to express themselves, and Dr. Christian Howard-Sukhil, who heads the project, made me understand the shift in literature in this new media era.

In particular, I have worked to scrape over 30 hashtags, some taking hours to process, while others only a matter of minutes. Once COVID-19 became a factor and our campus had to turn remote, our team continued to meet once a week in an effort to finish the job. Despite technical difficulties distances away, it was awesome to see how much work we accomplished. I was able to scrape all of the hashtags and upload them each to their own file on Google Drive, while Jimmy Pronchick, the other student research assistant on the team, hydrated and counted each tweet, uploading the finished project to the Drive. It was a long process because if at any point my laptop shut down or lost Wifi for a second, I would have to rescrape for the term in order to ensure it was accurate. We followed the scraping process as outlined on the project website; the scraping script is freely available for download on GitHub.
In the future, we will begin to interpret the data. On the TwitLit website, Christian has used line graphs to exemplify the growth of literature hashtags. She breaks it down into two different categories, “Writing Community” and “Fiction and Poetry”. This allows us to see the difference in what individuals are using as a platform to share to a greater audience. We will continue to do this for new data and try to think of creative ways to share it.

For more information on the project, visit the TwitLit website.

The Masquerade Project

This is an immersive role-playing game in which the player must take on an avatar and navigate through an eighteenth-century masquerade ball
in order to win suitors, or (if a libertine character) seduce virtuous women.

Principal Investigator

Ghislaine McDayter
E: mcdayter@bucknell.edu

Project Collaborators

Diane Jakacki (Bucknell University)
Emily Barlow (Bucknell University)
Anita Oncharoen (Bucknell University)
Lauren Ziolkowski (Bucknell University)

Project Status

Active
Project Started: September 2017

Funding

  • Bucknell Mellon DH Grant

Rising Waters

Rising Waters draws on the project team’s collective strengths and interests in urban design, environmental history, and digital analysis to revive and further the original query. From an historical question – reconstructing the story of a canal basin and infrastructure once central to the city, then forgotten – this project asks what we need to know about urban waterways in order to respond to changing urban waterscapes in an era of climate change. The project uses scattered archival materials (maps, schematics, urban planning documents, photographs, landscape paintings) and digital tools that support spatial analysis and repository curation in order to assemble a narrative of the Richmond Kanawha canal basin: its plan, creation, impact, and erasure. In this way, we hope to develop a model for further research that can be applied to other cities in which we will concentrate on the combined impact of urban development and climate change upon rivers and waterways and their ultimate impact on 21st century infrastructures. The Richmond phase of the project is intended to serve as a model for other analyses of water and infrastructure in urban spaces; the first being Lewisburg, and ultimately more complex analyses.

Principal Investigator

Claire Campbell
Email: cec036@bucknell.edu

Project Collaborators

Student Research Assistant:
Annie Echeverria (Bucknell University)
Collaborators:
Diane Jakacki (Bucknell University)
Sam Pearson (Lewisburg Neighborhoods)

Project Website

Rising Waters StoryMap

Project Status

Active
Project Started: Nov. 2018

Funding

  • Mellon MAYR grant (2018-19)