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'I, Too'

I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table When company comes. Nobody’ll dare Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,” Then. Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am […]

Creative Project – ‘I, Too’ Exegesis

I have always been fascinated by the way the different creative mediums interact. With this project I wanted to attempt to translate the written artistic form into a visual artist form. A poem that I find particularly powerful is Langston Hughes’ “I, Too”. This poem focuses on the struggle of African-Americans in the United States. I felt that Hughes’ poem provided fertile ground for exploring the ways different artistic mediums can interact. My goal was to create a photo series of four photos representing the different stages of the poem, as well as its ideas.

To achieve this I attempted to make the relationship clear between the poem and the photos I was going to create. For the first photo I wanted to represent the character in a transitional space, segregated from the main house. In the Hughes’ poem he creates a physical and metaphorical separation between his narrator and mainstream society. The line “they send me to eat in the kitchen/when the company comes” creates a segregation that Hughes uses to represent the segregation of American society as a whole. The first photo was the first of the “before” shots and I wanted to accurately reflect the position and standing of African-Americans in the early 1900s when Hughes wrote the poem. To show this idea visually I asked my model to wear clothing appropriate for the early 1900s. I asked him to dress in clothing that an African-American would’ve worn at the time. The model is placed in a transitional space not within the home but outside, on the edges, on the periphery. This is similar to African-Americans as a whole during that era who will also on the margins of society. Additionally, I shot the “before” shots in sepia time to accentuates their age. I had the model look down at the ground to symbolise his downtrodden feelings, even though Hughes’ poem outlines a certain element of hope in its opening stanzas. In this shot the model is looking down and to the left, as if looking backward to his tortured past. I also took the shots at eye-level to accentuate the facts that even though the African-Americans might have been downtrodden they were, in actuality, on the same level. The rest of society simply did not realize it yet.

In the poem the narrator talks about eating in the kitchen when company comes, implying that the African-Americans are kept separate from the main dining party. No doubt, at the time, African-Americans would have eaten a substandard quality of food, as compared to the white people. To represent this idea, I chose to simply shoot a still life photo of a basic, plain meal that an African-American at the time would be likely to eat. I placed the plate on a simple, rustic table to indicate that there was nothing fancy about the meal that the narrator in Hughes’ poem was about eat. Thing about this shot signifiers the difference in the lifestyle of an African-American as compared to a white man in the early 1900s. That is the point Hughes was driving home in his work, and that is the point I wanted to drive home in mine.

Now we come to the “after” shots. While the previous photos have been shot in sepia tone, these shots are in colour. Immediately, the viewer can see the difference between this plate in the third photo and the previous place in the second photo. In the poll, Hughes says “but tomorrow I’ll be at the table when company comes”. This line is Hughes hope, or even knowledge, that one day African-Americans will enjoy the niceties of life that whites enjoy. The third photo clearly shows these niceties, and the fruits of Hughes hoped racial equality. African-Americans have now “grown strong” quote and are able to sit at the dining table, rather than in the kitchen.

Final photo is, essentially, the combination of Hughes hopes and dreams, as expounded in the poem. If Hughes hoped that Americans would too be America then this photo shows the realization of the American dream. This photo is a far cry from the first photo, and now my model is standing proudly in front of his own home with its stereotypical white picket fence. To put Hughes ideas into action I chose the quintessential American scene of the white picket fence which represents stability, safety and suburbia. The model in this photo, unlike the first photo, is looking proud

and looking up to the sky rather than down to the ground. In this shot the model is looking up and to the right, looking for to his promising future. He is in a powerful stance rather than a downtrodden stance. This time, the model is wearing a suit showing that he is a professional man and works in an office rather than in manual labour. Through this shot we can see the 2realization of Hughes hope that African-Americans would one day become part of mainstream society, and accepted as such.

The historical social and theoretical context of my project is the most important part of it, in my opinion. This poem by Hughes is a very powerful poem and one that resonates me for the ideas it represents and how it conveys them. While the language and structure of the poem is simple, its ideas are far from simple. When Hughes wrote “I, Too” in 1925, World War I had just ended and there was a growing push for racial equality from both blacks and whites as blacks had defended America alongside whites overseas. The disconnect between the equality they had experienced during the war and the inequality they faced at home was a growing source of dissatisfaction. However, further knowledge of context makes the poem even more engaging. “I, Too” is actually a poetic response to Walt Whitman’s poem, “I Hear America Singing”. Whitman’s poem was written in 1860 and served as a call for unity despite the impending Civil War. The call for unity and patriotism that is made in Whitman’s poem is paralleled in Hughes’ poem. Yet, Whitman’s poem may not have been referring to the blacks as well as the whites, as the workers named in “I Hear America Singing” would, in all likelihood, be white. Thus, while Whitman calls for American unity in the face of the Civil War, he is not advocating for racial unity, mirroring his personal views against the abolition of slavery and black suffrage. Hughes’ poem is also a response to Ezra Pound’s 1909 essay entitled, “What I Feel About Walt Whitman”. In that essay, Pound calls Whitman “Americas poet… He is America”. When Hughes says, “I, Too, am America” this is an obvious reference to Pound’s essay, highlighting a parallel theme in Whitman’s poem and giving the “too” in Hughes’ poem added meaning. In my work, in my visual representation of this written work, I wanted to pick up on each of these important contextual details and make them come alive through my photography.

Comments on reading, Self Promotion in the ‘Art World’

In today’s modern culture, technology is everywhere. We are constantly in contact with an assortment of different forms of technology and media. At the touch of a button we are connected to the world of the Internet. As we live and breathe this contemporary digital environment, we depend on the Internet and technology to connect to the world in a personal and professional manner. In today’s digital landscape, in order to be a successful artist, or for that matter successful in any profession, you have to everywhere. Modern technology is the easiest way to do this. One of the artists who uses the contemporary digital environment effectively to increase the profile of their art is Banksy. This essay will explore the most effective means of communicating online, the ways that Banksy uses common methods of self-promotion, with the aid of the Internet and other digital pathways to expand the audience for his work.

In today’s modern pop culture, staying connected is a necessity. From an artist’s perspective, the Internet is a great way to promote yourself. The online environment presents an artist with a range of different platforms on which to share their work, the ability to connect with a larger audience, but also a way to define themselves in the public sphere. Probably the most well-known artist of our generation, Banksy is not only a master of street art but he is but he is a genius of self-promotion.

The Internet provides individuals with varied avenues for information seeking (Cutbirth and Coombs, 1997). As Jaques and Ratzan (1997) argue, traditional media channels limit audience behaviour options and do not stimulate information usage. Another benefit of the Internet for communication is its interactive capability. The interaction between creators and consumers could never be achieved through traditional mediums (Kaid, 2002). The Internet is the communications cement that permits multinational corporations to function seamlessly around the globe, producing an economic democracy that is truly worldwide (Jamieson & Campbell, 2006). The same can be said for visual artists who achieve fluid communications and promotion via the Internet. The Internet has provided individuals from disparate localities, age groups and ethnicities with a holistic community in which they can interact. There are two key types of online communities: common-bond communities and common-identity communities. Common-bond communities are characterised by the interpersonal relations of their members, and support their members to connect with each other (Schwämmlein & Wodzicki, 2012). Conversely, in common-identity communities members are characterized by their mutual affinity for a common topic or interest and the community supports them in performing a common task or attaining a certain goal (Schwämmlein & Wodzicki, 2012). Put simply, common-bond communities support interpersonal interactions among members, whereas common-identity communities support collective exchange on a common topic (Schwämmlein & Wodzicki, 2012). When placed in a practical context, common-bond communities are communities such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and common-identity communities are sites such as tumblr and online forums.

Blogs have emerged as a key avenue for expression as they are significantly impacted the way people access and perceive information. All people need to do is to log on to their own computer and activate “a frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary.” [1] The Internet provides a forum for individuals who are unfettered by commerce or government and are laterally positioned to interact across organisational, national, ethnic, religious, gender and business boundaries can become a polarising global medium. Indeed, blogs enable people with no official qualifications or experience to reach a substantial Internet audience, making their voices heard, opening their ears to the voices of others and expanding their influence (Al-Rodhan, 2007).

Dr Al-Rodhan (2007) presents a useful account of the unique features of blogs that enable us to consider them as an effective way for artists to communicate with their audience. Absence of editorial control allows blogs to achieve incomparable openness and freedom of topic selection (Al-Rodhan, 2007), with blogs able to publish opinions free of commercial and governmental restraints with a granularity exceeding corporate media to directly engage the masses. Traditional media feel threatened by bloggers’ ability to communicate directly to the masses, completely bypassing them and having the ability to diminish the power, wealth, and control of the press. Blogs are effectively cyber-enabled interest-groups that allow like-minded people to engage across geographical borders with anonymity and without censure (Al-Rodhan, 2007).

Twitter presents and interesting mix of social networking and microblogging as it occurs in real-time and can react to breaking events with additional postings minutes after events (Al-Rodhan, 2007). The speed of communication via twitter generates promotional potential by allowing general awareness of people to be raised and by enabling them to track events and issues in real-time from a range of perspectives to generate their own informed and influential opinions. The real power of twitter has been the user creation of the hashtag. Essentially keywords, the hashtag has given rise to a new style of interaction. Connections can be made by searching a hashtag. A conversation can gain followers and contributors by allowing searches to be conducted through the use of hashtags. Artists can use this function to group their content that they place online and attract new fans who search for that hashtag.

The ‘Facebook Principles’ outline that Facebook was built “to make the world more open and transparent” (Facebook Operating Guidelines, 2010). They outline the freedom for people to share whatever information they want, the ability for the user to own their information, and the freedom to access what others have openly shared. The key to social media engagement comes from the emphasis placed in social media to build connection in an environment of trust. Social media is able to support the construction of relationships between individuals, their networks and the corporate identities engaging in the medium. The cornerstone of social media engagement the ability to connect and share. Artists have the ability to interact directly with their fans, which until recently was not possible. Given Facebook’s operation style and emphasis on building relationships and establishing trust between users, the site offers a unique opportunity for artists to engage with their audience in an informal manner and build a personal relationship, albeit superficial, but on a platform where potential fans are communicating with their most trusted real world connections.

The greatest ability of social media is for fans or other users to endorse an artist like Banksy’s work. For example, Banksy’s official Facebook fan page ( has 839,800 ‘likes’ which means that every time Banksy posts via this page, the image is automatically seen by almost a million people. In addition, users are able to ‘share’ the photo on their own timeline (usually between 2000 and 5000 people), thereby increasing the exposure of the image as many people that are part of the network of the ‘sharer’ would not have been subscribed to Banksy’s Facebook page. This expands not only the viewing audience, but the potential for the fan base to develop and expand on a rapid scale. The speed of operation in the social sphere is the capital worth of social networking sites. In the case of Banksy and his street art, his following is built up as random, unconnected individuals take photo’s of his pieces and post them on various social media platforms.

This form of sharing is especially significant in terms of YouTube videos and their capacity to ‘go viral’. A popular YouTube video can, with the assistance of sharing via other social media platforms, generate hundreds of thousands of views overnight. It then starts to gather its own momentum and can be picked up by traditional media outlets, further increasing its exposure. Even though the example is not from my area of study, the example of Justin Bieber shows the power of YouTube as a medium for increasing an artist’s audience as his YouTube videos went viral and brought him to the attention of music labels. Recently, Banksy has moved from strictly street art to creating a YouTube presence. His recent residency in New York has seen him branch out into video art with his video ‘Rebel rocket attack’ (
watch?v=FsF3HspQY6A) depicting Taliban fighters shooting down cartoon character Dumbo. To date, the video has had over six million views and has been shared widely on social media. People who do not have prior knowledge of Banksy’s work will be drawn to the accessibility of this YouTube video and then be more inclined to explore his other work.

In terms of self-promotion and identity construction, Banksy is an interesting case. On one hand, he is a master of promoting the Banksy brand and achieving infamy and notoriety, on the other hand, he conceals his true personal identity, using the anonymity that the Internet provides to further add to the mystery surrounding him. The advent of social networking has given much more scope to individuals to create and manage their identity. Individuals use various self-presentation tactics to present themselves in favorable ways. Researchers concerned with self-presentation have provided ample support for the existence and use of various self-presentation tactics (see Jones & Pittman, 1982; Lee et al., 1999; Lewis & Neighbors, 2005). With online mediums, particularly Facebook, there are usually two motivations for impression management: publicity and likelihood of future interactions (Leary, 1996). In Banksy’s case, because few people actually know who he is personally, future interactions are not the motivation for his image-crafting, but publicity certainly is. Luke Tredinnick (2008) outlines the dichotomies inherent in the concept of identity in the modern age. He says that the range of personal information about us on the Internet means we have our identity imposed on us by our past actions, however, we also have more control over our identity via selecting the information we project into the digital environment (Tredinnick, 2008). Treddinnick (2008) also highlights the paradox that on one hand identity has become more fixed because there is a lasting record of our digital interactions, yet on the other hand it has become more fluid as we  can choose to be in different virtual world. And on the one hand identity seems not to matter in the anonymous space of digital environment, but on the other hand it becomes essential to the radical trust through which our participation in digital culture is secured. These dichotomies reflect two very different effect of digital technology on the nature of identity.

Banksy’s anonymity creates a mystery around him that makes his work more elusive. In relation to anonymity, Cairncross (1997) has written that ‘paradoxically, the electronic media makes it easier for pornographers, hackers, and swindlers to hide behind anonymity while at the same representing a serious threat to privacy.’ While Banksy does not represent a ‘serious threat to privacy’ he is hiding behind his anonymity. Usually, this anonymity would make it difficult for artists to promote themselves or maintain the authenticity of their work; but Banksy has used online media to manoeuvre both these potential difficulties. During his recent residency in New York, Banksy has undertaken public artistic stunts, each of which have been filmed and placed on his official YouTube account, acting as great self-promotion and as authenticators of his work. One such stunt was setting up a stall, manned by someone else, selling original Banksy artwork for $60 a piece when his works have been known to sell for over $200,000. Only four pieces were sold throughout the day but the whole thing was filmed, allowing Banksy to use that as art and as promotion. In another such stunt, Banksy loaded a meat-packing truck with stuffed animals and a stereo system emitting screaming noises and had it driven around the streets of New York’s meatpacking district (the video can be seen at In the days before YouTube, such a stunt would only have achieved exposure to the people that saw it live, however, now the audience is unlimited.

The more work an artist puts on the Internet for free, the more society will recognise them and their work. Additionally, this form of self-promotion helps them connect with their fans who feel privileged to get something for nothing. Artists like Banksy use their work to try and break down the barriers between artists and their audience. Banksy’s work shows a disdain for high art and its conventions. By connecting with his fans through social media, Banksy brings art to their level where they can relate to it. Through stunts like selling his own paintings for $60 when he knows they are worth a lot more, Banksy is taking issue with the conventional concepts of art valuation whereby a piece is seen as important because of the gallery it is displayed in or who the artist is, rather than for its intrinsic artistic value. This type of interaction side-steps conventional artistic gatekeepers and brings art directly to the viewing public. This can be seen as a parallel of the function of the Internet and social media in relation to traditional media. People from any number of industries can bypass traditional media gatekeepers and have their opinions heard through the power of the Internet and social media.

We can see that the contemporary digital environment, with widespread access to the Internet and various forms of social media by artists and consumers alike has opened up greater opportunities and audiences, and provided artists with greater scope to represent and promote themselves. Online communities of both the common-bond and common-identity variety present artists with platforms to promote themselves and their work, reach new people, and win new fans. Blogs, Facebook, twitter and YouTube all give artists the ability to interact directly with their fans, bypass traditional media gatekeepers and enhance their reach. In social media, the possibilities for promotion are endless, as sharing opens up new networks the artist had either not thought of or could not reach themselves. While online mediums give artists and individuals greater freedom to craft their public identity, there is also a paradox that the Internet also allows for anonymity. In the case of Banksy, he has always been a master of using diverse platforms, social media and the Internet to expand his audience, his notoriety, the respect for his work, and promote himself. The fact that the name Banksy is so well known but that people still ask the question ‘who is Banksy?’ highlights both sides of this interesting Internet dichotomy. Banksy uses his social media and more recently YouTube to increase hype around his brand and his work. Artists like Banksy are to art what social and new media is to media generally; both break down barriers of traditional communication and perception to interact with their audience directly. Banksy’s approach is best summed up by his own words: “Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.” (Banksy, 2003)





Al-Rodhan, N. (2007). The Emergence of Blogs as a Fifth Estate and Their Security Implications. Geneva: Editions Slatkine.

Banksy, R. (2003). Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall. London: Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Cairncross, F. (1997). The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution Is Changing our Lives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Cutbirth, C.W. & Coombs, T. (1997). The Coming Electronic Democracy: The Internet, Political Communication, and the Duties of Citizenship, paper presented at the National Communication Association Convention, (November), Chicago.

Facebook Operating Guidelines, 2010.

Jamieson, K.H. & Campbell, K.K. (eds) (2006). The Interplay of Influence: News, Advertising, Politics and the Internet (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Jaques, W.W. & Ratzan, S.C. (1997). The Internet’s World Wide Web and Political Accountability: New Media Coverage of the 1996 Presidential Debates. American Behavioral Scientist, 40, 1226-1237.

Jones, E. E., & Pittman, T. S. (1982). Toward a general theory of strategies self-presentation. In J. Suls (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on the self, vol. 1 (pp. 231–262). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Kaid, L. (2002). Political Advertising and Information Seeking: Comparing Exposure via Traditional and Internet Channels. Journal of Advertising, 31(1), 27-35.

Leary, M. R. (1996). Self-presentation: Impression management and interpersonal behavior. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Lee, S., Quigley, B. M., Nesler, M. S., Corbett, A. B., & Tedeschi, J. T. (1999). Development of a self-presentation tactics scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 26, 701–722.

Lewis, M. A., & Neighbors, C. (2005). Self-determination and the use of self-presentation strategies. The Journal of Social Psychology, 145, 469–489.

Schwämmlein, E., & Wodzicki, K. (2012). What to tell about me? Self-presentation in online communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17(4), 387-407.

Tredinnick, L. (2008). Digital Information Culture: The individual and society in the digital age. Oxford: Chandos Publishing.






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Copyright laws are delicate balancing act between the rights of consumers and the rights of producers. On one hand, consumers want to be able to access creative works as cheaply as possible, on the other hand producers want to get paid for their creativity. As an artist, I obviously want to be compensated for the hard work and effort I put in to my creative works. However, I am also a consumer and thus can see why consumers crave easy and cheap access to creative works. As a consumer, there is nothing better than getting something powerful and impressive for little to nothing. As a creator, there is no worse feeling that thinking hours of your hard work have gone to waste.

Copyright issues have become important not only to popular music but increasingly the film, television, publishing, radio, news, journalism, and photography industries. The common struggle is the centrality of copyright and increasing pressure legal structures come under in the marketplace with the advent of digitalization of large amounts of content. In this sense copyright has become truly international challenge.

Traditional producers of media have had their conventional roles supplemented or supplanted by untrained bloggers supposedly naïve film, television, and video makers and musicians who can do as much as anyone else with a few software programs and an ear for what sounds good. As discussed in previous blogs, this 1democratization of art can be a good thing by opening up the creative industries to more people he can get their talents out there more easily and cheaply.

The music industry is the primary example of this modern conundrum. As the article points out, music more than any other area of human creativity relies heavily on procreation an illusion, borrowing an invitation, sampling and intertextual commentary.

According to this weeks reading, statistics indicate that the music industry is in fact growing, with 14% growth in performing revenue in the United Kingdom. By all accounts, the music industry has not slowed but the structure of its earnings has changed. Further statistics indicate that while physical sales of music are down 15% digital sales of music have grown by 24%. Thus there is a common view that the decline of CDs will be balanced out by an increase in sales of digital music.

Metallica even said “whether Metallica is heard on MP3, CD, cassette, vinyl, or by any other format is of no concern to us, as long as it is being obtained by legal means”.

Many music artists these days deliberately release free content to create buzz for their new album. Their theory is: give people something for free once and they will feel more inclined to purchase your actual album when it is released. The advent of sites such as bandcamp have allowed artists a platform to sell their music cheaply to consumers. In some cases, artists will make albums available on their bandcamp for free. In other cases, artists will charge a small fee, say $3-$5, for their work. This is in line with a quote from the reading from Pizzo (2000) who said, when consumers are given an undemanding and seamless method of downloading files “at a price that will discourage piracy and encourage consumption, the whole fight will end right there and then.”

All in all, these platforms have made artists more responsive to consumer demands. Some artists have even allowed consumers to choose their own price that they are willing to pay for the work. The speed and ease with which we can now access artistic content is an overwhelmingly positive thing. While producers of artistic content have struggled with this transition, it is becoming clear that they are adapting. Nevertheless, this area will always be a balancing act between the rights of producers and the rights of consumers.

Creative Collaboration

Collaborative creation helps artists achieve things they otherwise would not be able to. It is helpful to bring together collaborators from various backgrounds who have various skill sets and levels of experience. When these people work together they form a team that can you make me solve a problem through their collective efforts by applying their differing skills to the problem. According to the article the collaborative creation process consists of three main activities: creative conceptualization, realization (or implementation), and evaluation.


When artists from different disciplines attempts to collaborate there are certain things that need to be in place to enable this to happen smoothly. The first necessary element is creating a shared language. This is necessary because individuals from different disciplines will have a different professional vocabulary and understand different concepts. The second necessity is developing a common understanding of the artistic intentions and vision of the collaborators stop people often use design artifacts to express their creative vision. For example, during a brainstorming session an interaction designer might start drawing flowcharts, whereas a composer would create musical sketches using a keyboard. When the right tools are available creative ideas can be more easily transmitted and there is less risk of misunderstanding between collaborators. This type of fluid and open communication helps collaborators reach a shared vision. The third key element is for collaborators to engage in thorough brainstorming and ideas sharing. This phase is when many of the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration can be fully realized. Individuals bring their varied skills to bear on a problem, with complimentary views creating a more holistic approach to the problem and fostering outside-the-box thinking. Finally, sharing knowledge resources helps collaborators achieve their aims and goals. By exchanging resources, collaborators begin working on an even playing field and find it easier to resolve both technical and artistic problems. Learning through knowledge sharing is particularly useful as direct contact with a new way of thinking stimulates the generation of options. 


Having a specific role and responsibilities frees your creativity. You don’t hold back as much. You devote yourself completely to your “specialization”. You depend on your partner to bring balance. This pairing of “opposites” generates more fruitful disagreements and enables deeper synthesis of ideas. 


There is a reason why large management consulting firms such as BCG, Bain, and McKinsey adopt the hiring practices that they do. These firms focus on recruiting an employees from various different fields of study. The idea is that each member of the team has been trained, through their university studies and previous careers, to think in different ways. An engineer, an arts student, a lawyer, a marketing major, and a biologist will all look at the same problem through a different lens and apply a different rationale and way of thinking to solve the problem. Through their combined perspectives are unique solution to the problem can be found. The same is true of artistic collaborators from different disciplines. Each will apply their knowledge and skills in a different way to the same problem and achieve a unique outcome. 

What is ‘I, Too’ about?

In one of my previous posts I showed the poetry work of Langston Hughes’ “I, Too”. As I re-read this poem over and over again this sparked an idea for my ‘Creative Project’. The creation of a photographic series of “I, Too”. But before I went ahead with taking photos for this series, I decided to study the text itself.

Here are my thoughts and idea about what I believe the poem means. 


The black struggle for equality and liberation from an inferior position is often a topic in American poetry. “I, Too” by Langston Hughes is a free verse, allegorical poem that not only responds to two famous texts but also conveys a strong message about racism in America. Hughes uses the poem to say many things about the social dynamics of America such as segregation, hope for progress, and patriotism and pride, using the poetic devices of intertextuality, metaphor, and imagery.

To fully understand what Hughes is trying to say in “I, Too”, the reader must fully understand the context of this poem. “I, Too” is actually a poetic response to Walt Whitman’s poem, “I Hear America Singing”. Whitman’s poem was written in 1860 and served as a call for unity despite the impending Civil War. The call for unity and patriotism that is made in Whitman’s poem is paralleled in Hughes’ poem. Yet, Whitman’s poem may not have been referring to the blacks as well as the whites, as the workers named in “I Hear America Singing” would, in all likelihood, be white. Thus, while Whitman calls for American unity in the face of the Civil War, he is not advocating for racial unity, mirroring his personal views against the abolition of slavery and black suffrage. Hughes’ poem is also a response to Ezra Pound’s 1909 essay entitled, “What I Feel About Walt Whitman”. In that essay, Pound calls Whitman “Americas poet… He is America”. When Hughes says, “I, Too, am America” this is an obvious reference to Pound’s essay, highlighting a parallel theme in Whitman’s poem and giving the “too” in Hughes’ poem added meaning. When Hughes wrote “I, Too” in 1925, World War I had just ended and there was a growing push for racial equality from both blacks and whites as blacks had defended America alongside whites overseas. The disconnect between the equality they had experienced during the war and the inequality they faced at home was a growing source of dissatisfaction. Thus, it is impossible to fully understand what Hughes is trying to say in “I, Too” without understanding the context of the poem as a reply to the assertions of other authors’ earlier writings.

Segregation is a strong idea Hughes’ poem is trying to communicate, using metaphor and imagery. In “I, Too” the idea of segregation conveyed in the first stanza through, “they send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes”. These lines explicitly depict segregation, both within the household environment, but also, metaphorically, in public areas. The word “company” has a dual meaning, as it not only refers to white people as a race, but also other countries. When other countries looked at America, America did not want its image as a bastion of freedom and liberty to be tainted by symbols of the nation’s unresolved racial tension. The use of the word “they” also has a dual meaning, representing not only slave owners but also America itself. In the early 1900s, America turned a blind eye to the inequalities to reconcile their meta-perception with their image on the world stage. This theme is mirrored in the demand that the black slave to eat in the kitchen, rather than the dining room table, creating both a physical and social separation. The use of the word “brother” in the second line of the first stanza indicates Hughes’ call for unity. The mere appearance of the word brother fabricates an idea of unity in the reader’s mind—a unity that was completely absent during that time. Thus, the narrator not only wants household unity but also national, racial unity. The narrator is suggesting that they are the “darker brother” in the same way a family has an older brother. He is also suggesting that they are all part of the same family, the American family. The poem is trying to communicate ideas about segregation and disunity in the nation, using poetic devices of metaphor and imagery.

Hope and defiance are ideas Hughes seeks to express in “I, Too” using structure and symbolism. The narrator displays the qualities of defiance in different parts of the poem. When the narrator says in the fourth line of the third stanza, “But I laugh,/ And eat well,/ And grow strong” it becomes evident that he is defiant and is resilient to racism. The fact that he has been excluded is of no consequence and he grows strong

waiting for the time when there is equality. Defiance can be seen later in the poem in the first line of the third stanza by the use of the word “besides”. The use of “besides” creates an idea that the small third stanza is introspective, rather than public like the rest of the poem, which, in turn, alludes to the black people during this time period were patient. The patience and hope that they had during this period of racism and brutality was what kept the African American race together. The idea of hope in this poem can be seen in every stanza; however, it is mostly strongly shown in the second stanza. The words “tomorrow” and “then” which bookend the stanza are very important as they depict the hope that the narrator has for progress in race relations, a confidence that the future will be better. The poem is trying to say things about hope and defiance through the use of structure and word placement and help to convey a major theme of racism in the United States.

The last two ideas conveyed in “I, Too” are patriotism and pride, through the use of poetic techniques such as intertextual references and metaphor. The idea of patriotism and pride can be seen in the first line of the poem, through “I, too, sing America”. This sentence is an intertextual reference to Walt Whitman’s poem, which expresses pride for the “strong” American nature. However, Hughes, in saying that he “too” sings, emphasises that he is as strong as any other American. “Sing” also has a second patriotic connotation, as a reference to the American national anthem. Not only does the narrator sing for America with pride and patriotism, but he also sings it with alongside the white race, an idea of racial unity that is not seen in Whitman’s poem. Patriotism and pride are again seen in the last line of the poem, “I, too, am America”. Through changing the word “sing” with “am” Hughes not only creates an idea of unity but responds to Pound’s essay by direct reference. Hughes also continues with the idea of pride in this line by the narrator essentially creating the message that blacks are as important and beneficial to the American family as whites. It could be said that the principles that underlie the black struggle for equality are the principles upon which America was built, making them an embodiment of American ideals. Pride can then be seen again in the second stanza through, “they’ll see how beautiful I am” in the second line. In this case, the narrator is demonstrating his self worth. Pride and patriotism can often be seen together in this text and are conveyed by poetic devices such as intertextuality and metaphor, supporting the overarching theme of racism.

Thus, it can be seen that Hughes conveys the ideas of segregation and disunity, hope and defiance, and patriotism and pride in “I, Too” through intertextual references, metaphor and structure. The context of the poem is important as understanding that Hughes is responding to Whitman and Pound adds depth to the meaning of his comments on racism, unity and American identity. Segregation is shown in the poem through the metaphor of the kitchen representing broader society. Hope is exemplified in the structure and choice of words, particularly the use of “tomorrow” and “then” to convey the narrator’s hope and confidence that there will be progress towards racial unity. The final themes communicated by Hughes are patriotism and pride, as the whole poem is a metaphor with the narrator claiming that he is a representative of America and is, indeed, an embodiment of the principles upon which America was founded. Therefore Hughes’ poem “I, Too” conveys the ideas of segregation and disunity, hope and defiance, and patriotism and pride using intertextual references, metaphor and structure

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How I feel

I, Too

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

By Langston Hughes

Creativity and Technology

This weeks reading really stood out to me in terms of one particular creative medium: music. One of the insert boxes in the article detailed the evolution of music and the ebbs and flows from loose creative structure to more rigid structures and back again.

I was interested by the observation that early music was not written, there was only performance and the artists had a lot more range to act creatively and at their own whim. With improved technology, the interface between composer and performer was standardized. While this constricted the performance aspect, it also allowed composers to expose their music to a much broader audience through other performers ‘covering’ their music. Recording then allowed the performance to be captured, and the balance swung back to more improvisational styles like jazz, blues and rock. The article then dealt with the idea that the computer can now be the performer due to the technological advances in the music industry. This is the aspect that resonated most with me.

Electronic music is currently one of the most popular styles of music, and the most commercially successful. Performers now use software programs like FrutyLoops, Sony Acid, Apple Garageband, DigiDesign Pro Tools and a host of other programs to piece together digital sounds into music. Producers in a range of genres use hardware such as MPC machines and Roland Drum Machines. This can be seen as a democratisation of music performance, and allows people who otherwise would not have had a chance to have their music heard be heard. As the article says “interactive computer programs can participate in the performance, producing and manipulating sounds in response to a performers actions.”

Modern DJs now also have a lot of freedom to create music by layering and mixing, creating a fluidity of performance similar to that of improvisational jazz. However, a modern DJ also contains elements of the structured style of those performers who performed the music of great composers, as they take songs from popular artists and remix them. Yet, in remixing the songs live they are creating a new piece of art in the process.

Making ties in the hip hop world: The 19-year-old at a Ciroc party in Atlanta with P. Diddy, Jermain Dupri and Alex Gidewon on February 5

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The other key way that technology has allowed for the democratisation of music performance is through internet gateways like Soundcloud. Artists with very little funds or access to conventional music industry channels can now upload their music online and share it on their Facebook fan page, for example, and attract a following that can lead to recognition from more conventional sources and present the opportunity for a ‘big break’. This allows a much larger array of people to be involved in music as performers, and allows those people access to a much wider, more international audience. A key example of this is Justin Bieber who came to fame after a record label talent manager saw his performances on YouTube and approached him with the possibility of a record deal. Now he has sold 15 million albums and made millions of dollars. None of that would have been possible without access to open forums like YouTube where users can upload content for free.

The broader range of tools available to modern musicians and the platforms available for promotion are far greater because of technology, and that is an overwhelmingly good thing for creative individuals.


Advancing Creative Practices Through Information Technology. In W. Mitchell, A. Inouye, S. Blumenthal (2003). Beyond Productivity:  Information Technology, Innovation Creativity. Washington: The National Academies Press.

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What would peop…

What would people think about if people weren’t taught what to think about?
Arthur Morgan