The Internet Doesn't Exist in the Sky: Literacy, AI, and the Digital Middle Passage

Mia S. Shaw, S. R. Toliver, Tiera Tanksley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article utilizes speculative and visual storytelling alongside interdisciplinary research on artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic oppression to engage in a thought experiment on how literacy studies might refuse the oppressionist logics currently undermining the possibilities of AI in literacy education. As technological advancements in education will only continue to increase and as society is yet to ascertain the parameters of an ethical AI system, it is paramount to analyze the past and present and contemplate potential futures, especially those that do not result in violence against Black and Brown peoples. To engage in speculation, we employ Endarkened Storywork (Toliver, 2022) to present an empirically driven, futuristic, science fiction narrative from two perspectives: (1) a US, Black girl who is forced to participate in AI-structured secondary schooling and (2) a Black girl in Haiti who is forced to live in a country polluted by technological byproduct. This narrative, which is grounded in academic research and news editorials, is accompanied by comic art and followed by a companion analysis detailing the theoretical backdrop of the story. By utilizing multiple methods of scholarly distribution, we provide multiple entry points for readers to engage with this work. We offer a means for readers to see—via story, art, and scholarship—the potential impacts of AI on Black people globally. Additionally, by situating this article in the creative and scholarly realms, we strategically deconstruct traditional forms and methods of knowledge production that have constrained academic research and rendered invisible alternative forms of data representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalReading Research Quarterly
StateE-pub ahead of print - May 9 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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