Uncovering Black Fantastic: Piloting A Word Feature Analysis and Machine Learning Approach for Genre Classification

Nikolaus Nova Parulian, Ryan Dubnicek, Glen Worthey, Daniel J. Evans, John A. Walsh, J. Stephen Downie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the size of digital library collections and the inconsistencies in their genre-related bibliographic metadata, as digital libraries grow and their contents are opened for computational analysis, finding materials of interest becomes a major challenge. This challenge increases for sub-genres and other categories of text data that are less distinct from the whole. This project pilots machine learning methods and word feature analysis for identifying Black Fantastic genre texts within the HathiTrust Digital Library. These texts are sometimes referred to as “Afrofuturism” but more commonly today described as “Black Fantastic,” in which African Diaspora artists and creators engage with the intersections of race and technology in their works with a primary focus on world-building. Black Fantastic texts pose a challenge to genre classification, as they incorporate aspects of science fiction and fantasy with typical characteristics of African Diaspora-produced literature. This paper presents and reports on results from a pilot predictive modeling process to computationally identify Black Fantastic texts using curated word feature sets for each class of data: general English-language fiction, Black-authored fiction, and Black Fantastic fiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-250
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • digital library
  • genre classification
  • hathitrust
  • machine learning
  • natural language processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Library and Information Sciences


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