John Laudun


a section of an old map

My work in cultural analytics / folklore studies is focused on understanding the role that narrative plays in the nature and spread of online and offline texts. My principal interest is in understanding how stories are constructed, deployed, and received both because of the ways narrative activates our imaginations and the ways that narrative as one of many modes of discourse seems able to make words stick together as they travel across social networks. My focus on the somewhat larger horizon of discourse, as opposed to strictly narrative, is the outcome of years of close examination of actual vernacular texts as they passed between individuals both in face-to-face interaction and online.

While I began this work in folklore studies, I have over the past few years sought to expand the scope of my engagement in order to find those areas of overlap that exist between the humanities, the social sciences, and data and information science in the belief that there is not only strength in diverse perspectives and collaborations but also real opportunity to find tractable insights into larger questions and problems facing the world in which we live and work.

In addition to the usual places to publish, indexed in the vita, I maintain a number of repositories on GitHub, including the current collaboration with Katherine M. Kinnaird of Smith College on TED Talks, whose current state can be glimpsed by anyone curious.

My teaching focuses as much as it can with students engaging data/materials they collect, either from conversations they initiate in face-to-face interactions or through curating online assets, in the belief that it is only in doing the work for themselves, facing the problems scholars and scientists face at various stages of a project, can they not only learn the fundamentals of scholarship and science but also begin to have an appreciation for the larger processes at work in their environment each and every day. Student-driven projects include treatments of women’s narrative traditions in Cajun country, rH+ mythologies among alt-right groups, African American ghost legends, Youtube apologies and their attendant folk criticism, and faux reviews of sex toys on Amazon and on podcasts among many other topics. (If you want to see what my students see, then go to my teaching site – also built using MkDocs. I’ve also sketched out some courses I would like to teach, if the opportunity presented itself.)

I have enjoyed a number of experiences that have made me the scholar I am today, including a special conference organized on the Council for European Philosophy on the oeuvre of Claude Lévi-Strauss, an NEH seminar on Network Studies in the Humanities, a long program by UCLA’s Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics on cultural analytics, as well as several weeks at the EVIA Digital Archive to deposit materials from my work on Cajun Mardi Gras and the stories of a Creole woman.

Since 2004, I have maintained a weblog, basing it on an early version of WordPress. I have, over the years, tried other setups, but it’s just been such a reliable tool/resource over the years … it just works. I have posted a lot of material on the blog over the years, but, to be honest, the technical material gets the most attention: e.g., the most popular post at this point is about how to Append a Python List Using a List Comprehension.

I have been a faculty member at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette since 1999, and before that I received my PhD from Indiana University - Bloomington. I took time off during my work on the doctorate to be a management development consultant with IU Gradudate School of Business. My M.A. is from Syracuse University, where I focused on the nature of texts and their production and reception as well as learned to play the guitar. My B.A. in English and philosophy is from Louisiana State University, where I put myself through school either working construction jobs in the Louisiana summer sun or producing television commercials for a regional department store chain – I mis-type interest to this day because the Olivetti on which I worked always jammed at est.

If you want to contact me, see the about page.