John Laudun is Professor of English at the University of Louisiana, where his research focuses on computational models of discourse, especially narratives, and how they cascade through socio-cultural networks both online and off. In addition to his work on folk narrative and the intellectual history of folklore studies, he has published an ethnographic study, The Amazing Crawfish Boat (University Press of Mississippi, 2016), that uses actor-network theory to understand creativity and tradition among craftsmen and farmers living and working on a Louisiana landscape. His work has appeared in a variety of academic journals and edited volumes, and he has been cited or interviewed in newspapers and documentaries. He has been a Jacob K. Javits Fellow, a MacArthur Scholar, a fellow at the EVIA Digital Archive, a fellow with the Institute on Network Studies in the Humanities, and a senior researcher at UCLA’s Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics.
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. (I’m also working on updating my ORCiD.)
I am a writer and researcher fascinated by how humans create their world with relatively simple resources, like words, or, in the case of my history of the crawfish boat, a small number of stock pieces of material. Complex things, like legends or boats, are made up of simpler, smaller things. And folk things are designed by diverse networks of individuals, each of whom draws upon their well of experience and expertise. Informal and undocumented by nature, such processes present more initial difficulties to analyze and understand, but they can also reveal much more about who and what we are as humans making, and making their way through, the world. This way of approaching the study of culture has attracted audiences in Europe, China, as well as the U.S. and has been included not only in humanities programs and publications but also in management development programs of Fortune 500 companies. For a complete list of publications and presentations, see the vita.
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.
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.
If you are looking for more biographical material, there’s a bios page with a biographical sketch to which one day I will add a fuller autobiographical note.
I am a faculty member in the Department of English at the University of Louisiana. I am delighted to help individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions when asked, and I can be reached by a variety of methods. If you need to reach me quickly, please telephone the English department — +1-337-482-6906, and they will gladly find me for you. If you want to reach me by:
- Post: Department of English, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, LA 70504
- E-mail: last name at louisiana dot edu
- Twitter: @johnlaudun
About Usage of Materials on This Site
Except where otherwise noted, all texts on this site are under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial. All images are under the more restrictive Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license because the nature of documentary photography is such that I feel I must respect the rights of the people with whom I work to determine how images of them or the things they make may be used.
In general, if you are using texts and images found here as part of an educational enterprise, I am more than happy for you to do so. Please simply give attribution where it is due. The same goes for most other non-commercial uses. In all cases, it would be great if you would let me know what you are using and how. It makes me happy to know that some of the materials I have created over the years are helping people, and it always makes my institution happy. I am not at present keen on badges, but here’s one that will not only tell you more about the first license above but will also take you to the Creative Commons website and allow you to explore their goals and the full range of licenses they offer. They are a great organization. Please support them by using their licenses and, if you can, feel free to donate.
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 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.
This site runs on WordPress, a combination of PHP and MySQL, which are both open source applications, which means they are available free of charge and users are free to change them. Open source is, like the Creative Commons, a new way to create a common culture in realms where copyright and intellectual property notions, and laws, threaten to take away the ability we have as humans to build our reality out of a common set of ideas, tools, and texts. Call it folk culture, creative commons, open source, heritage. The name doesn’t matter. The idea, and its practice, is what matters. I both salute and thank the geeks and hackers and idealists who have made not only this site possible but so much of the internet and its ideals possible.