There’s a short version, and a longer version. There’s also a photo, but it’s at the bottom, so you don’t have to look at it unless you really want to.
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 quantitative humanities / 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 certain dimensions of our brains 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 expanded the scope of my engagement in order to find those areas of overlap that exist between the humanities and data and information sciences 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. This has led to opportunities for dialogue at places as far-flung as the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., with a host of lectures and workshops from nearby LSU to far-away Amherst College along the way. (And the journey continues.)
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. Two books are currently in process: How Stories Work is a culmination of a lot of work on narrative over the past few years. The Data Text Book is a continues the collaboration between myself and Kinnaird and brings in a third author, Yung-Hsing Wu who is an expert on close reading and how it is conceived and practiced in literary studies.
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 as a venue for sex positive dialogue among women, among many other topics. (If you want to see what my students see, then go to my teaching site Loristics.net. 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.
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 connect with me, see the contact page.