Richardson honored for dissertation research

Courtney Richardson
Courtney Richardson

PhD student Courtney Richardson has been selected as the winner of the 2023 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information. The award, which consists of $1,000 and a certificate, is given annually to a graduate student who is working on a dissertation on the philosophy of information, broadly construed.

In her dissertation, "Art as Information: Re-Reading Quicksand," Richardson reexamines personal reading and archival practices within library and information science from an artist’s perspective. She demonstrates how art practices (within graphic design and fabric-textile arts) are incorporated into the everyday acts of reading and knowledge production, such as storytelling and personal archiving. For her dissertation, Richardson uses graphical and textual artworks to reinterpret and analyze stories and archives embedded within Quicksand (1928), a fictional and autobiographical novel by Nella Larsen.

"Larsen's life and creative storytelling provide paths for how we may study cultural heritages and knowledges concerning African American womanhood and wellness," she said.

Richardson develops an "Art as Information" approach supported by Black feminist thought to reread and respond to the novel. This model consists of re-reading, annotating, and making—three familiar and overlapping practices experienced while reading and archiving, she said.

"This approach examines how we craft, document, process, and circulate information through making art. Approached as an information technology, artmaking provides additional pathways (extending beyond traditional or text-dominant forms) to explore what is informative and how we are informed through our creative processes. In my dissertation, I propose that making (art) while reading and in response to reading cultural narratives can help us think more critically (or openly) about various cultural knowledges and their pertinence within a progressive society," said Richardson.

The award committee noted that Richardson’s work is "theoretically grounded and methodologically innovative, and it brings together themes of embodiment, time, intersectional identity, and more."

Richardson is an artist-scholar whose research intersects art, archives, and African American histories to enhance public access to knowledge. She especially examines how artmaking is engaged to create and share information to help dismantle and recuperate from societal ills. Since her MFA program at Wayne State University, Richardson has worked on various assignments that explore archives and art pedagogy. Residing in her hometown, Detroit, Michigan, she continues to work with local archival projects while completing her dissertation.

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