By Claudia Romano, Dana Leonard, & Elizabeth Teerlink
As we made the journey from Swarthmore to North Philadelphia to meet with James Burns, we discussed our expectations, or lack thereof, for this interview. We had done a MuralArts tour through our sociolinguistics course a couple of weeks prior that had inspired us to center our final project around murals in Philly. But on that train ride, we realized that we didn’t really know where we were going with this project’s narrative. We walked out of the train station into North Philly and found ourselves in an alleyway after following the directions James had given us. We called James, unable to find the studio he was working in, and it all became clear from there.
Jamie A. Thomas is a sociocultural linguist and digital media producer. Her forthcoming ethnography Zombies Speak Swahili is all about the undead, videogames, and why language and communication matter. She teaches at Swarthmore College.