February 16, 2007

Social Networks or Social Bubbles?


Dori J. Maynard is president and CEO of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, the nation's leading trainer of journalists of color. She is the co-author of "Letters to My Children", a compilation of nationally syndicated columns by her late father, Bob Maynard, the first African-American to own a major metropolitan newspaper. Maynard was a reporter at The Bakersfield Californian, The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., and the Detroit Free Press. In 1993, she and her father became the first father-daughter duo to be appointed Nieman Fellows at Harvard University.

Anyhow, Ms. Maynard had some interesting thoughts about the afrospere that I wanted to share with you:

First, the Jena 6 story lived on the Internet. Bloggers, many of them Black, members of listserves such as the National Association of Black Journalists and members of social networks like Facebook, used the Internet to spread the story before it took off with mainstream news organizations like CNN, The Washington Post, and NPR.

The fact that the "afrosphere" has largely received credit for driving this story is important to keep in mind when we think about what is going on in cyberspace.

At a time when "the digital divide" is still code for "people-of-color-don't-have-access-or-know-how-to-use-the-Internet," Jena 6 reminds us of the fallacy of that premise. African Americans used the web and alerted the world to what was going on in a small town and in a largely overlooked state.

True, there are still some significant hurdles for entry into a fully wired world. However, they are largely socio-economic. I once asked someone how many white homes in Appalachia have Internet access. Turned out not a lot. The digital divide is real. It's class, not race, that makes the difference.

The Jena 6 story also reminds us that while the Web may be a place where anyone with access and an idea can voice his or her opinion, it does not mean that every opinion gets the same amount of attention. Think of how quickly word spread about "Memo Gate" and how long it took the outside world to pay attention to Jena 6.

So, that leaves us with the question of whether this new technology is opening up our world or allowing us more time to hibernate in the comfortable corner of the world that reminds us of ourselves.

That is something I look forward to exploring as I look at diversity in an online world. I hope you'll help me so that together we can think this through.
I don't think that Ms. Maynard gives enough credit to organizations such as The AfroSpear or the Afrosphere Bloggers Association. However, I appreciate her acknowledgement of the growing influence of Black Bloggers ... some of whom will be on the November 2007 list of the Top Ten Black Bloggers shared by the Electronic Village on November 1st.

Personally, I hope that more BDPA members become bloggers in the coming weeks and months.

7 comments:

Yobachi said...

“At a time when "the digital divide" is still code for "people-of-color-don't-have-access-or-know-how-to-use-the-Internet," Jena 6 reminds us of the fallacy of that premise.”

Actually the fallacy is in her statement. She says that as if people use the term “digital divide” to mean no people of color have the internet access. That’s a childish and straw man way of arguing. Of course, many of us do; but that’s wholly beside the point. The point of the terminology is to describe the gap in said access between the majority group in this country who controls economic power, and the rest of us AS AWHOLE; in order to demonstrate disparity that continues to hold us back.

If you’re not going to acknowledge such disparities and inequalities, then you’re basically saying we’re inferior or that we’re just lazy. What other options are there to explain differentiations in group achievement?

The digital divide is real. It's class, not race, that makes the difference.

Yes, and class is in large part determined by race. I.E. the ability of people to move into the higher socio-economic class is prohibited by the racial power structure. Hence, there are higher percentages of minorities in the lower classes; which makes it race.

Next she’s going to tell us the response to Katrina had nothing to do with race either, it’s only about class. Yeah sure, and their were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

I wish Negroes would stop with this coward-ass bullshit, were they are to scared to call racism what it is.; or either have a false sense of black prided that makes them have to claim we’re perfect. Most white folks don’t live in Appalachia, so that’s not anything to be comparing the whole of Black America to in a discussion about the socio economic divide between whites and blacks. If you want to compare blacks in Appalachia to whites in Appalachia, fine; but comparing all of Black America to White Appalachia in this regard is just stupid.

I’m sorry, but her whole argument is laced with lazy and fallacious thinking and reasoning.

Well, she does make one good point: “Think of how quickly word spread about "Memo Gate" and how long it took the outside world to pay attention to Jena 6.”

Villager said...

Yobachi - I appreciate your village voice on this matter. I agree with you that the digital divide is a red herring. However, the good thing is that the afrosphere is being acknowledged for our growing role and influence in these matters.

As an aside, your blog is currently #73 on the Black Blog List (over 425 blogs being tracked)

AJ said...

Could you provide a link to the Black Blog List?

Yobachi said...

Villager, agreed.

I'm glad to see the Afrosphere get credit for its work in bringing social justice issues to light.

My recognition of the effect that our work has had encourages me to work harder to get news, thoughts and information out to the people.

But still, that type of non-thinking pabulum irks me -- if you couldn't tell ;P

AAPP said...

"So, that leaves us with the question of whether this new technology is opening up our world or allowing us more time to hibernate in the comfortable corner of the world that reminds us of ourselves."

- Dori J. Maynard is president and CEO of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education


AAPP says: Villager, Yobachi, Villagers;

I think the paragraph above has a lot to say about the internet, white bloggers and black bloggers too.

Over the last number of moths, now years that I have been blogging, I've notice a class and race system within the internet. Black bloggers who are the academics such as blackprof stay within their comfort zone of black academia, whites stay in their comfort zone of white academia, while low income and poor black folk stay in their comfort zone of hip hop and my space blogs. Those in the middle of black academia and hip hop, who work in the community doing grass root work, generally are part of the Afrospear, yet feel comfortable talking in both the academic black prof or myspace sites, and many white liberal and conservative sites to gain further knoweledge about what people are saying and thinking. Yet the bottom line is the blogsphere is still self segregating or defacto segregating base on race. Some will say, no one knows your race in the afrosphere you can hide behind the computer. I say that is a crock of sh**. People self identify themselves based on their values and life experiences, and anes race always comes out at some point while blogging.
So... I'm suggesting that black folks are just as bad as their white counterparts when in comes to isolation. Check out BlackProf links. If it has 10 links of Afrospear members on it I would be shocked. Check out the links of most black academic organizations or for that matter black conservative and moderate bloggers. If they have 10 members of the afrospear linked I woud be shocked. Black folks need to stop complaining about the failure of white bloggers to partner and link with each other when we can't even do it in Cyberspace. I guess I understand why we have such dysfunctional communities today.

As Dori J. Maynard noted,

"So, that leaves us with the question of whether this new technology is opening up our world or allowing us more time to hibernate in the comfortable corner of the world that reminds us of ourselves."

Villager said...

AJ Click here to view the Oct 2007 listing of the Top 10 Black Blogs. I haven't posted the full list yet.

Over Analyze It - Let's Break This Down is currently ranked #205 on the list of Black Blogs (we have 425 blogs in the ranking as of today). Your rankings have been moving up quite abit lately.

Villager said...

AAPP - Admittedly, I don't travel other blogs as much as i should. When I do travel I usually go where I have interest. I don't have interest in hip-hop so I never have much of a reason to visit those blogs. I'm not an academic ... so a blogger that focuses on information directed towards that audience is of no interest to me.

Part of my problem is understanding and accepting the niche that the Electronic Village is going to fill. I don't think that we've found our niche completely yet.

In any case, I respect your perspective. If we are dividing without our community by class here in cyberspace ... that is really not much different from the backwards attitude that we display about our people in real life, is it?