Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Racism in Social Networks, Oh My?

Danah Boyd has a great post illuminating the societal divisions revealed in the "white flight" to Facebook and the resulting racial divide between MySpace and the same:
I've been trying to figure out how to articulate this division for months. I have not yet succeeded. So, instead, I decided to write a blog essay addressing what I'm seeing. I suspect that this will be received with criticism, but my hope is that the readers who encounter this essay might be able to help me think through this. In other words, I want feedback on this piece.

Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

What I lay out in this essay is rather disconcerting. Hegemonic American teens (i.e. middle/upper class, college bound teens from upwards mobile or well off families) are all on or switching to Facebook. Marginalized teens, teens from poorer or less educated backgrounds, subculturally-identified teens, and other non-hegemonic teens continue to be drawn to MySpace. A class division has emerged and it is playing out in the aesthetics, the kinds of advertising, and the policy decisions being made.
Danah Boyd has a good heart. But over 10 years of life in LA, a deep personal connection to the LA riots fifteen years ago and an interest on the "mainstream media" that is so-easily scorned by hip Phds who love to carp on the dark, Imperial mainstream news gives me a different perspective.

Danah shouldn't be so apologetic. Our society is coded along racial lines embedded in ideological buzz words around immigration and "terrorism" issues. Those of us committed to change need to stop apologizing and confront those who exploit ignorance and employ strategies, which obstruct real, meaningful change. Blue Mandy had the pleasure of attending Danah's talk at the Annenberg DIY series this last school year.

One of the more troubling uses of images was found in Danah's talk as she used (appropriated?) a Black Panther image to make a point. However, probably because she was speaking to the converted, she chose not to address the larger issues of how copyright is used as a weapon to enforce enclosures around knowledge and punk us all (yes, we become their pawns, urr, consumers). That is, until asked about issues of control in the Q & A, Danah chose not to address them.

Blue Mandy was lucky to attend these talks and get to know Danah. What's interesting is that while most participants in DIY talks agree on issues of control, the more important issue is this: how many of them will step outside their comfortable Annenberg Centers or "Ivory Tower" comforts and, like Danah, take action? They're all so busy with publishing papers that things like the massive violence in Harbor Gateway or the LAPD MacArthur Park abuse are seen as little blips on the Professorial/Managerial radar screen, issues to pay heed and support, but take little action on.

Blue Mandy was also exquisitely attuned to this use after taking Cory Doctorow's Set Top Box seminar. One of Cory's undergrads in his Pawned Spring class created a great initiative, The teachingcopyright.org Launch Manifesto, which deserves publicity (link).

We all need humility and sophisticated analyses when dealing with an over-networked world in which racism and inequality neither fall along neat '60ish ex-yuppie/buppy/Arianna-ey radical lines nor match pronouncements from the Ivory Tower.

The next election is too important for pussy-footing.

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Blogger Lucy said...

This is a truly poignant and telling post. I'm a comedian who talks about just these type of racial issues. Thank you for posting this. This hits close to home, to all bloggers--black or white.)

5:07 PM  

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