[Air-L] MLK Day reflection

Mark Marino markcmarino at gmail.com
Sun Jan 20 14:06:15 PST 2008


Deen,

Thank you for this thoughtful reply.

I just want to speak to a few of the issues you raise with the hopes of
picking up more of them later.

Check out this document for the source of some of the video:
http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dfnq2hd6_26cs5w6j

If there was an "imaginary," "exemplary," or "quintessential" Web 2.0
> >
> student, an Everystudent of the future, what race/gender/sexual
> orientation would he/she be? I'd be surprised if no one out there has
> researched what online discussants tend to assume about their invisible
> interlocutors' real-life demographic characteristics.


Precisely.  Screen names obscure some identity characeristics.  Profile
pictures offer a little more information.  But my guess would be similar to
yours, that there is an latent segregation occurring and a tendency to
imagine the community to be either similar to yourself or similar to the
cultural majority.

We may well
> imagine that most of the newsgroups/forums/comment areas we frequent
> look a lot like Wesch's classroom, at least ethnically speaking. In that
> scenario, inconvenient disparities in privilege and opportunity could be
> assumed away to ease the pursuit of less dissonant discussion topics.
>

And possibly sometimes that leads to people networking and communicating in
ways (and with others) that they wouldn't in person.  But judging from your
comments below, you are also suggesting that that omission may be to the
detriment of the community itself as de/illusion of homogeneity leads to
unwelcoming comments.

I too would be interested in relevant research in this area. As a member
> of a racial minority myself, I feel that some new media outlets make me
> less likely to speak my mind online by bracketing ethnicity and
> disinhibiting conversation. The instances of casual racism I've
> encountered in several open forums I have observed closely but
> informally (e.g . political blog comments, newspaper comments, Youtube)
> effectively foreclose any substantive contribution I may have been
> interested in making. Not to jump too far off the deep end of casual
> social theorizing here, but perhaps this is an inevitable consequence of
> our society's failure to provide sufficient offline avenues for honest
> dialogue on race/SES/sexual orientation.
>

I would love to see some more writing about these issues, even ethnographic
or first-person accounts of the ways these communities put up their cultural
gates, if you will.  It might help online communities start to think about
ways to open themselves up.  I think there is also an aspect of intimidation
involved and that technological knowledge is one of the tools (though not in
the case you relate about yourself).

Getting back to the original
> question, in examining whatever social benefits new media are supposed
> to provide, we should always slow down to ask ourselves: who's speaking
> and who's lurking? Whose views are represented and whose aren't? What
> can we do to make representation more equitable, more inviting, and more
> tolerant?
>

Absolutely, as we should with any discussion, academic or otherwise.

I wonder if some technologies make this a bit more apparent. Have you seen
the  recent readers pictures on some blogs?  Under the category: Look who
else is reading this blog?  But of course, when we such such information,
instead of trying to network with our fellow blog-readers (adding them to
our Facebook pages), we might ask who's not represented.

Thank you, Deen,
Mark


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