I don’t recommend doing it, but if you search for “Charles Ramsey” on Reddit, something predictably disturbing happens. First, you’ll notice that the most results come from /r/funny, the subreddit devoted to memes, puns, photobombs, and a whole bunch of sexist shit. Charles Ramsey, in case you don’t know, is the Good Samaritan that responded to calls for help by Amanda Berry- a woman that had been held captive for 10 years in a Cleveland basement, along with Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The jokes on Reddit are largely at the expense of Ramsey, poking fun at his reaction to a police siren or his reference to eating ribs and McDonalds. As Aisha Harris (@craftingmystyle) said on Slate: “It’s difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform.” (more…)
In the aftermath of what both sides agree was the most substanceless presidential election in our nation’s history, some variation of the phrase “post-truth politics” has begun haunting the pages of op-eds and news show roundtables (Seriously, its everywhere. Here’s the first five that I found: one, two, three, four, five.). To say that we live in an age of “post-truth politics” isn’t totally inaccurate, nor is it unworthy of the attention it is getting, but the discussion has yet to truly wrestle with the characeristics of commodified information. Information can be true, and it can be false, but how that information is disseminated, used, and ignored is what truly matters. Information doesn’t (just) want to be free, it also wants to be exploited. (more…)
In light of the recent Newsweek magazine cover scandal, let’s think for a moment on what a “troll” is and when we should or should not call someone or something a troll. My first reaction to the Islamaphobic cover was “trolling. ignore.” That was the exact wrong reaction.
Trolls, of course, are those who deliberately post inflammatory material in order to disrupt or derail discourse. Declaring something or someone a “troll” is a way of saying that they just want attention. Trolls attempt to disrupt productive communication in an attempt to get noticed. The one thing you need to know to do when this happens: don’t feed the trolls. Don’t. Feed. The. Trolls. It’s good advice. However, because of its mainstream position, I do not think Newsweek is a “troll,” even if it sure as hell is acting like one. (more…)
Photos by Nathan Jurgenson, taken in Washington, D.C., 17, January 2012.
Malcolm Harris has posted one of the most provocative things I’ve ever read about social media, “Twitterland.” I’d like to point you the story and go through some of the many issues he brings to light. Harris’ story is one of theorizing Twitter and power; it can reinforce existing power imbalances, but, as is the focus here, how it can also be used to upset them.
Harris begins by taking on the idea that Twitter is a “tool” or an “instrument”, arguing that, no, Twitter is not a map, but the territory; not the flier but the city itself; hence the title “Twitterland.” However, in nearly the same breath, Harris states he wants to “buck that trend” of “the faulty digital-dualist frame the separates ‘real’ and online life.” As most readers here know, I coined the term digital dualism and provided the definition on this blog and thus have some vested interest in how it is deployed. And Harris’ analysis that follows indeed bucks the dualist trend, even though I would ask for some restating of the more theoretical parts of his argument. I’d like to urge Harris not to claim that Twitter is a new city, but instead focus on how Twitter has become part of the city-fabric of reality itself. (more…)
While tech-writers often act as if the Web is something out there away from society, we all know (and they do too) that technology is always embedded in social structures, power, domination and inequalities. And the words we choose to talk about tech, while seemingly innocuous, betray some pretty heavy political predispositions.
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a story looking at a “new digital divide” where “poorer” folks aren’t using the web in a “meaningful” way but instead are “wasting time” on social media. I was reminded of how Facebook users looked down on MySpace users a few years ago or the current racist rhetoric surrounding iPhone versus Android mobile phone users. Technology is often an excuse to reify the fallacy that those less privledged are an other, different, less capable and less human.
Whenever someone declares what Internet-use is “meaningful” versus a “waste” we must be critical: who is making the claim? who benefits from these too-commonly constructed hierarchies? And here, as usual, we are dealing with a hierarchical framework created by privileged folks for everyone else to placed within. (more…)
"For Trayvon Martin" mural by "Israel" in Third Ward Houston. Photo taken by Jenni Mueller.
On February 26, 2012 Trayvon Martin, a Black, 17 a year old, unarmed, high school student, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a White Hispanic man acting in the self-appointed position of neighborhood watch captain (click here for more details).
The case has become a symbolic battle ground for two important issues: gun laws and racism. Although both of these issues are inextricably entwined, for purposes of simplicity, I will focus here only on the issue of race.
As Jessie Daniels importantly points out on Racism Review, battles over racism have shifted into the realm of social media, where digital and physical race relations persist in an augmented relationship. We see this in both the progressive anti-racist discourses, and the racial smear campaigns surrounding the Martin/Zimmerman case.
Although it is important to expose the overtly racist tactics utilized by some of Zimmerman’s defenders—of which there are plenty—I want to talk here about a more subtle, and so perhaps more problematic form of racial discourse. Specifically, I will talk about how a prominent strategy of protest—coming out of the liberal left—may inadvertently perpetuate, rather than challenge, racial hierarchies in their most dehumanizing form. (more…)
Presider: Jessie Daniels
The panel I organized for the Theorizing the Web conference was called, “Cyber Racism, Race & Social Media.” A key theme of all the papers in this session was that race, racism and caste, are enduring features of media across geographic and temporal boundaries, and across cultures.
In the late 1990s, a popular television commercial advertisement captured the zeitgeist of thinking about the web at that time.
This notion that the Internet is a place where “there is no race,” is also one that’s permeated Internet studies. Early on scholars theorized that the emergence of virtual environments and a culture of fantasy would mean an escape the boundaries of race and the experience of racism. A few imagined a rise in identity tourism, that is, people using the playful possibilities of gaming to visit different racial and gender identities online (Nakamura, 2002; Turkle, 1997).
This post was originally published March 2, 2011 by Racism Review and is reproduced with permission. This work is part or an ongoing series by Jessie Daniels on race and social media.
(CC photo credit: ERNESTO LAGO)
I’ve been doing a series about what academic research on race and racism on the Internet. The series continues today with a look at what researchers are finding about one the most talked about aspects of the popular Internet: Social Networking Sites.
Social networking sites (SNS), such as Facebook and MySpace, are phenomenally popular and important to the field of Internet studies, (Boyd and Ellison, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship,” JCMC, 2007, Vol.13(1):210-230). According to a recent report, the top SNS is currently Facebook, with over 65 million unique visitors per month. Facebook has displaced the former leader in the field, MySpace, which still currently gets about 58 million unique visitors per month. These are staggeringly high numbers of people participating in these sites. But what does this phenomenon have to do with race and racism? (more…)
The rant that anything digital is inherently shallow, most famously put forth in popular books such as “The Shallows” and “Cult of the Amateur,” becomes quite predictable. Even the underlying theme of The Social Network movie was that technology trades the depth of reality for the shallowness of virtuality. I have asserted that claims about what is more “deep” and “real” are claims to truth and thus claims to power. This was true when this New York Times panel discussion on digital books made constant reference to the death of depth and is still true in the face of new claims regarding the rise of texting, chatting and messaging using social media.
Just as others lamented about the loss in depth when moving from the physical to the digital word, others are now claiming the loss of depth when moving from email to more instant forms of communication. E-etiquette writer Judith Kallos claims that because the norms surrounding new instant forms of communication do not adhere as strictly to grammatical rules, the writing is inherently “less deep.” She states that
We’re going down a road where we’re losing our skills to communicate with the written word
and elsewhere in the article another concludes that
the art of language, the beauty of language, is being lost.
There is much to critique here. Equating “depth” to grammatical rules privileges those with more formal education with the satisfaction of also being “deeper.” Depth is not lost in abbreviations just as it is not contained in spelling or punctuation. Instant streams of communication pinging back and forth have the potential to be rich with deep, meaningful content. (more…)
Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a new set of rules regarding how Internet service provides (ISPs) must treat the data they transfer to individual Internet users. The rules have been pitched as a compromise between the interests of two industries: On the one hand, content providers like Google, Facebook, or Amazon tend to favor the concept of “net neutrality,” which holds that all types of data should be transferred at the same speed and, ostensibly, creates an even playing field where start-ups can compete with industry titans. On the other hand, ISPs like Verizon and Comcast want to charge for a “fast lane” that would bring content to consumers more rapidly from some (paying) sites than from other (non-paying) sites. (A more extreme possibility is that ISPs would completely block certain sites that do not pay a fee).
The crux of compromise is that the new net neutrality rules will only apply to wired connections, leaving mobile connections virtually unregulated. (more…)