Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Bleached Blanket Blogosphere 

Bloggers being bloggers, there's far too many of us talking about how, why, and what we can do about the fast that white men are the dominant colonists of the blogosphere. And, bloggers being bloggers, most of us are missing the bigger picture.

There are far too many obvious reasons why this absolutely was going to happen. Especially at the A-list level. But they all boil down to this: the blogosphere is a technology.

We made it. We peopled it.

And what most people don't realize is, individual technologies always come from their culture much more than they shape it.

It's as if somehow, most people thought blogging had grown up in a cultural vacuum, populated exclusively by Skinner box babies.

As the WELL stayed subcultural while the Web became the culture, so will blogs inevitably take on the qualities of their larger culture.

After all, the technorati alone cannot create the A-list anymore -- as long as hits still determine popularity to any extent, a mass population will continue to vote with their eyes. Such numbers require much more mass appeal and mass redirection to perpetuate.

As such, I am no more in favor of the sort of affirmative action proposed by some bloggers (see end of Levy's Newsweek article, for example) than I am in favor of the same trivial (and ultimately racist and dismissive) tactics used by, say, the folks who make sure to overrepresent people of color in glossy admissions literature. It doesn't work there, either, but more importantly, it cheapens us all to do it. Misrepresentation is misrepresentation; commodifying groups as if they needed your promotion only perpetuates the very same us/them media dynamic which brought forth a white male blogosphere in the first place.

Hey, here's an idea. You want better representation of minorities in technological spaces where confidence is a key trait to A-list success? Then work to transform minority communities and schools, and raise a generation with the skills and attitudes necessary to truly change the world. Don't insult them by overlinking to the underrepresented.

Bah. People who think any social networking technology and its early user group is just going to up and transform our culture's fundamental value system get into my skull and make it itch. History is clear: over and over again, social networking networks the society we already have, and changes it very little in doing so. (Major technological packages which totally change the way we think of communication of ALL types do make such change, though -- the transformation from print to digital communication, of which blogging is one tiny mote, does/will act/has acted on that scale. But I digress.)

Mere connectivity is no sure way to C-change in that societal infrastructure, ideologically speaking. Sure, technologies frame new ways of thinking, but to change culture, we have to deliberately change the way people think on a much more fundamental level.

Maybe it's the navel-gazing, a sure sign of the core subculture -- the originators -- of any social net. Maybe we spent so much time talking about how blogs could change and reframe the world, we forgot to make the world change and reframe blogs in ways which would, instead, minimize the potential for true change in the average user while reinforcing our habitual assumptions about ourselves and our world -- those bits and bytes of who we are.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:43 PM |

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