Social Networks or Social Bubbles?

    by Dori J. Maynard
    October 15, 2007

    First, the Jena 6 story lived on the Internet. Bloggers, many of them black, members of list serves 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 “afro-sphere” 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.

    Tagged: citizen journalism community diversity media social networks
    • As a member of the AfroSpear, I would like to congratulate you for this article that captures the crucial socio-political movement that Blacks are engaging through blogging. No one cared that there was a group of 80 interconnected Black blogs until 60,000 of our readers and supporters turned up at a rally in Jena, Louisiana.

      Now, the public is realizing that the digital divide is no more limiting white awareness of Black social networking than a “spiritual divide” is preventing whites from attending Black churches. White don’t attend Black churches simply because they don’t want to do so, not because there is a “lack of access” to to Black churches. Similarly, white bloggers have ignored Black blogs because they simply prefer to ignore Blacks, not because they can’t type the URL’s to Black blogs and discover what Blacks are saying and doing.

      One of innovations of the AfroSpear is an automated blog list that puts all of our links on the home page of all of our blogs. This means that any [white] person who has discovered one of our blogs has simultaneously discovered all 80 our our blogs. And the AfroSpear blogger membership organization is only a small part of the afrosphere that includes all Black bloggers.

      So, if white people don’t pay attention to Black bloggers, it is simply because they prefer to ignore us.

      Thank you for showing that there is at least one whitosphere blogger who is willing to write about what Black bloggers are doing.

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