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March 03, 2004

Race, Cyberspace & The Digital Divide

Grace Lee interviewed me (fairly and with balance) for this month's ReadMe, NYU's Online Journal focusing on Race Cyberspace and the Digital Divide. It's a pretty good piece. I'd be intrigued.

Slowly but surely, the digital divide---the much-noted gap between black and white America, when it comes to computer usage and Internet access---is closing. Although it currently makes up only a small percentage of Internet users (blacks account for only 8% of all U.S. Net users, while whites constitute 78%), the African-American online population is expected to more than double by 2005, according to a recent study by the Trade Association Report. As the growing popularity of Afrocentric sites such as BlackPlanet, CushCity, and Africana hints, the African-American influence on new media and Net culture is sure to loom large, in the near future. That said, ReadMe wonders how much diversity there is on the Net. The black-run weblogs, warblogs, community portals, and e-commerce sites discussed in this special package of articles do not take away from the fact that the Web is not the colorblind utopia foretold by Wired magazine in the giddy '90s. In issue 4.3, ReadMe removes the virtual-reality goggles and takes a hard look at race in cyberspace

One small correction, although I participated in CIN Steering Committee Meetings at Xerox El Segundo and help configure parts, the physical CIN was built by others. I was moderator of the XeroxBlackNetwork and a vocal participant in the closest thing we had to a political forum which was the Philosophy discussion group.

Posted by mbowen at March 3, 2004 05:39 PM

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I like the piece....and the issue as a whole. good work.

Inkspence. I think I've got a new handle. Seriously.

Posted by: lks at March 3, 2004 09:37 PM

I don't know that this talk about the web not being a "colorblind utopia" makes any sense at all. It isn't as if The Man™ is actively stopping anyone from setting up a blog or portal, is it? Besides, I wonder how one's supposed to be able to tell whether or not a site is "black-run" to start with. God knows if I were running a technology or science-focused site I wouldn't see any reason to bring up my race.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite at March 4, 2004 12:18 PM

Still, I like the following piece at the end of the article on you:

Bowen and his cohorts are working, he says, to divert attention from Sharpton and Jackson and those who aspire to inherit their dubious mantle.
Amen to that. I don't recall ever voting for Sharpton or Jackson as "leader of all blacks."

Posted by: Abiola Lapite at March 4, 2004 12:22 PM

Actually, an old associate of mine, Walt Findlator got in a heap of trouble for suggesting just that there be an African-Cuban oriented area in cyberspace. It's easy to say *now* that there is plenty of space for everyone, but when space was (or becomes) at a premium, there's no room at the inn...


Posted by: Cobb at March 4, 2004 12:43 PM

Interesting articles, Cobb.

If you don't mind, I may spin off of a couple of the points that you made in "Master of his own Domain": they parallel and counterpoint several things that I've been thinking through on the topics of psuedononymous vs non-psuedonym writing on the web, and how knowledge of the writer can shape perceptions of what he/she is saying.

It's a long ways from being thought through fully enough to be an essay as yet though. Ongoing project.

Posted by: Ironbear at March 5, 2004 10:29 PM