Blacks in New Media

Hello, classmates, it is us. The infamous Latina dynamic duo. As we learned in past articles the black community has been marginalized and forced into playing demeaning and often controversial roles. These roles include stereotypical caricatures ranging from thugs to mammy figures. New media has been both a positive and a productive outlet that has heavily impacted the black community. Over time new media has evolved from segregating people of color to raising awareness on social issues that are occurring today, such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement through the creation of Black Twitter. Below we have dissected the articles for Tuesday’s class. Enjoy!

African Americans in New Media

In the article, African Americans and the New Media Environment: From Mass to Niche Media focuses on how corporate businesses target particular audiences in order to gain profit. This leads to poor representation of the black community in media. This is known as the digital divide. One argument that was presented in the article that causes this digital divide is socio-economic status of blacks, “‘ The simple assumption that the internet is a luxury is being disputed’” (Squires, 269). The advancement of technology enabled people to have full access to information 24/7 through the use of cellular devices and unlimited resources that can be utilized through internet connection. An issue that occurs in the digital divide is the disadvantage low-income families experience by not having connection to the internet at home. The black community not having this privilege results in the lack of representation in ads, commercials, tv and film since businesses focus on catering to the majority of the audience in order to make a reasonable profit.

Avoiding Stereotypes in Media

One major issue that is constantly presented in media when an effort is made in order to include the black community is avoiding stereotypes. Blacks and people of color are placed in a situation where they have to feed into the stereotypes that society has placed upon them and specific standards that they are held to. In 1995 Yahoo! Published a website titled “Afrocentric”. Yahoo’s attempt was focused on creating a community for Africans and African Americans to interact online. However, they were stuck in a constant conversation of, “‘ a sense of condescension, ghettoization, trivialization, and a general air of dismissiveness’”(269). Since then, this site has been removed.

How has technology benefited the black community?

As mentioned in the article individuals have easy access to the internet which can be used as a platform for artistic or educational purposes. One of the most popular forms of social media/website is known as YouTube. Viral videos and trending topics are at the click of a button. In 2007 a young songwriter/performer Tay Zonday became an overnight sensation with the release of his song titled “Chocolate Rain”. Tay skipped the tedious and strenuous process of going through a record label to acknowledge him as an artist in order to sign him. YouTube opened up the option for individuals to gain recognition regardless of their ethnicity.

Truth about Black Twitter

Another popular form of social media is Twitter. In 2013, #BlackLivesMatter, became a national phenomenon following the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. This hashtag brought to light the injustices within the police and court system. This movement was one of the first to begin the influx of what is now called Black Twitter.

According to Meredith Clark, a professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas, Black Twitter is defined as “a temporally linked group of connectors that share culture, language and interest in specific issues and talking about specific topics with a black frame of reference.” Through the use of new media, Black Twitter provides a space where conversation and community can be created among other black individuals. According to Clark, there are three levels of connection:

  1. Personal community includes the people who you are connected with outside of the social media realm. For instance, Angelique and I are both following each other on Twitter, but we are also friends in real life (best friends when she loves me back).
  2. The second level of connection is on the thematic sense. This is where people communicate on specific common topics that are important to the individual. For instance, I love spoken word. Therefore, you can often find me interacting with other poets and finding out about events through the use of social media and hashtags such as #spokenword or #slampoetry.
  3. The final level of connection that Clark explains is when these personal communities and thematic interests intersect. Using my examples from before, an example of this form of connection would be if a bunch of poets decided to make a movement in response to something. For instance, I went to an event that was advertised through Twitter where poets focused on education reform.


Although these three levels of connection can be used to discuss many different forms of interaction on new media, according to Clark, there is a specific process of communication for Black Twitter. She explains it through 5 steps:

Process of Communication

  1. Identity – You must identify as a black person, have an interest in the topic and have the language capable of being involved in the conversation. This would include, culturally resonant language, cultural competency, African American Vernacular English (at times), and an accurate historical perspective.
  2. Self-Selection – This is when you choose to actively participate in the conversation, whether it be through the use of a hashtag, retweeting or saving other’s tweets.
  3. Affirmation – When you let others know they are not alone and that you are paying attention and are willing to engage.
  4. Re-affirmation – When the content that was once just on Twitter becomes public knowledge. This can be seen in many ways. Whether it be a conversation with a friend or spoken about on the news by tv personalities.
  5. Vindication – When you look for change in the real world through what was brought to light by Twitter and social media.
Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.08.11 PM
Credit: New York Daily News

This can be seen through almost all Black Twitter movements. From #BlackLivesMatter to #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, these movements have gone from small communities/individuals to reaching the vindication they seeked through media as seen above. Another benefit Clark speaks on includes the diversity that can be found within Black Twitter. Taylor Jones, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in Linguistics at University of Pennsylvania, also speaks on this when he explains that “there’s is not just one Black Twitter”. The intersectionality of many different identities are very prevalent on social media. Black Twitter has allowed there to be more perspectives present.

Big Data and Black Twitter

While Clark speaks generally about Black Twitter, Jones dives into the linguistic variations found in these online communities in different locations. Through the use of mapping, Jones has been able to find a correlation between the words used and the movement of people across America. While somebody from the West coast may say “been got”, a larger population in the south may write “been did”. This is because there is no general consensus on how to spell things. The formation of words and grammar vary regionally.

Credit: Taylor Jones

Jones is excited to learn more about this topic because not many linguists are riding the big data wave. Although this is his first attempt at defining dialect regions of AAVE, this research method is complementary to traditional methods. We look forward to learning more from his work tomorrow during class!

Best, Anige & Emily 🙂 #yay #afs250 #bloomquist #okbye


19 thoughts on “Blacks in New Media”

  1. I think the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown movement on twitter was fascinating. We talked about it in class earlier in the year, but how the media portrays minorities through headlines and photos in articles is interesting. I enjoyed reading Jones’ article. The popularity of social media makes it easier to find trends in language usage across the country. His incorporation of maps in his studies makes it more visually appealing and interesting to look at. With more and more people using forms of social media, the results Jones and others find will be more accurate and representative of how the country is split up in terms of language usage.

  2. I really enjoyed the articles as well as this blog post mostly because I feel that I am never really gong to be exposed to black twitter and black mass media in the same way as people of color because I am white. I’m sure that thevway white communicate through affirmation and the other steps that Clarke described is similar compared to blacks on Twitter but I’m still not actually sure because I do not have a Twitter! The argument about the use of Internet and mass media to decrease disparities in advertisement diversity is interesting because now almost everyone has access to information 24/7. Via the use of smart phones anyone has the capability to see anything. This also gives people a way to communicate and be active in communities that otherwise would be unavailable to them. It is unfortuanate that blacks are only able to fit in th certain stereotypes in media however I think that this is changing rapidly with th increase of mass media knowledge. I am excited about out speaker tomorrow as well!

  3. I thought the part about Youtube was interesting because a lot of times we think of social media just being twitter, instagram, facebook and snapchat. We forget about Youtube which has helped many people of any race to start up their careers or make a difference. I think one thing that separates Youtube from the rest of the social media and makes it more “race friendly” is the fact that anyone has the power to post whatever you want on there but you only are going to see it if you want to see it. On twitter and other social media the issues that one might have with the world are just thrown right out in front of your face. You don’t have to go searching for trending hashtags or popular pictures because they have been set up on the feed for you. On Youtube you don’t have to see anything unless you want to which lessens the racial anger that might occur.

  4. I really enjoyed reading the blog post this week. I think Angelique and Emily did a great job being thorough with their description of the articles for this week and expanding beyond to contemporary events that most people are familiar with. The thoroughness in explaining the types of levels of connection and the steps of Black Twitter communication helped me understand the different parts to each aspect, as I only have seen these things, mostly Black Twitter, superficially as the final product. I think as different media forms and the internet expands to more and more people and classes (in the USA and world altogether), it’ll be interested to see how the classes use the media forms and if there are more identities that will come about in the future.

  5. This was a really good, well written article. One thing that really sets your blog post apart from the others is the personal aspect that you added to it. It made a lot of points that the articles made easier to understand for you connected them to your own personal life. I find it interesting how powerful movements, like #BlackLivesMatter, spread so quickly and were able to generate a lot of support due to new media. I also thought it was bad that some blacks can be depicted wrong in social media and in ads and such due to lower class income families not having the technology to participate in the technological surge. Im interested in seeing what new information can be gathered by new research methods such as the mapping done and wonder what new information will be found.

  6. The introduction to this post was short and to the point, and almost every concept explained was done in a way that was concise yet easy to understand. Truthfully, I never thought about ads being catered to white audiences. Like most things concerning media, I can see this more as I think about it more. I also appreciated the inclusion of the “Chocolate Rain” example because that’s something I remember as a preteen, and I could easily connect your point to my memory of that video’s success. I am really curious to hear what Taylor Jones has to say, and I’m even more curious to see how new media will continue to shape race relations. Great post!

  7. Let me begin by saying you guys killed it! #winning This blog post was thorough yet fun and really offered a relatable voice. I think that Jones’ work is what stood out to me the most because I think that it is had to really pin point regional dialects when you are simply looking at written text. I say this because a lot of the time on twitter people imitate dialects that they may not actually speak. (but hey, I guess that’s not of his concern). Another thing that stood out me from this blog post was the breakdown of how Black Twitter has become a social enclave for Blacks. I stopped using my twitter a little while ago, but I find it interesting that Black people have turned to this outlet as a means of unifying themselves. The internet in my eye is a hell of a drug and can lead to the wrong groups of people banning together and creating more problems for the competent folk to deal with, but in this case I think it serves as an innovate and effective space for people of color to unite, relate and advocate. I also think that Twitter for black youth has become a forum for growth and discovery through its various hashtags and trending news.

    Thanks again guys!

    1. While I did read the blog before class on Tuesday, I didn’t get to comment on it. I logged back on just to additionally say that you both did a great job! The blog was critical, innovative, and well thought out. I personally love Black Twitter, and all that it’s done in terms of shedding light on issues that plague Black/Brown communities, and holding those empowered accountable. It’s an outlet I use similarly to many of my other friends that are of color. It similarly to language is often drenched with double meanings that only insiders can really understand. We are in a generation of memes, and Black Twitter has come up with so many great ones that offers sharp political commentary. Like I mentioned in class, I found Jones’ work to be interesting, but was skeptical about certain things. I think it’s important to consider how online people manipulate language to perform an identity without truly being part of said group or a speaker of that dialect, and how main stream certain words have become. I’m constantly amazed by how new media has become one of the main ways people get news in a effective, and quick manner.

  8. I agree that twitter is the new outlet for African Americans to inform others of important matters occuring today. Hashtags are used immensly in order to bring awareness to topics that are very concerning not only through twitter but through multiple media outlets (e.g. instgram, facebook, youtube). Black twitter is a new formalized way to shed light on matters that go hand in hand with systematic prejudice transpiring. This is a refined way for salient news to become omnipresent giving everyone a chance to be informed about current events happening around the world. The last point was also very interesting because even when AAVE is not used Standard American English phrases tend to be altered to adapt to the particular region that word is being used at, as Jones mentioned. For example, my friend from Ohio says Pop instead of Soda and can’t imagine anyone calling it anything else. The same goes for me because I’ve been calling Soda SODA all my life. Ultimately they both have the same meaning but the term used to describe the ‘cola’ are different because of the specific regions that adapted contrasting expressions. The same applies for AAVE. AAVE is a distinct form of communication for African Americans to own their words within their own community. It can’t be used by everyone because it does have its restrictions and rules. Not everyone can understand such a linguistic dialect because it was specifically made by African Americans for African Americans. The pronunciations of AAVE are not random ‘errors’ but instead a systematic disposition allowing blacks to successfully create their own dialect. Everyone has a different lingo and that’s okay. I myself codeswitch between Standard American English and African American English depending on where I am and who I’m with because AAVE is not a language everyone understands even though Standard American English is.

  9. This was a blog was a great assessment of modern social media and the internet. One of the most interesting points that was brought up in your blog was the “digital divide”. I initially was confused as to how this type of digital discriminations was possible, but Squires makes some very key points. The disadvantage that low income families have cannot be ignored. Because they do not have easy access to the internet at home, which is essential in today’s society, the result is a extremely less informed community. They fall out of the target market for businesses due to the lack of exposer to ads. Another point that was made was the benefit of youtube. Youtube has been a important tool for the black community to cut out the middle man so to speak. People have the ability to become famous over night without being part of a record label. Youtube has also allowed people to post videos of police brutality. This is vital because mass media tends to spin or change stories, but now they are encountering resistance because of the instantaneousness of youtube.

  10. Fantastic blog guys! You did a great job at summarizing the points of the articles in a way that made reading the post fun. At the beginnjng of the post you mentioned how businesses target audiences to gain profit. I read an article recently that considered this same idea. The authour argued that he would not target the black population for his product becuase he knew they would not buy it. At first I thought that made sense, why would advertisments depict people who were not in the target group? After reading the articles for class today I realized the issues with this method. By not depicting those of the non-targeted group we perpetuate the steotypes that advertisments and the media allow.

  11. This was a very well written and thorough article. One of my curiosities about blacks in the new media is why is Twitter becoming so popular? Why aren’t other forms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. becoming more popular for the black community? Also, I really like the explanation about how when one is following someone else on Twitter, it means something different then being friends in real life. I think that is very relevant nowadays.

  12. This was a really interesting blog post that really got me engaged. What made this so fun to read was the personal aspect which made the post seem like you were speaking to us directly. That being said, since social media essentially controls our lives today, it is really interesting to see how it can promote ideas and hashtags to spread word. Twitter is an especially interesting social media because hashtags have allowed social movements to spread extremely fast and gain national attention faster then ever before. Twitter has a section of trending hashtags, so as movements such as #blacklivesmatter and #iftheygunnedmedown will spread to everyone who has a twitter with the more people it hits. We have seen these hashtags become extremely popular in recent years.

  13. I found that your blog post hit on a great deal of the issues that African Americans face with modern media and especially social media. I thought the “digital divide” was the most fascinating part of the post because it never really occurred to me that something like this existed. But as I reflect on advertisements in media mostly, it is obvious that the digital divide exists. It is also interesting that African Americans are still being represented with stereotypes in the mass media. We thought this would have disappeared after so much improvement has been made since the mid-1900s, but there definitely are instances where African Americans are placed in situations in media that make them fit certain stereotypes, which can also be seen in the film section from last week.

  14. I think that it is very important to examine the ways in which we communicate through social media. Social media outlets such as twitter do great justices to give voices to minorities that otherwise wouldn’t be heard as loudly. But on the other hand I think that it sometimes creates a racial divide One of my best friends from home is black, but most of the things on his social media I won’t see unless he shares or retweets it.

  15. I think that Angelique and Emily did an excellent job demonstrating how new media affects blacks and people of color. It was interesting to see how these new media outlets have the ability to connect people to generate a collective identity. The part about Twitter and how it provided support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement was also cool to see. With access to these different social media outlets, in particular Twitter, ordinary citizens are able to build a collective identity amongst each other and therefore generate a public consciousness. The prevalence of social media within the United States has enabled people to express their virtual dissidence against these societal injustices.

  16. When I did my blog I focused on blacks in early TV. The whole concept of bringing racism and discrimination to the livings rooms of Americans across the country, is what really got the ball rolling so to speak. I think that the #blacklivesmatter movement is a continuation of the concept that I touched on in my blog post. Instead of bringing this message home to middle aged Americans, this new twitter movement is brining it home to the life blood of this “revolution” which is teens and young adults. Also I like the video you posted as I remember when it just started to become popular!

  17. The tone of this blog not only made this post ammusing but very easy to read. You definitely wrapped up the year concisely and sufficiently. I specifically enjoyed the segment about black twitter and black representation in other new media outlets. This is something unique to our generation and definitely a newer area of study. I think Clarke’s 5 steps of black communication on twitter are very accurate although I feel like they’re not only limited to black twitter users. I also find Jones’ study of different uses of AAVE across the nation geographically really interesting. Especially when you have been to the region and recognized the heavy use of different words that Jones discussed.

  18. Hey guys! Just wanted to thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I’ve read through them all. I really appreciate the feedback and I’m so glad you guys liked the anecdotes we included. Sometimes I find things hard to understand if I don’t have a personal story to relate too. I hope that you guys will find ways to be active on social media and find your own communities to be involved in! Best, Emily

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