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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Affirmation – When you let others know they are not alone and that you are paying attention and are willing to engage.
- 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.
- Vindication – When you look for change in the real world through what was brought to light by Twitter and social media.
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.
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