A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

I am about to head home after a great weekend in Georgia, but before I do I wanted to make a quick comment about the ongoing discussion of diversity in the progressive, political blogosphere.

We know from repeated studies that the progressive, political blogosphere skews toward the following demographics: 85-90% white, 60-65% male, very high income ($75-$80K average income), and the highly educated (40-50% advanced degrees, and 80-85% four year degrees). Now, we also know that such demographic skews are not representative of the Democratic Party, of the progressive movement, or of America. There are varying and multiple causes behind this skew: broadband access, digital literacy, and a lack of representative voices within the political blogosphere to attract a more diverse audience (research has generally found that people are attracted to content produced by those with whom they share similar cultural voices, even in the supposedly identity-blind world of the internet). However, due to time constraints (I'm about to jump on a plane back to Philly), and a fear from distracting form my main point, I don't really want to go into detail on the merits and solutions to those problems.

What I do want to say might actually sound like I am belittling the progressive blogosphere somewhat, which might seem strange coming from me. However, it really isn't. The thing is that there are many different ways for people to engage in civic affairs, in politics, in media, and in the online world. Even thought the blogosphere is an incredibly important phenomenon to the progressive and political world, the fact is that it is still only one way to engage in civic affairs, in politics, in media and in the online world. The progressive blogosphere is not inherently good to the point where everyone needs to be involved in it. It is not the equivalent of education or voting. There really is no need to, for example, make sure that local community activists working on housing issues are maintaining well read and frequently updated blogs documenting their activities. There are other ways for such activists to get their message out, and there are other ways for those who are part of the progressive, political blogosphere to communicate with activists of that nature. Blogging is one way to make that connection, but it is not necessary that blogging be the way that connection is made. There are other avenues. Not everyone has to blog.

Without question, the progressive, political blogosphere should not unfairly exclude anyone who participates within it. Also, without question, efforts should be made to guarantee that those who wish to participate in the progressive, political blogosphere can do so. Further, it is absolutely necessary to the progressive movement that the different communities within that movement are talking with each other, learning about each other, and working together. However, none of this means that every single person involved in progressive politics needs to participate in the blogosphere. We don't need to make sure that everyone and everything in progressive politics are engaged with, and represented in, the progressive blogosphere. There are many ways for people to be enaged in the movement, and blogging should not be something everyone is expected to do. It is more important for some groups and some people than others. It is more accessible for some people than others. It is simply a better fit for how some people live than others (for example, I don't have kids, but I do spend a lot of time online). We simply don't need to make sure that everyone is blogging. There is nothing inherently good about that.

Questions of how to solve the diversity problem in the blogosphere often arise, and my blogging on MyDD has repeatedly taken those concerns seriously. However, one thing we need to remember in these discussions is that no matter how wonderful and important the blogosphere is, it simply isn't something everyone needs to do. We need to make certain that the progressive movement is diverse, inclusive, and so on, but every single community within the movement does not also have to demonstrate the same level of diversity expected of the overall movement. Different means of engagement are simply more relevant for different kinds of people, and for different communities. It is absolutely essential that we are all engaging each other, but it is by no means important that we are all engaging each other through blogging.

Tags: Blogosphere, Culture, Diversity (all tags)

Comments

36 Comments

Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

If this were say academia, corporate America or some other aspect of the Democratic process, would you accept the argument you just made as a valid?

by bruh21 2007-05-06 12:22PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

Are those things analagous with the blogosphere, though?

Instead of saying, 'not everyone needs to participate equally in corporate America', which strikes me as deeply flawed, isn't a better analogy something like: "Not everyone in corporate America needs to participate equally in direct mail campaigns?"

Hm. No, I don't buy my own analogy, either.

I guess the question is, is 'the blogosphere' more like 'the media' or 'academia' or more like 'monthly newsletters' or 'conference calls.' That is, to what extent is the blogosphere an institutional source of power, and to what extent merely another form of communication?

But at the very least, there's -some- institutional power here, at to that extent we must be concerned about the lack of diversity, no?

by BingoL 2007-05-06 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

Yes, it's something to be aware of and to be concerned about, but I think the question is what is the solution? Is it possible to bring in more diverse voices on the scale that is needed to make it truly representative, or could it be that a bunch of other circumstances make it so that the blogosphere is going to be disproportionally white and wealthy for a while? Or is the fact that it isn't diverse make it inherently wrong? I don't think the latter is true. Like I said before, I think the key is understanding that the blogosphere is one small component of a much larger much broader movement, and its strength will be in how well it can interface with, organize with and work with that movement.

I also think that the fact that there is some institutional power there means that it is incumbent on the blogosphere to approach the parts of the movement it is not representing about ways that collaboration could happen through coalition work.

by Jenifer Fernandez Ancona 2007-05-06 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

I don't know what blogs are. I do know, however, that I'm suspicious of explainations that wouldn't fly in any other context being used to justify a lack of diversity. I do know that in other forms of media these sorts of excuses have been used to justify a lack of diversity there. For example, the DGA reported only 5 percent of all tv directors were people of color (black, asian latino) in 2004.  I interviewed a tv director recently about this, and he said it was appalling. He didn't proceed to seek to justify it as "there are other forms of media and avenues through which blacks communicate to the public." To me, that kind of statement is besides the point. The danger of having a non diverse blog isn't to other forms of media- its to blogs.

by bruh21 2007-05-06 02:22PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

Well, I agree that the claim deserves suspicion, but I also think we need to ask a number of questions (as Jenifer Fernandez Ancona does, above).

Is the blogosphere 'a form of media' (in a way that, say, telephones or direct mail or letters to the editor aren't)? To the extent that the answer's 'yes', I agree this is a problem. But the solution eludes me.

When we talk about the 'blogosphere' being wealthy, white, male, and educated, who are we talking about, specifically? Kinda like your DGA example: what's appalling there is the lack of diversity among the powerful people driving the conversation. Saying, 'Well, 22% of TV viewers are people of color' entirely misses the point. So ... do Bowers's numbers reflect those of us who are mostly 'consumers' of the blogosphere, or those who are mostly 'producers?' I wonder what the numbers are for bloggers making a living at this. (Though, of course, the blogosphere is much more interactive than TV, so the democraphics of the 'consumers' matters more, here.)

And back to Jenifer Fernandez Ancona's question: what's the solution? Unlike the DGA, the 'cost of entry' into the blogosphere is fairly low ... but could be lower. Is that something to focus on? Also, the 'blogosphere' isn't fixed: there are people of diverse cultural backgrounds blogging (including on the most popular blogs), so why aren't they attracting a different demographic?

Different activities attract different demographics simply because, well, various demographics find them, er, variously attractive. That is, say my knitting circle is overwhelmingly female, not because of any structural impediments to men, but because as a group they're less interested in knitting. (And yes, I recognize that re. blogs there's a good deal of circular 'blame the victim' in this explanation, suggesting that women and Blacks and the middle-class and un-colleged aren't as interested in the blogophere purely as a matter of choice ... but to some degree this is yet another factor.)

Ah. Did some Googling. Apparently 40 percent of men compared to 28 percent of women say they're interested in government and public affairs `most of the time.' So, at least re. gender, that might go some distance to explaining the skew. And this isn't merely a matter of being interested in politics, but of a really distinct subset of that interest. Perhaps white, wealthy, educated men are more attracted to hearing the sound of their own keyboards, holding forth at length with armchair analysis that doesnt' necessarily go anywhere, offering what they see as pearls of wisdom and ... Shit. I better stop before I actually include a jpeg of myself to illustrate the point.

Ahem. Also, I suppose, it's hard to discuss this when we're talking about education, income, sex, and race all at once. Probably different issues with each of those groups (and subgroups withing them), no?

And, finally, to quote JFA once more: "I also think that the fact that there is some institutional power there means that it is incumbent on the blogosphere to approach the parts of the movement it is not representing about ways that collaboration could happen through coalition work."

I might change that to read 'incumbent on the institutionally-powerful bits of the blogsophere to ...', though ...

by BingoL 2007-05-06 03:59PM | 0 recs
I agree with you.

I don't think its important that everyone blogs, nor is it important that the blogosphere become less upper income and white. Trust me on this: the great majority of local social/political activists have little time for blogging. A lot of people who have been around a long time have no idea what a blog is, but they do know how to get people to the polls or get petitions recognized. Some people can get a march organized and see to it that its reported on. Dome know how to get a face to face meeting with a legislator. Ultimately, thats how the power is allocated: at the polls, not online.

What is important, however, is that the blogosphere does not turn into an isolated, reclusive, self-important and ultimately elitist group. Bloggers must understand that we are not the sole arbiters of how things should be. Bloggers are one voice among many. If bloggers remember that they are not the progressive movement all by themselves, they'll continue to grow and add more diverse audience naturally.

by brooklynbadboy 2007-05-06 12:23PM | 0 recs
co-opt existing social infrastructure

embrace and extend, in a nutshell. To build a progressive movement, the need is to articulate progressive solutions and principles from within pre-existing orgs.

by azizhp 2007-05-06 12:45PM | 0 recs
Hire a minority blogger/guest blog

Remember Francis Holland---he would have been a great blogger if not for his attitude and behavior.

by jasmine 2007-05-06 12:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Hire a minority blogger/guest blog

Francis has developed a readership on his site and on a few others.

by robliberal 2007-05-06 01:28PM | 0 recs
I was just thinking about him

I don't know why he had to go on an anti-DKos crusade and get banned. I thought his diaries were amusing.

by desmoinesdem 2007-05-06 08:31PM | 0 recs
Re: I was just thinking about him

On his blog he has recently mentioned that he has been facing some serious health problems.

by robliberal 2007-05-06 09:12PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

Blogging is rapidly changing and we are seeing that more in the progressive blogosphere. In 2004 there were few liberal blogs now there are many of them and each is developing niche demographics of their own. Sites get front pagers on their site who came from other sites. There is outflow from the larger blogs as people move to new and niche blogs.

I think of it in a way like television was many years ago. At first there were only the on the air stations which you could access with an antenna. With the development of CATV and satellite many more hundreds of choices developed.

There are also new forms of blogging such as micro-blogging (i.e. Twitter, Tumblr, Jaiko) where you can blog from your cellphone or instant messenger and blogs are now on sites such as Facebook, MySpace, etc. Sites like MySpace have more members and blog posts than all of the liberal/progressive blogosphere combined.  

It is a constantly evolving process.

by robliberal 2007-05-06 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

I think Chris is right, not everyone has to blog, but given that, the important thing to keep in mind is the relationship between the blogosphere and the rest of the progressive movement. It should be equal and collaborative, and people should work in coalitions with broader, more-representative of-America groups on common issues or campaigns to avoid the dangers of becoming isolated, self-important and elitist.

I haven't seen much of this coalition work in my own experience, but I hope it is happening elsewhere and would love to hear stories. If not, we should start talking about ideas on how to make it happen.

by Jenifer Fernandez Ancona 2007-05-06 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

Some of those stories you seek are happening in a context where people can get together and talk without the burden of thinking they may find their words online after the fact.  

That's how relationships and trust get built to develop the infrastructure necessary for the collaboration you describe.  I've been part of some of that personally, without offering any more details.

If it doesn't happen online and can't be googled, that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

by Pachacutec 2007-05-06 07:26PM | 0 recs
tip jar

I dropped out of college to work races, I'm proud I'm contributing to the diversity of the blogosphere!

by Bob Brigham 2007-05-06 02:14PM | 0 recs
Me too!

I'm a young hispanic male with very little income, so I am basically anti-normal in the blogosphere.

by fbihop 2007-05-06 03:09PM | 0 recs
Re: tip jar

You may just be getting a much better education.

by michael in chicago 2007-05-06 04:30PM | 0 recs
I'm not getting this

Of course we want diversity in the blogosphere.

We want the blogs to reflect the party and the nation...not perfectly...but as much as possible.

Seems to me, Chris, that you can work to do just that, and have, with BlogPac and your work increasing the diversity of voices on the Front Page here.

I think your third paragraph, "Not everyone has to blog" is the kernal of what you were trying to say.  ie. When you are on these panel discussions  on diversity in the blogosphere, you find yourself pointing out that "housing activists" say, shouldn't have to the think that because "blogging is this big thing" that they have to blog a la MyDD.  Not all organizations are going to find a blog like MyDD to be the most useful tool.

I'm getting that point.

But your next paragraph is baffling. You write:

However, none of this means that every single person involved in progressive politics needs to participate in the blogosphere. We don't need to make sure that everyone and everything in progressive politics are engaged with, and represented in, the progressive blogosphere.

I don't see this or agree with it. It almost has an implication that a) you don't care how diverse MyDD is or isn't  (which I know isn't true) and b) you're not interested in doing what most every other progressive organization that falls into the demographic breakdown you're describing (white and wealthy) puts into its mission statement: outreach.

That's was the failure of the blogger's brunch. The point of the "blogger's brunch" story was that there already was a wide range of bloggers of color and diverse voices out there. Peter Daou just didn't make sure that they were sitting at the table. He didn't do enough outreach.

My question after reading this post, espcially given your influential voice, Chris, is: what message are you sending to campaigns and organizations with this? My shorthand, and unfair, summary would be: "Blogs, We're mostly wealthy and white, it's alright, blogging's not for everybody."

(But we both know that this flies in the face of what I see here in CA and I'm sure is true in Philadelphia...every last demographic group is clamoring to communicate using new media...the relevant fact is, however, folks just aren't all coming to dkos and MyDD.)

Now, I want to be clear, I don't think that's what you're trying to say here, and I'm not trying to offend or misread. But that's what paragraph four seems to imply. And that's what I don't get.

For me, "Different means of engagement" means that different folks are going to use online resources and tools in different ways, but, we're all online and will be more and more in one way or another. (Texting, Mobile browsing, Ipod downloads etc. etc.)

We should not exempt any one group from the obligation to reach out and communicate and learn from what others are doing online and with new media means of communication.  We should strive to make what any one of us is doing more relevant and accesible to all of our colleagues and allies.

I think the challenge isn't making the blogs "more diverse" so much as it is making them more broadly relevant, engaged and networked with the entire Democratic constituency.  Outreach and interaction are hard work...but that hard work, imo, pays off.

I hope folks don't read your post and think it's okay to chuck outreach out the window.

by kid oakland 2007-05-06 03:13PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not getting this

I don't see this or agree with it. It almost has an implication that a) you don't care how diverse MyDD is or isn't  (which I know isn't true) and b) you're not interested in doing what most every other progressive organization that falls into the demographic breakdown you're describing (white and wealthy) puts into its mission statement: outreach.

I didn't get this at all. I think Chris' point, which I agree with, is that the blogosphere is not THE center all powerful communication hub of the progressive movement that it is often made out to be. It is a part of the overall movement; not the core, but just a part. It's not the be-all, end all.

Also I'm not sure that all blogs are all things to all people; in other words not all blogs are going to be relevant to a wide group of people. Just as blogs are partisan, they more often than not are very pointed in their approach. Narrowcasting seems to be the game more often than not. Maybe the goal is to make more relevant blogs rather than making the blogosphere more relevant.

by michael in chicago 2007-05-06 04:39PM | 0 recs
I remember

sitting in the John Jay undergraduate dining hall at Columbia University...which is basically 50 ft from the front door of the St. Luke's emergency room which served a wide swath of lower Harlem...and discussing politics with a group of students who were all pretty much white and from well-to-do suburbs.

I remember saying, "Do you know how much richer our conversations would be if someone our age from five blocks away were here sharing lunch with us?"

And it was a shock to my classmates. First, because it was readily apparent that what I was saying was true. But also because it meant, for the first time, a couple of them had to think about why those of us at Columbia in the late-80s (post-Obama alas) were, uh, wealthy, white and privileged.

That's the "first question" that's missing here.  Why our movement looks like what those of us who attended Yearlykos well remember: a large group of mostly white people.

Chris is right: on some level the diversity it out there. It's clear in Democratic politics.  When I do GOTV in Oakalnd, or when I worked on a local campaign for community college board last election...mostly white was NOT the demographic.  In fact, the opposite.

What I'm saying is that exactly what we did at Columbia, walking uptown 12 blocks to City College and building bridges...is what we need to do on the blogs.

This kind of outreach and face to face connection has a double effect.

First, it demonstrates to everyone that, far from NOT using the internet...NOT using new media...that we're all doing the same things, just in different places and in slightly different ways.

Second, in my experience, whenever an organization sincerely does outreach, the already present diversity in that organization comes to the fore. (ie. we weren't so "white" in the first place.)

In my experience, when the vibe is homogenous, it stays homogenous.

When explicit room has been created for...our differences...people let their guards down.  The dicussion gets richer.

I've tried to play the role of catalyst for this kind of thing in the past and I can say from personal experience that it works.

No, the "progressive blogosphere" is not the be all, end all of Democratic politics...but that same progressive blogosphere would be so much richer, and has some pretty awesome lessons to share of its own...if only we could break down some of the stupid walls that hold us apart.

It's hard work. It's worth doing.

by kid oakland 2007-05-06 05:22PM | 0 recs
Re: I remember

Exactly right. In terms of understanding what problems need to be solved, how to solve them, how to talk about them and who to talk with, diversity is critical. Across every axis - race, gender, class, region, age, education level, occupation, sexuality and on and on - we are not good at escaping from who we are. Let's broaden ourselves.

by CT student 2007-05-06 06:34PM | 0 recs
Re: I remember

You're the only one I know who could write a comment that ought to be a post in it's own right...

I think we are in agreement, so allow me to play straight man in this duo and, as one who fits the blog reader demographic perfectly, allow me to ask: How exactly does the blogosphere reach out? What does the hard work look like in real practical terms?

by michael in chicago 2007-05-06 06:35PM | 0 recs
thanks, one example

could be using the fact that Yearlykos is in Chicago this year to really broaden the attendees.

1st: for kossacks within driving range to have some meetups well ahead of time and make sure that progressive bloggers of all backgrounds from Mpls., Milwaukee, Madison, Bloomington, Cleveland, Detroit, Des Moines, St. Louis, Memphis etc. etc. feel included and empowered to come to the convention.

Sometimes it's just as simple as that.  Making sure that the carpool list is made open and accessible...and maybe having local "pre-yearlykos" events so folks can meet each other before they head out. I would think we could work on a "sponsership" program too...with some folks kicking in to get younger and less well off kossacks in the door.

One thing, in particular, we should make sure is that folks with disabilities who might otherwise NOT go, feel that they are specifically encouraged TO go.

2nd: I think trying to make sure that millenials...(the Young Dems presentation last year was awesome)...are aggressively included in Ykos.  I remember meeting the NY Young Dems contingent at Mark Warner's party and they were as vibrant, cool and diverse a crew as you'd ever meet.  Young folks are, demographically, much more diverse than the graying crowd that dominated Ykos Vegas...we want all ages of course, just not to lose out on the millenials.

That's one concrete example of something we could do now to do outreach from the progressive netroots.

Having lived in Mpls., I guarantee you that there are kossacks there in the Wedge and South Mpls. just waiting for a ride and room and a discount rate to come participate. My sister works in the Somali and Hmong communities in Mpls. and has said that there is a burgeoning poltiical activism going on.  I would assume, since you're in Chicago, that you know of a cafe or two or a school where this kind of outreach might be a good idea.

That's one example.

by kid oakland 2007-05-06 07:00PM | 0 recs
Re: I remember

If I may interject...I think it is in this point - the "how does the blogosphere reach out" question - that it is more helpful to view the progressive blogosphere as a branch and tool of media, and to use that "in" as a way to introduce people to the community and get them interested in what's going on.

Many community access telelvison stations and non-profit media organizations (Scribe in Philadelphia, Cambridge and Somerville Community Television in Boston, are a few that I know of) offer various types of media education classes that aim to empower citizens into action in their community.  I have seen classes advertised such as "What is a blog?" or "How to start a blog," etc.  A deeper involvement in politically specific blogs is a logical next step from that simple initial education about web communities.  

In my opinion, in order to diversify the community, the progressive political blogosphere needs to diversify its connections to organizations that are not strictly politically oriented (or at least obviously so).  It's going to be really hard to get people to want to go to something as politically specific as YearlyKos if they don't first see how the tools can be put to use on a very basic level in their various communities.

Education is key - the progressive blogosphere needs to reach outside of itself (and Youtube) and start working with the organizations that are providing media education services in order to build and diversify the community.

by JonesingforaDem 2007-05-06 10:17PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not getting this

This part is especially important:

(But we both know that this flies in the face of what I see here in CA and I'm sure is true in Philadelphia...every last demographic group is clamoring to communicate using new media...the relevant fact is, however, folks just aren't all coming to dkos and MyDD.)

I agree completely. I think what a site like MyDD is doing is part of a broader movement to create new forms of social communication in this country. I would be curious as to why those folks aren't coming here; what is it that is forming a barrier between a place like this and other parts of the new media?

by eugene 2007-05-06 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

If NBC hadn't made an effort to diversify its staff over the past ten years Imus would never have been fired.  That was the first time in my life that I can remember minority voices being listened to--or to put another way, the first time I saw corporate America listen to minority voices.  It was historic.    Not too many white reporters/NBC staffers were saying: I won't go on his show. I think that he should be fired.

If blogs don't attempt to diversify in all ways they will never be able to play a leadership role in the progressive movement.

To be progressive means to consider the needs of all people.  In order to do that you must come in contact with all kinds of people.  You must ask people what they think, want and need.  How they would fix it if they could.  In other words, you can't speak for the oppressed from an ivory tower.

by aiko 2007-05-06 03:54PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

I'd like the leadership to look like the people they represent.

by misscee 2007-05-06 07:52PM | 0 recs
Something about Internet communities in general

I'm not sure how to say this best, and this may be getting a bit off topic, but:

What really interests me here is why these lack-of-diversity situations develop. In the specific case of Chris's article here, there's a bit of a fuzzy distinction made between "the blogosphere", "the progressive political blogosphere" and "mydd and affiliated sites like DailyKos". We're given demographic data for the third of these things, but not the first. This makes it hard for me to tell: Is what has happened that the blogosphere is not diverse? Or is what has happened that the specific community within the blogosphere where MyDD exists is not diverse?

In other words: Is the problem getting a more diverse set of people to blog? Or is the problem that we have diverse groups of people blogging, but there is de facto segregation in the communities which people blog in? And if the latter, then what is keeping this segregation going?

This is interesting to me not just as a follower of the progressive political blogosphere, but as someone who is and has been involved in general in the building of internet communities. In particular I've been trying [failing] to start a blogging community of my own recently, and this is something that's been bugging me.

Once upon a time, I'd have said, well, this is the Internet. Conventional wisdom is that pasty white males from academia tend to make up most of any potential Internet readerbase. However, this is demonstratably no longer the case. The internet of today is actually quite integrated.

Yet, a lot of sites I've personally followed recently still get into that sort of same demographic trap that Chris describes "the progressive political blogosphere" as being in: almost everybody is male, white and either in or recently in either suburbia or a college. It seems like once sites get homogenous in this way, they tend to stay homogenous in this way. My personal experience has left an impression that a site which, for example, has sizable and noticeable female membership from the beginning tends to not have trouble attracting women later on, whereas a site whose community is already overwhelmingly male has a lot of trouble attracting new female readership even with all other things being equal. I'm not sure how one breaks this cycle once it starts.

Chris's conclusion, looking at the relatively homogeneous landscape of bloggers connected to his site, if I'm understanding it correctly is that while he feels it absolutely essential that the progressive political blogosphere be inclusive of people outside its currently dominant demographic, he doesn't feel particularly feel obligated to actively go out of his way to find ways to change those demographics; his conclusion as I'm understanding it seems to be from the perspective that the progressive political blogosphere isn't so much important as a community as a tool for social change, that it is more important as a part of a wider progressive movement than it is important on its own, and that if this particular splinter of the wider progressive movement is not demographically representative of the whole thing, well, that's how the cards fell. I think from the perspective of an administrator of MyDD, this is a generally reasonable position; the focus of the operators of this site, as far as I can tell, has always been on writing rather than community-building.

However, this analysis doesn't help much from the perspective of someone who is interested in community-building for its own sake, and thus sees promotion of diversity within internet communities as potentially an end in itself. In my case for example I tend to find that internet communities that get too homogeneous, that don't have a range of experiences in the userbase, tend to get boring and stale after awhile, and in the case of the communities I've been working with building of late I'm interested in how to get lots of diverse kinds of people involved from the beginning. I'm not really sure how to do this, though. My own personal contacts of late that I would invite to join something like a blog circle are mostly through video game sites-- which in general are communities already with a bias toward that homogeneous male/white/"geek" culture that also seems to comprise so much of the progressive blogosphere. If I work with just the people I already know, I inherit the relatively homogeneous demographics of the communities I've been involved with. The problem of communities becoming homogeneous is self-propagating, and I'm trapped inside of it.

I wish I knew the solution to this. How does one reach out to people unlike oneself when building an internet community?

by mcc 2007-05-06 03:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Something about Internet communities in genera

The answer is pretty simple in my opinion.  You just ask the people you want to reach out to what they think of your site and you modify it accoridingly.

IE you will probably not be able to find that answer on mydd.

by sterra 2007-05-06 10:40PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

I am with kid oakland on this - outreach is important. While not everyone has to blog, neither should we settle for what we have now. Especially as the blogosphere gains access to the halls of power - a voice, influence, financial clout - it becomes very important that we remain not just open and accessible to new voices, but that we find ways to actively bring new people in.

If one of the keys to blogging's importance is access to information - and I believe it is - then it becomes even more important that we connect with populations that are currently not well represented here.

by eugene 2007-05-06 04:53PM | 0 recs
Sorry to bring up Obama, but...

... this diary provides a great summation of the absurdity of the constant "Obama doesn't engage the blogosphere enough" argument.

We are not irrelevant, to be sure. Yes, we collectively have an out-sized influence on the political landscape. But, in actuality, we collectively represent such a tiny minority of the voting public.

Though Edwards seems to have made the calculation that courting white, male, affluent, highly educated, non-believers is an important key to victory. That the media assist and potential to ignite the ground game will ultimately be beneficial.

But, on the other hand, simply put, Obama doesn't seem to think we're essential to winning.

I suspect he's right.

by Vermonter 2007-05-06 06:33PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

Of course, blogging is not the only way to make an impact, but it is one way.   Once you establish a niche, you have a responsibility to make it the best you can, to the best of your abilities.  You can make a real difference, increase diversity and numbers by making this site the highest quality your talent can make it.  Reading, commenting and writing blogs can have the potential to impact the debate and serve as a portal for people to become engaged and inspired and think about how to make a greater (or different) commitment in other ways.

Once you write a post, spend an extra hour and ask yourself what links or analysis can I make to make the post better.  In my opinion, this site could use a daily female blogger (who has to be tough to deal with the harshness and immaturity of some commenters) and you should be able to do something about that.

Quality will broaden your impact.  You want proof?  Look at a progressive superstar blogger in the making: Glenn Greenwald at Salon.  What is going on over there is exciting and that is largely due to the quality of his blogging.  I do not know the diversity of his readers, but he is attracting high quality commenters and getting some big shots to react to him.  What more could  you ask for?  

by mboehm 2007-05-06 07:00PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

    WTF? A few things. One, the average income in the US is 70-80k, so people who read blogs are average Americans, and not wealthy. Did you mean Median income? Also, people with Advanced degrees make on average over 100k a year, so if 40-50% of the readership has advanced degrees, then either the other half is making 40-60K, which is at least 15% less than the US income average, or the people with advanced degrees are poorer than those in the US on average (PHDs in English and Anthropology instead of MBAs, MDs, and JDs).

by liberal2012 2007-05-06 07:32PM | 0 recs
That is one of the most mindless posts
I've ever read on the internet. I don't even know where to start critiquing it. Here's a try: "God Damn, Man, that is LAME."
by hrh 2007-05-06 07:50PM | 0 recs
Re: A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere

I am a Local Union President of CWA telecom workers and to reach my members I use an information tape they can call; a Local website; leaflets, meetings.  I have discovered that I must to all of them to reach my members. Despite working with technology all day long, most of them have never seen a blog. I agree the progressive movement can not be locked in to any one form of communication. Right now we are having a fight with an employer over what employees are allowed to access on the internet from work.  For many workers their company connection is the only one they have. If they lose this access and I don't provide other means of communication with them, they will not be fully involved.  The point I am trying to make is that the key issue is not who VOLUNTARILY uses the "blogosphere;" it is guaranteeing everyone affordable access so they can use it if they want.   That is something the progressive movement needs to fight for.

by Laura Unger 2007-05-09 06:30AM | 0 recs
A few late thoughts

I am realllllly late to this thread. I found it via a new blog from Jim Hansen, the former ID-02 congressional candidate from last year, who is writing a new blog through his organization United Action for Idaho.

http://www.unitedactionforidaho.org/

I have an interesting perspective on this. I spend about half my time blogging and doing netroots outreach on a professional basis. I worked last year for the Larry Grant for Congress campaign and am currently on part time with Larry LaRocco for Senate.

The rest of my working hours, I spend researching and writing for the Study Circles Resource Center, an organization that helps all kinds of people - including communities of color - work for positive change around issues including racism, the achievement gap, growth and sprawl, etc. Typically, I  write stories for their website.

http://www.studycircles.org/en/index.asp x

There's currently no blog, but we're talking internally about using existing blogs - including public policy blogs like Kos and My DD - to help spread these stories.

Given the low readership of most blogs, I think the key toward a more diverse blogosphere is to get more diverse voices on the well-read blogs.  (I just surfed over to HuffPo and see that 11 of the 12 current featured posts are by white folks, mostly guys.)

The other part of the picture is lifting up blogs written by people of color and trying to drive more eyeballs to their sites. Here are two I like:

http://www.thesuperspade.com/

http://lareinacobre.blogspot.com/ (presently inactive, it seems, but there's some beautiful writing on there ...)

The whole deal behind study circles (and the larger democratic governance movement) is that the more diverse voices we can bring together to work on an issue, the better conclusions we'll get.  For that reason, diversity in the blogosphere isn't a luxury - it's essential.

by Julie Fanselow 2007-05-16 02:47PM | 0 recs

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