A Quick Note On Diversity In the Blogosphere
by Chris Bowers, Sun May 06, 2007 at 11:59:16 AM EDT
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.