Monday, July 11, 2005

Preserving our Demographic Boundaries Online

Sometimes you have to read the comments.

I was clueless about the wordy, convoluted point Antigone was trying to make in the African American Blogging Thing until I read in a comment that this was apparently a pretty obvious satire of a similar post on another blog, called "The Woman Blogging Thing," which bemoans the lack of prominent women political bloggers and even attributes it to the "male"-style writing that dominates blogs and the top-down structure of the feminist movement.

What Antigone does is prove that, sometimes, you have to take a step back.

The Internet, as a candidate for savior of the world, has been given the burden of erasing racial lines and tearing down demographic boundaries that have characterized the offline world for centuries. When the apparent racial disparities persist online (such as the alleged lack of diversity among prominent bloggers), the believers have started to question this barrier-breaking premise and decry this lack of immediate social upheaval.

And then they get caught making sweeping generalizations as the "Woman Blogging Thing" author did. I'll try not to make that mistake.

Sure, the Internet has changed so much about life. It has created a form of human interaction that is faceless, nameless, raceless, gender-less, etc. Online, the spread of ideas need not necessarily be connected to the demographic boundaries that divide us offline. The hope should not be that there will be more women or black bloggers to balance out all the white men (One could say, "How do we know there aren't already many non-white males out there?"). Rather, the hope should be that these demographic factors never even enter the equation. That, after all, is within the realistic abilities of the Internet.

What posts like the "Woman Blogging Thing" do is perpetuate this mindset of breaking the online community into demographics, which might help us figure out where the need is in funding to bridge the digital divide, but help us little in assessing the debate going on in the blogosphere.

If it's online diversity we're after, the movement might have to begin offline.

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