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Journal of No. 118


July 3rd, 2009

Will I never not suck? @ 07:41 am


Once again, I am forced to acknowledge and confront my white privelege.
 
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From:rizwank
Date:July 3rd, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
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Danah used to be part of the LA Tech scene and always had interesting and often outlandish things to say. I don't spend enough time on myspace (or FB, for that matter) to really agree, but it's worth noting that FB used to be only available for certain university students, and that would probably tend to skew who they invited, etc etc.


...


Oh, by the way, stop oppressing me. Or something.
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From:gotham_bound
Date:July 3rd, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC)
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I can't pull apart your subject line. So... maybe?

I don't keep up with Danah Boyd's blog as much as I should, but I've kept it bookmarked for well over six years. Her history of documenting Web trends and using its strengths to the hilt (one of the very first to blog from Burning Man) intrigued me long ago.

I have to say her analysis rings true to me so I'm a little lost on your angle; though I'm guessing some of it was shaped by the article you cite.

ETA: For posterity, here is the relevant blog entry.

Edited at 2009-07-03 08:29 pm (UTC)
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:July 3rd, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)

The plural of anecdote is not data

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I was just struck by the alarmist tone of her talk, combined with the fact that both sites are entirely free and available to anyone (assuming you have internet access, a point I don't think she addresses), and the complete lack of quantitative data demonstrating assertions like myspace users being "more likely to be brown or black and to have a set of values that terrifies white society". In fact, it appears that African Americans are overrepresented on both myspace and facebook. It's noteworthy that there are about 3 times as many Hispanics on myspace as facebook and a 50% difference the other way for Asians, but the difference in white participation is less than 10%, hardly suggestive of an "uncomfortable reality" of 'white flight'.

The main issue brings up questions of equal opportunity and equal outcome that are obviously much in the news (and the courts) these days. Personally, I'm far more interested in seeing that people of all socioeconomic backgrounds have (more) equal opportunity of access to the internet (at schools or libraries) than in trying to ensure an equal outcome that the demographics of facebook mirror that of the US as a whole.

If the average income of the Barbara Streisand Fan Club is greater than the average income of the Kenny Chesney Fan Club, this is not a social evil that should "scare the hell out of us".
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From:gotham_bound
Date:July 3rd, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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It seems like the negative reaction is to her step of framing the talk around judgment. The judgment is based on solid research (there's a hell of a lot more to it than collecting anecdotes), but apparently calling something good or bad is insane. That's the bit that loses me.

I'm not sure, sociologically speaking, if the subject of Facebook vs Myspace will help the discourse on race in this country, but more and more I'm seeing markers that really uphold the comment that AG Eric Holder made about Americans being cowards when it comes to talking about race. It's an amazingly explosive subject with seemingly everyone on every side feeling defensive when it comes up.
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:July 4th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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I guess I have two main objections.

First, there is the question of whether it is true that the "uncomfortable reality" is that whites have fled myspace. The data I posted and the parallel data Ian quotes below show that the difference in white participation on these sites is pretty miniscule. So it seems that the facts are against her, or at least the effect size is so small that I don't see why it should "scare the hell out of us".

Second, even if the facts were in her favor, there is the question of judgment. Just because something is one way doesn't automatically mean that it ought to be, or ought not to be that way. Reasonable people may differ. As an ill of society, demographic differences between popular websites does not make my top 10 list of race-related problems we need to fix in America.


It's true... I get filled with anxiety whenever I post something that goes beyond the socially accepted platitudes when it comes to race.
From:boymaenad
Date:July 3rd, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC)
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this was my take on it, too. I don't think Facebook (as a website) or MySpace (as a website) is telling anyone to get out based on race. people who can't spell are discriminated against more by many facebook afficionados, sure, but linking that to race in any way beyond a gentle overlap on a venn diagram is, I think, pretty racist. and that's what you get when you start a website with a userbase of 100% .edu. which is, perhaps, not a very african-american userbase, but that doesn't make it all caucasian males, either.

one of the commenters says the research she cites contradicts her point, besides.

disclaimer: I'm no expert in these kinds of topics, but ah know what ah like.
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From:ian_tiberius
Date:July 4th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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Boyd links to quantitative data at the bottom of her full blog entry (see Riz's link.) Short cut here. The brownness/uneducatedness of MySpace relative to Facebook is not exactly overwhelming. (Whites were about 44% of the user base and African-Americans about 8% of the user base of both sites - the main racial difference appears to be that Hispanics are on MySpace and Asian-Americans are on FB. There's definitely a correlation between higher education and FB preference, but it's not ginormous.)

Boyd's point seems to be that just because people are self-segregating doesn't mean that the segregation isn't bad. If certain types of people are on one social network and other types of people are on another, those communities are likely to grow farther apart rather than closer together. Fair enough. What she wants us to do about it is less clear, other than "[her] hope is that each and every one of you might begin looking at social media with a critical eye."
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:July 4th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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Thanks, I missed that, though the marketing data I found was pretty similar. As you say, the evidence for the "uncomfortable reality" of white flight is pretty underwhelming when it's 44.9% vs. 44.0%.
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From:rizwank
Date:July 4th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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I didn't find the linkage - gotham_bound did. (And thanks!)

Independent of the analysis of the data or it's trends, I'm a bit concerned about the source of the data.

U.S. News and World Report (2006) ranked this campus among the top 10 national universities as regards campus ethnic diversity, suggesting that this school offers an ideal location for studies of how different kinds of people use online sites and services.

The freshman class at one well-ranked school isn't really enough to graph social network trends across any groups, and UIC isn't exactly a model of ethnic diversity, as least where black students are involved.

UIC versus 4 year Public Colleges - 2004
White - 45.5% vs 76.2%
Black - 8.8% vs 13.6%
Am. Indian - 1.0 vs 2.1%
Asian - 26.2% vs 4.0%
Latino - 19.8% vs 8.2%
Data

And these are kids who got into UIC for their freshman year.

My understanding is that transfers students are more likely to be minorities. If this is the case, then those students (and their different worldviews) aren't included.

This didn't hit kids who weren't college bound and definitely didn't hit the different communities within various minority groups that weren't college bound.

So I call phooey on the original data. There's probably lots of interesting comparisons of active users between Myspace and Facebook, and if I were forced to make a guess, I'd agree that there was probably 'white flight.' (I'm struggling to think of anyone beyond Bino and myself who use twitter who aren't white, now that you think about it.) My understanding is that Facebook is a more educated crowd, and assuming even distribution, you're going to get more white people on FB.
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From:rizwank
Date:July 4th, 2009 02:08 am (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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Additionally, in 2005, only about half the colleges in the states were allowed on facebook. http://www.techcrunch.com/2005/09/07/85-of-college-students-use-facebook/

If a school was on FB, students used it en masse. (I remember when FB came to UCLA -- wildfire!) Some of that cultural bias remains -- if UIC wasn't one of those colleges that could be Facebooked early on, that'd skew the data massively versus if you compared adoption rates at, say, UCLA.
From:boymaenad
Date:July 4th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
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I'm struggling to think of anyone beyond Bino and myself who use twitter who aren't white, now that you think about it.

just as a comment, you probably can't name more than ten Russian LJ users, even though they're the vast majority. and I see this as relating both to how innocuous these things are, and how nocuous (yeah, for real; I looked it up).

I think it's innocuous because social circles are so isolated on most of these sites, you just don't run into total strangers that often, so the user's personal experience on any of these networking sites isn't really relevant data. and nocuous for the same reason; segregation is a given. internet socializing means each of us surrounds oneself with likeminded people who generally reinforce most of our beliefs and choices. it's great to have support, but it does mean that, say, apophallation enthusiasts may feel disturbingly emboldened...

just sharing thoughts here.
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From:ian_tiberius
Date:July 4th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
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A lot of this hinges on the purpose of social networks.

If they are for meeting new people, then segregation would be a feedback loop. If it's for keeping up with old friends, any segregation is merely a symptom.

Personally, the term "social networking" notwithstanding, I've used FB and LJ for a while now and have acquired no new friends through either of them - I use them exclusively to keep in touch with old friends. I don't know if I'm an outlier, though. That actually seems like an intriguing question for a research study - do people meet new friends through social networks?
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:July 4th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)

The singular of data is anecdote

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On MS, I've friended a couple people I didn't know based on a shared interest in Lovecraft, IIRC. FB is all acquaintances and schoolmates, apart from the single-size serving friends acquired for FB game purposes.
I've certainly spent the most time and effort on LJ, and I've branched out quite a bit more. A few LARPers from near and far, a few people I know ultimately from plastic.com, and a few people from religious and irreligious LJ communities.

Oh wait, most of the 'plastic' people are also now FB friends.
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From:gotham_bound
Date:July 4th, 2009 07:40 am (UTC)
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I've used FB and LJ for a while now and have acquired no new friends through either of them
}:P That's because you refuse to link up with others who come by and say hi what's up and I know you from such-and-such and have these friends in common and how's stuff? duh

do people meet new friends through social networks?
Yeah. They can. They do. Depends on the person of course. As hackneyed as the sentiment is, it's true: you get out what you put in. I'm kind of resistant to friending/linking/following people just because of a few similar interests but I've seen other people jump right into that and make hundreds of "friends." I believe the point of social networking was just to make the network available and accessible. Whether you actually got in touch with complete strangers was up to you. (And just because I'm loathe to do it doesn't mean I haven't, I've made a couple of excellent friends over the years

(edited because I'm tired and making silly errors)

Edited at 2009-07-04 07:42 am (UTC)
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From:rizwank
Date:July 4th, 2009 09:10 am (UTC)
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do people meet new friends through social networks?

I used to. This is back in the days of newsgroups and College Club and IRC, but I used to.

Now the online networks are more about tending to
a) physical networks of folks I know / should know.
b) remote networks of people I'll never meet due to distance issues.
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From:gotham_bound
Date:July 4th, 2009 07:33 am (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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'm struggling to think of anyone beyond Bino and myself who use twitter who aren't white, now that you think about it.

*raises a hand*

Interestingly (to me, in light of boyd's blog & talk) I got on Myspace because my siblings were on it. That's the only reason, but once there I connected with people I knew who are overwhelmingly white.

Whatever the military's current standing (for a while there Myspace was verboten), my bro still uses it to communicate with me (sshhhh...) and hasn't migrated to Facebook. As long as no one else forces me to adopt FB to keep up with them, I won't go. Nothing to do with race and everything to do with being fed up with having a zillion of places to log into every day just to say hi to my friends & family.
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From:rizwank
Date:July 4th, 2009 09:06 am (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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Both you and J make excellent points - a flip comment I made detracted from the other points I was trying to call attention to, such as a the selection bias.

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From:rizwank
Date:July 4th, 2009 09:12 am (UTC)

Re: The plural of anecdote is not data

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M, can you strike out "I'm struggling to think of anyone beyond Bino and myself who use twitter who aren't white, now that you think about it.)" --- for some reason, I can't edit my own comment.
From:boymaenad
Date:July 4th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
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fwiw, lj forbids comment editing once there's a reply.
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From:aaronjv
Date:July 4th, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
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OH, SNAP! I'M A ^!@@3R!



MYSPACE IN DA HOUS, YO! KICKIN IT OLD SKoOL OVER HERE!

Was dragged into LJ by essentialsaltes, was dragged into Myspace by Lurkers and softball teammates, hoping desperately not to go to Facebook nor Twitter.

I have begun a cool e-correspondence with a 60+ year-old Australian jazz musician who loves Lovecraft due to Myspace.

I have definitely seen a drop in Myspace activity (boards, bulletins, etc.). I wonder what the demographics for Usenet are?

19 comments? I thought there was a flame war over here. What gives?
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:July 4th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
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I'M A ^!@@3R!

To be fair, you do "have a set of values that terrifies white society."
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From:aaronjv
Date:July 4th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
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HEEEEE!!!!

I love you!
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From:ajax
Date:July 4th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
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*clears throat noisily*

P-R-I-V-I-L-E-G-E.

Honestly, Mr. Saltes, if this kind of thing continues we may be forced to re-evaluate your suitability for Facebook.

Good day!

--- Ajax.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 7th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
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yay for danah! she's a bud of mine and will be thrilled folks are discussing this reality of social networks. i've made the case to most ucla orgs, with the exception of enigma of course, that the class and culture wall betwixt the two is very real. i got to hear the myspace cto talk at a usc class this year and it seemed like myspace will remain a music and film haven. In turn this could lead to people of color and "poorer" folk having more access to media decision makers...
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From:thefayth
Date:July 7th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
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gah, cookie loss, that was from thefayth

Journal of No. 118