My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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blogging is a privilege

Marko critiques Clay in Is the Blogging World Fair? which, in turn, made me think critically about the questions of equality in blogging. Mind you, i’ve only recently started going meta on blogging and bloggers (blame Joi for making my mind swirl on blogs).

I love hearing that blogging is a great equalizer… from straight white men.

Privilege is a funny thing. Often it opens up opportunities that we don’t even realize. Take time, for example. Who has the time to sit online and read, write and discuss all day? A working mother? A migrant worker? Time is money. Very few people have both time and money and most people spend most of their time trying to make ends meet or trying to calm their nerves from the stress induced by the former. Having time to “waste” is privilege.

Next, take voice. Who is taught that they have the right to vocalize any thought about the world to the rest of the world? A proper lady does not spoke unless spoken to. Who has the privilege to critique those in power?

Take a look at the public self-referential blogging culture. We’ve often noted that there are few women. Yet, what percentage are people of color or queer? More notably, what percentage are of working class? And btw: the goal isn’t to be able to successfully name one… but when i look around the blogging world, i will think that it is an equalizer the day that people are represented at least proportionately to their representation in the rest of the world. Until then, i’m committed to my belief that there are factors embedded in the blogging culture that only draw specific types of people. And that those factors edge along notions of privilege. Until we decipher how our technologies promote privilege, we cannot create equalizing technologies.

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22 comments to blogging is a privilege

  • Are blogs just?

    Lou Marinoff described one definition of Justice as “doing the right thing at the right time.” He continued by explaining…

  • Your declared rss feed subscribers
    http://feeds.scripting.com/whoSubscribesTo?who=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.zephoria.org%2Fthoughts%2Findex.rdf
    and the ones for Misbehaving
    http://feeds.scripting.com/whoSubscribesTo?who=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.misbehaving.net%2Findex.rdf

    seems to be mostly men 😉
    for “straight” and “white”, I can’t speak for the others 😉

  • Cheers danah! I think this is an important point to raise (and one for which I, despite many attempts, have been roundly unsuccessful in creating interest or discussion).

  • joe

    good tech. is cheap and transparent… of which computers are not even close (how many people do all of you know that won’t use a computer unless forced to?).

    I think Zeph raises a really good point… if there’s one overarching piece of overhead in the computer world, it’s time (time to read, time to type, time to set up spam filters for your goddamn blog when the porn industry uses you as a soapbox… and if you don’t spend a good deal of time doing this stuff than you’re probably privileged enough to have a secretary!).

    However, once you get a few things (most notably a computer with internet access… which is not that bad these days… as well, it helps to know your way around a computer and the Net), if you can spare the time… you can blog and you can read blogs (we need a snappy verb for reading blogs… I spend a good deal of time doing just that every morning). So in some sense, blogging is a cheap medium… and RSS readers help consolidate the conversations. (which is why I am so grateful to Zeph for showing me Bloglines)

  • Francois – there is no doubt that the majority of the blogs in my feed are straight white men. I manually removed 4 because they are personal, not meant for the public. None were straight, 2 were white and none were men. If i look at the list of 32 blog/journals that i read every day that don’t have feeds (and are also meant to be pubic), 9 are straight white men.

    Furthermore, over 1/2 of the blogs in my feed are for professional upkeep, not actually people that i know and would deem as friends. Sadly, the tech world is still dominated by straight white men. I also know that most of my girlfriends refuse to blog. They think it’s dumb and they don’t even read this one.

  • Interestingly, while the most popular bloggers may be mostly straight, white men, those keeping online journals are mostly teenage girls (http://www.livejournal.com/stats.bml). I suppose they’ve got time to waste, eh?

    Of course “there are factors embedded in the blogging culture that only draw specific types of people”. That’s self-evident. At the most basic level, more men than women are interested in computers. That’s already going to skew the statistics. In North America, causcasians are, on average, wealthier than any minority. Thus, they’re likelier to have access to a computer.

    What’s your point? Should I stop blogging because I’m a straight, white man and give my PC to some gay, homeless, Chinese woman (a rare thing if there ever was one)?

  • The links I gave are list of people reading your blog, not your reading list. Sorry for any misunderstanding…

    >tech world is still dominated by straight white men

    I’ve been comfronted to this for my whole life. And things change sloooowly.

  • Is the world of blogging ‘fair’? And if not what should be done?

    The main point that has been missing so far in the discussion I think is that the barriers to blogging or other self-publishing (in the developed world at least) are not solely (or even mainly) money and time but attitude. It takes a certain att…

  • Mel

    I do think that its a privilege to have a blog. I grew up well below the poverty line and have spent most of my life being poor. In fact, it’s only recently that I got high speed internet. I write freelance so don’t make much of a living so when I recently considered doing a blog I wanted all the features everybody else had. I didn’t realise it would cost so much to host that stuff either. So my boyfriend and I split my typepad as a christmas and birthday present. Some of the blogs I read assume everybody’s got a university education and a palm pilot. That speaks volumes about privilege. Blogs themselves aren’t unjust … it’s the assumptions of the monied digirati that’s the problem. You have to have money and time to play if you’re going to be an early adapter. That’s why most of them are rich white guys. I could give a crap if some French pop listening, toffee-nosed blogger thinks I’m “bitter” for defining the class issue inherent in the trend.

  • Mel

    Added: I meant to add that I think Danah is 100 percent correct in everything she has said above and to express how thankful I am that she is so widely read. These are important issues and deserve more space in the bloggosphere. And by the way, I like some French pop … I just don’t how some tastes seem to go hand in hand with certain kinds of attitudes -namely taste determining status/rank.

  • Bourgeois techno-hobbies

    One of my primary reasons for not getting into blogging until recently is that I didn’t find many blogs I even liked. Most of them struck me as show and tell for spoiled children, “Check out my new [expensive gadget

  • Justice and Blogs and Society (and Blather)

    I ran across this thread in a couple of different places, but I saw it first at Adam Greenfield’s, and then at Joi Ito’s, and then some other people’s sites. The discussion is around whether the blogging world is fair…

  • Sarah Bluehouse

    The thing about minority concerns and privilege is that it usually means that the dominant paradigm needs to sit down, shut up (or quit typing), and listen – very carefully to the voices that aren’t theirs. — Even if it means giving their computer away to a gay, homeless chinese woman.
    But the problem that happens is that when the dominant paradigm gets smacked by the clue by 4 of privilege, they tend to spout privilege theory like buddah… turning up the volume, and appearing enlightened without actually getting the important listening part.

  • Are Bloggers Privileged?

    Danah writes that blogging is a privilege, with preference to straight white males. Maybe at the top of the Technorati

  • The only blogger who’s making a living at it is a gay white male.

    Did you know there are a huge number of blogs in Iran, in both Persian and English? To the extent that Persian is the 3rd most populous blog language after English and French? Did you know that Persian bloggers and their friends pressured the Iranian govt. to release an Iranian journalist from jail before Amnesty even acknowledged the problem? These blogs are the samizdata of the Iranian people. Many of these bloggers are women and none of them are white.

    There are internet cafes all over Iraq now and at least 10 Iraqi bloggers who get lots of traffic. Most of them are men but they aren’t white either. One of them blogged the huge anti-terrorism demonstrations that the Western media weren’t covering, and got a spread in Weekly Standard.

    The Command Post – which was read by millions during the Iraq war and still gets lots of traffic – was started by a woman whose own blog is pretty popular.

    Joi Ito isn’t white.

    You need to get out more.

  • The only blogger who’s making a living at it is a gay white male.

    Did you know there are a huge number of blogs in Iran, in both Persian and English? To the extent that Persian is the 3rd most populous blog language after English and French? Did you know that Persian bloggers and their friends pressured the Iranian govt. to release an Iranian journalist from jail before Amnesty even acknowledged the problem? These blogs are the samizdata of the Iranian people. Many of these bloggers are women and none of them are white.

    There are internet cafes all over Iraq now and at least 10 Iraqi bloggers who get lots of traffic. Most of them are men but they aren’t white either. One of them blogged the huge anti-terrorism demonstrations that the Western media weren’t covering, and got a spread in Weekly Standard.

    The Command Post – which was read by millions during the Iraq war and still gets lots of traffic – was started by a woman whose own blog is pretty popular.

    Joi Ito isn’t white.

    You need to get out more.

  • Blogging a Privilege? How about technology in general

    Dana was asking the question, Is blogging a privilege. I tried to follow the leadup stories to this question, but there was way conversation flying around for my little mind to grasp. While I wouldn’t use the word privilege (or…

  • Race, Gender and Blogging

    Over at Misbehaving (and excellent site, by the way), danah boyd asks “why are bloggers mostly straight white men?” She writes: Women are often purported to be the primary social network maintainers, the communicative sex. Yet, the more tim…

  • Race, Gender and Blogging

    Over at Misbehaving (an excellent site, by the way), danah boyd asks “why are bloggers mostly straight white men?” She writes: Women are often purported to be the primary social network maintainers, the communicative sex. Yet, the more time…

  • Race, Gender and Blogging

    Over at Misbehaving (an excellent site, by the way), danah boyd asks “why are bloggers mostly straight white men?” She writes: Women are often purported to be the primary social network maintainers, the communicative sex. Yet, the more time…

  • Again with the “women and blogging” meme

    Two posts turned up this week about proportions of male and female bloggers and blog-readers: Joho the Blog: Girls keep out? is entirely about it, and Political Animal: The Blogosphere… mentions it in addition to things like average education level….

  • Again with the “women and blogging” meme

    Two posts turned up this week about proportions of male and female bloggers and blog-readers: Joho the Blog: Girls keep out? is entirely about it, and Political Animal: The Blogosphere… mentions it in addition to things like average education level….