Race and the Digital: Racial Formation and 21st Century Technologies


Now that Facebook has been established as the platform with the most potential to reach vast amounts of people, we can turn to the content that is actually featured. This content on Facebook varies in terms of its consumers and its creators, which can be from everyday people to professional businesses.
Also, as I mentioned before, just because someone does not have a user account does not mean that they do know know of Facebook and that they are oblivious to its content. I have conversed with people who do not have profiles either because they do not like to “post about their lives” or because they don’t want to “jump on the bandwagon”, however, the point is that they are aware and that inevitable through their internet use will encounter it. Strategic business-people also know that it is important to have an online presence, and that often translates into having a Facebook page.
Facebook, as a popular social media platform also holds value as a pop culture fad (since other sites like Hi5 and Myspace came before it). The children that I worked with in Mexico City all knew about Facebook and most had their own profiles, even if they didn’t log in everyday. Going online was exciting for them, and the things they found often resonated with them. The day-laborers I work with in Downtown Los Angeles, many of whom live day-to-day and do not have homes, also know about Facebook and even have profiles themselves (which they access when they go to labor-centers). These are examples of people who might have fallen through the cracks of statistical analysis. They also show that even though they are not in the best living conditions, the popularity of Facebook transcends their current situations (which, as often times happens with everyone, will change).
Another thing worth noting is the importance of the network part of the “social networking”. Even though one might enjoy watching cat videos on Facebook, someone in their network might also enjoy posting about social justice. And, social justice is precisely what I would like to focus on because since the advent of participatory internet capabilities, activism has taken a new turn.
But, before I give examples, I want to address an important point found in Henry Jenkins’s “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide”. He writes:

While I believe very firmly in the potential for participatory culture to serve as a catalyst for revitalizing civic life, we still fall short of the full realization of those ideals… An open platform does not necessarily ensure diversity… The mechanisms of user moderation work well when they help us to evaluate collectively the merits of individual contributions and thus push to the top the “best” content; they work badly when they preempt the expression of minority perspectives and hide unpopular alternative content from view. p 290.

I would like to emphasis the word potential and point out that there is no platform in the world that really is “diverse”. There are efforts to diversify, but there are always some left out. This is a cruel, realist analysis that does not mean that it is a fair or just situation, but it is inevitably real. This is true from more than just media, it can include college campuses to even the United Nations. Thus, I think the internet is actually swaying towards potential of diversity. It has many elements and user participation is an important quality that give it a “grass-roots” dimension. Facebook itself allows users to follow and engage people/pages that align with the types of content they want to see (A). However, exposure is broadened by people’s networks because we all have multi-faceted interests.
I would also like to point out that internet-participation has many dimensions. For example, uploading a picture of an injustice onto the internet is one form of participation. Commenting on this picture or sharing it constitute other examples of other forms of participation. Starting an online petition, or organizing a physical march for it, are also examples. Showing that picture to your elderly grandmother is another form of participation that has just engaged someone else, even though they might not have internet access or a social media account. Ultimately, the internet can touch many people in several different ways, with not all of them being digital. Many times statistical data does not capture all of these ways, but it is important to note that they do exist.

Many activist and activism efforts and campaigns have seen themselves manifested into Facebook pages and Facebook groups. As a movement grows and engages more people, these make use of their varied skills. Their mere presence and their engagement of internet trends like "memes" enhance their appeal to different communities (B). Many campaigns (and businesses) now have a social media correspondent because they are aware of the importance of it (C). Furthermore, a great component to Facebook is that its users can create or support another's creation and make it go viral through their interactions with it (see examples below). 


(A) Upon logging into my account this morning, this was the first thing on my newsfeed because two of my friends interacted with it. | If I share this, my mom will see it (as she has her own account), even though she usually wouldn't post about this herself, she is now aware.

(B) Note the humor, note the engagement of the ex-president of Mexico, and note the "likes" the picture received.

(C) Prolific pages have also made utilized Facebook to get their word out. The renowned, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, located in Downtown Los Angeles and catering to a primarily Latino population has their own page. Note how many likes it has and what it is promoting in relation to an upcoming activist-favorite event, MAY DAY.


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