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


Choosing Klout as the new media source for my paper stems from my schedule this quarter. I am taking a Civic Engagement course called "Engaging LA". It is a service learning course that motivates students to be influential leaders in communities they interact with; being that we are UCLA students, and as can be inferred by the title, the community of focus is Los Angeles. In "Engaging LA", I received the opportunity to intern at City Hall for the Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which is also known as Empower LA. On the first day, my colleague and I were offered different tasks to be a part of, among them to participate, volunteer and document election polls. The Outreach Coordinator, Arin Abedian, then mentioned the website and mobile application, Klout, and proceeded to share that organizations and people obtained a numerical score between one and one-hundred, depending on how well-known and active one is on social media.
During this discussion, I recalled Week 2 Tuesday's lecture about Convergence Culture. The class discussed that people use platforms (as consumers) to get what they really want; they do not follow the mainstream usage of a platform and instead creates their own definition of what it needs to be used, just like YouTube was recreated and used as a tool in the 2008 presidential campaign. I learned that Klout could be used in conjunction with one's Twitter and Facebook accounts (in Empower LA's case their accounts) so people, organizations and businesses may increase their score and be more well known among the masses. I also was skeptical about using such an app because I had an old cell phone with limited storage and no knowledge about Klout; I also then asked if it could be accessed on the internet on a PC. Week 3 Thurday's lecture came to mind as I remembered the class discussion about who has access to Information Communication Technologies and the different degrees of access exist.
Two data sets that will allow me to show that Klout are the Pew Research Center's "The Demographics of Social Media Users-2012", February 2013 and the U.S. Census Bureau's "Computer and Internet Use in the United States: Population Characteristics", May 2013. Both have a focus in the year 2011, which was a pivotal time for Klout as there was an increase in social media platforms by the general public in the United States. The latter provides charts of "Household Internet Use by Race and Ethnicity, Education, and Age: 2000-2011", "Reported Computer and Internet Use, by Selected Individual Characteristics: 2011" and "Smartphone Use, by Selected Characteristics: 2011", all which show a low percent of usage and participation of ICTs among minorities, such as Hispanics and Blacks. The former includes charts of "Social Networking Sites", "Twitter", and "Facebook" as I intend to show the low percentages of minorities that utilize these platforms thus to an extent a low percentage of participation and engagement of them on Klout. This information will assist my claim of the failure of the color-blind society to exist, which causes the digital divide to continue. Acknowledging who is affected by the digital divide and implementing ways to erase it, as suggested by the authors of the course readings, will be a topic that my paper will expand upon.

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