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Blogs and gender and age and location

One of the more unusual things I’ve noticed about the blogosphere is the way that discrimination disappears. The people I read, the people I link to, the people who read this blog, whatever cut I choose, everything seems to level out. Barriers to entry are low, and, despite recent blogosphere events, threats to personal space are also low. This is something enterprises strive to do, yet it happens naturally on the blogosphere. The power of volunteers.

Maybe that’s why the concept of unconferences really caught on. Not because people wanted to rebel against the establishment per se, but because the traditional conference process had the traditional discriminatory walls built in.

BTW, the kernel for this post was a comment by Hazel on a recent cricket post of mine. And here’s something I couldn’t do before, point Hazel towards a knitting blog that I’ve visited a few times, one that appears to be received well. While I’ve never met the author of the blog, we have a connection. Children at the same school. How did I find out? Conversation over dinner with other parents whom we’re close to.

So there’s something else that blogs help me do. Connect people I’ve never met with people I’ve never met.

It’s been a great week for me, a week where I could connect with old college friends while they were playing a reunion gig thousands of miles away. Yes it could have happened with snail mail or telephone, but it didn’t. It happened because of blogs. [Thanks, Chukti. It was great to be able to speak to Bertie and Fuzz, though I missed Mel].

Update:

Saw this, serendipitously, via Boing Boing:

Multiple surveys confirm that females outnumber males online in the US, with “no significant gender gap in internet usage”.

I believe Pew was signalling this anyway, but I’d be interested in seeing the statistics about gender or age or nationality and their relationships with blogs. Dave the LifeKludger has made the point of the enfrachising power of the web before, and powerfully.

Posted in Four pillars .


4 Responses

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  1. Stephen Smoliar says

    JP, may I assume that this means that you do not believe the death threat against Kathy Sierra was an act of discriminatory rage? On the basis of the various accounts I have read, I would say that there are quite a few people out there who would disagree very strongly! As you might guess, my counter-position is that all of us are, as Nietszche put at, all-too-human; and that all-too-humanity surfaces in the virtual world as readily as it does in the physical.

    This, of course, also reflects on the question of anonymity. Having just listened to Clive James’ hour-long stream-of-consciousness rave over his CULTURAL AMNESIA book, I have to wonder to what extent the “cultural amnesia” of cyberspace has lost touch with the concept of samizdat. The good news is that it has a Wikipedia entry:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samizdat

    My point, however, is that there are people out there with important things to say who can only say them under the assurance of a well-maintained anonymity. I would not want to throw out those babies along with the bathwater of those who use their anonymity for brutally childish pursuits.

    We would all like cyberspace to be a safer place. Hopefully, enough of us object to fascism being the price for that safety. We need a discussion that balances the blindness of optimism against the hopelessness of despair. Both are all-too-human traits that will never be eliminated. However, if we put off that discussion (just as most countries have put off discussion of global warming), cyberspace could easily spin into either an authoritarianism more oppressive than Stalin’s or a global village of street fighting bloodier than Deadwood! Who will rise to the need for reasoned discourse?

  2. JP says

    Why put words in my mouth, Stephen? What I said was “despite recent blogosphere events, threats to personal space are low.”

    Of course what Kathy faced was an explicit and violent threat, based quite clearly on discriminatory attitudes.

    There have been discriminatory events in the blogosphere for sure. There have been threatening events. There have even been tragedies where the threats have been carried out.

    This does not change my basic statement. The blogosphere does not have discriminatory barriers built into its DNA. Which is a good thing.

  3. Stephen Smoliar says

    JP, thank you for clarifying the point of our disagreement; but I think the disagreement is still there. Wittgensteinian that I am, I still believe that the blogosphere is neither more nor less than what its users make of it, regardless of what its affordances (a term I prefer to DNA, since the latter carries a slight hint of pathetic fallacy) may be. Put another way, if we agree with Tim O’Reilly about the presence of “really messed-up people on the internet [sic BBC],” then they will do what they do whatever the blogosphere may dispose them to do. I’m sorry if my vision is too dark, but that may be part of MY (at least cultural) DNA!

  4. Hazel says

    Blogs and gender and age and discrimination
    Surely we’re all in this for the fun? No matter that I’m an oldie and you’re ?? I’m white Anglo-Saxon middle England and you’re ?? So what? Does it matter? The dark side of the Internet and the blogosphere will rear its head every now and again – as the dark side of life does in reality. It’s just that in the virtual world it’s actually harder to ignore since the indecency and verbal violence comes into your home and you can’t walk away from it. That’s enough of using what Stephen says is “dark vision”. Thank you so much for the knitblog. Such a wonderful use of colour to illustrate ideas throughout that it’s worth looking at for that alone.



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