Where Are the Black Tech Bloggers?

My write-up about this year’s SXSWi is on Popular Mechanics‘ website now, should you care to see what I was up to last weekend between parties. (Actually, it’s a testament to how much I enjoy SXSWi panels that I tend to turn in early, despite Austin’s inherent propensity for all-night ridiculousness.)

I’d like to take a moment to talk about one panel in particular, since I ended up getting more involved in it that I expected. Here was how I described it in my PopMech thing:

One of the last talks I attended asked, “Where Are the Black Tech Bloggers?” Some suggested that programming and design have become more economically favorable of late‚Äďand thus more and more attractive compared to, say, the doctors and lawyers of the world. And while no quorum was reached per se, the sharp panelists, including Newsweek’s brilliant games and technology writer N’Gai Croal, made it clear that despite whatever barriers may impede the black community from engaging in the world of technology, lack of ability is not one of them.

An additional point was removed in the edit process, in which I had pointed out that the first generation of black people who went to college probably had strong external pressure from their parents to go after traditionally lucrative careers instead of more creative, financially risky positions. Or at least that’s what the panelists guessed. Not a big omission, just an interesting aspect that is probably endemic to all cultural groups that are sending their best and brightest to college for the first time.

My self-quote above, while safely twee, more-or-less sums up how I feel about it: there are tons of overarching cultural issues that have come into play to prevent or retard the addition of black people to our relatively cloistered world of tech punditry, but the only thing those of us who are part of the white, male majority can do in the immediate space is to just make sure that the best work rises to the top regardless of the race or gender of its creator while not discounting discussion of “black” issues as being unnecessarily or uncomfortably niche—especially if they overlap with subjects that we’re all otherwise interested in, like games and gadgets.

Does that make sense? In short, I love working out my perceptions and opinions about race and our shared history, because sometimes I uncover some latent racism that I didn’t know I was dealing with and sometimes I discover I’ve been too timid about sharing my opinions out of fear of the label of racism. Discussion is part of the way forward.

So to answer the question here is a small sampling of some of the black tech bloggers out there, pulled from panel host Lynne D. Johnson’s page.

The panelists, :

Angela Benton – BlackWeb2.0
N’Gai Croal – Level Up
Darla Mack – Darla Mack: Days In The Life of a Mobile Diva
Ronald Lewis – 24/7 with Ronald Lewis
Lena West – Social Media 360 and TechForward
Craig Nulan – Subrealism: Liminal Perspectives on Consensus Reality

Another list of black tech bloggers from Lynne:
Blackhacker
Bwana.org
Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life
jeepbastard: Entertainment Technology
MARS Magazine
Media Mafia Think Tank
The Meshverse Journal
The Michael Hurdle Show
NerdwithSwag.com
Nigga Know Technology [Okay, I perused this one because of the URL and I can safely report that the blogger thinks it's okay to call people "faggots" and asian girls "sleepyheads, them oriental, them horizontal pussy having Gochi Gochi Yagatochi bitches." The lesson? Anyone can be an asshole! Which, you know, duh. – Joel]
Rochelle Robinson
Roney Smith
Teradome
Terry White’s Tech Blog
tiffany b. brown
Wisdump
w4 network

And who could forget Gearlive‘s Andru Edwards?

Beyond that, black tech bloggers, what should the rest of us do, if anything? That’s something we didn’t really get time to talk about at SXSWi.

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30 Responses to Where Are the Black Tech Bloggers?

  1. RexRhino says:

    If there is a lack of black tech bloggers, wouldn’t that imply some sort of institutional racism against black tech bloggers?

    I suppose most bloggers aren’t making a living at it so it is irrelevent for most people, but wouldn’t the law require professional for-profit tech blogs to take affirmative action to remedy a lack of black tech bloggers? Or are more “freelance” situations like blogs exempt from that sort of legal protections? And if so, why?

  2. kerry says:

    @David Carroll:
    It’s significant to point out a lack of Black tech bloggers for the same reasons it’s significant to point out female tech bloggers, but is not significant to point out White or Asian tech bloggers: there aren’t very many of them, suggesting that something is steering them away. Considering that there should be nothing about blogging itself to keep certain groups of people away, there must be some other reason, and that’s worth contemplating.

  3. Anonymous says:

    http://www.urban20.com is just getting started but hopes to be the answer to this question. It was started by the same dude who runs http://www.greasyguide.com

  4. Not a Doktor says:

    I love niggaknow, reminds me of my longshoreman grandpa

    only on the the internet can you get away with that nowadays

  5. Anonymous says:

    Someone asked during the “Where Are the Black Tech Bloggers” panel at SXSW if a site would be created to help black people working in technology network together. The answer was “we’re working on it”. I’m not sure if they have completed their site, but I set up such an online community called AfriTechnology. It can be found at

    http://www.AfriTechnology.com

    Registering is absolutely free, and I hope this can be the site that helps black technologists network, help each other, and discuss the unique issues faced by those of African descent who make their living in the tech world.

  6. Anonymous says:

    We have Black Technology now?

    I wish there was a more complete write-up of this panel: Tech, if anything, has been the most powerful force in getting voices out this century (getting heard, or linked to, is the complex matter) — in that sense, I completely agree with N’Gai Croal. But just take a scan of EbonyJet.com’s tech section (http://www.ebonyjet.com/buzz/), where Wil O’Neal now does a podcast, and try to find what makes any of their articles “black.” I can’t.

    The reality is that if I put my race front and center on my blog, and in how I promote my authoring of it, I bet my traffic would increase on just that. That says a lot about how people relate to each other, how they look for new people, and how they connect to each other, and this is exactly the issue that affects blogging *regardless of subject* and online presence in general on internet.

    That’s the subject a panel really should have been talking about, but I don’t know if they did.

  7. punctiliouspig says:

    I think #8 has the best response to this thus far.
    Those topics on race come up at every conference in every industry. I think the issue of access to the tools necessary for the tech industry is definitely one that might turn out to have huge gaps based on racial and economic communities.

    re: blogging/stuffwhitepeoplelike/websiteihate
    Maybe the seeming plethora of white (tech) blogs is because white people are used to their opinions and ideas being accepted more..if not just as personal things but ones to take seriously or be adopted by others. Take the new startup Tumblr and the stuff they have on their homepage/radar. White. Wash. Also, very boring and not at all diverse and lots of the bloggers are tech nerds.

    Or maybe since, as one blogger said, they just don’t claim their ethnicity because most people don’t. And would BoingBoing or any popular site regularly visit such sites for information from other communities that weren’t blogging about an ethnic/culture crisis? The internet is special when it comes to having potentially low levels of ‘isms’ but I don’t think it’s at all immune from clique communities.

  8. Shoo says:

    first off let me say this. As a black person who is not a geek, I have to say loudly that NO! black people are not where they should be in the tech, social and cultural fields, they are way behind.the solutions to those problems will not be found sxsw panels and certainly not here. Black folks in their struggle to survive are not doing the innovative steps needed that will truly make us players in the future. and i am not talking about a few reporters/bloggers on the sidelines. I have no more to say on that front.
    I took the time to post because I wanted to say a few words to the writer of this article. I cannot prove it,but I believe the web site mentioned above called “NiggaKnowTechnology.com” is NOT a black site, but a minstrel, blackface site written by whites, for whites to debase and ridicule black people. its NOT black culture, its WHITE culture at its most psychotic. its part of the anti-black hipster culture. a new mlk birthday tradition around college campuses is for white students have little parties where people are in blackface. there are a lot of al jolson wannable sites and areas such as this one: niggaspace, urbandictionary, joel.net/EBONICS, loren-feldman/technigga controversy(i wouldnt be surprised if loren-feldmen wasnt really behind nkt.com) pimp-ho sites, the “lootie” guy etc. its bad enough that the white press have pointed to some of these sites as “references”, but for black folks to start posting on these sites is completely pathetic! its desperate behavior similar to black folks who copied white minstrels of over a hundreds years ago. that some black “intellectuals” are so gormless as to not recognize a black face site is one thing, but i find it hard to believe the white author didnt recognize an obvious blackface site. i found him to be disingenuous when chastises nkt.com for calling gay ‘…. “faggots” and asian girls “sleepyheads, them oriental, them horizontal pussy having Gochi Gochi Yagatochi bitches.”‘ like its something blacks folks should apologize for when its most likely whites in blackface. I have been on the internet for 17 years now, and i know all the nasty mind games people like to play all too well, and its just not funny anymore.

    • Joel Johnson says:

      @Shoo: Presuming that it’s possible there is a black bigot on the net does not actually make me racist. That’s kind of a weird presumption for you to make. Also, I’m not asking for black people to apologize for his site or take any responsibility for it, no more than I would expect to be held responsible for whitehouse.gov.

  9. Simian Downtime Analyst says:

    well,

    I’m black, female, homosexual, and I blog about gadgets all the time.
    I am apparently not supposed to exist.
    I do not plaster it all over my blog, though I do mention the female part in their somewhere. I’m more forcused on the tech news than a bio, have other blogs for that stuff.

  10. David Carroll says:

    Kerry (#5):

    I agree that common sense would suggest that all groups should be proportionately represented in the blogosphere. They are not. If we can establish that there are no barriers to entry imposed on anyone, then I guess that’s that. How to go about finding any barriers is beyond me.

    It would be great if blogs were more diverse, but people have free will. You can’t make them start a blog to satisfy your common sense.

    P.S. I checked your Flickr! page. Very nice!

  11. David Carroll says:

    When I read the title of this post thought you were talking about black vs white hat hackers or something. I don’t think that race has anything to do with tech blogging. Or anything else.

    Culture on the other hand is important to most people so it might make sense to index non-tech blogs that way..

    When you come up with a list of Irish / Scottish / Canadian / male / +40 / sedentary / photography /low salt blogs give me a ring…

  12. Mikey Likes BoingBoing says:

    Uh oh. Here comes that crusty embittered hag Geraldine Ferraro, eager to share her opinion on this matter…

  13. Qozmiq says:

    Where are the black tech bloggers? Probably taking up the slack of the white BoingBoing tech blogger. I mean, for a million dollar blog, JJ sure seems to be resting on his laurels. Or his Heineken Tapper. Drunken haircuts? Modern Mechanics reposts? HayZeus, can we get a real gadget blogger here? I am making a spreadsheet of how many posts per day over the last month, taking out the BS MODMECH rehash links, and things that are not actually wonderful gadgets,(not even close) and I mean, this guy gets paid? I absolutely LOVE this site, but their choice of gadget guru leaves light years to be desired. Other tech blogs are leaving you in the dust, compadre.

  14. Shoo says:

    Hi. first of all, i didnt say that presuming that a black bigot on the net makes you racist, and i didnt say anything about you asking black folks to apologize either. thats evasiveness and redirection. I am saying you knew its not likely to be a black site to begin with and its obvious because you didnt even respond on the existance of blackface kind of sites. i think its just a little dishonest of you not to acknowledge that.
    the whites on these sites know they are not talking to black people most of the time and they certainly know the site owner is white.

    • Joel Johnson says:

      @Shoo: We’re just going to have to disagree, then. It actually never crossed my mind that that site was written by a white person, although I certainly acknowledge now that it’s possible.

  15. sharkcellar says:

    Tryin’ to find a job bro. Peace.

  16. DeWynken says:

    I too expected Black Tech to be a reference to something cool like #2 thought, vs another clueless race thingy.

    Although honestly I’d like to see more Indian tech blogs…feather not dot.

  17. Anonymous says:

    That’s all right…

    On the internet nobody can tell I’m a Panda.

  18. mpaper says:

    I am a “Black” tech blogger. My site is morningpaper.typepad.com. Boing has linked us a few times actually. I have a staff of writers, three of which are Black. I nor do they seem to feel the need to advertise that fact in description or writing style. Just don’t see the point. And I for one certainly do not wish to classify myself by using certain words or phrases that are deemed “Black”. But to each his/her own. My personal opinion is the internet can be that place where race and gender don’t matter. If folks like what you do, they should be able to so without term limits. The Blogisphere can be that place where people begin to understand that we are all basically the same.

    I think you may be surprised at how many bloggers are Black, Latin and Asian. I have been (sadly) surprised many times. Even by writers I have hired to write, and found myself shocked to discover they were Black. And that very “surprise” is the problem. Why should I be surprised? The Media and entertainment industry have put Blacks in a box for so long, that even when Black people peer in, we’re surprised by what we find.

  19. nex says:

    What is Black Tech and why should we blog about it?

    But seriously: what is niggaknow doing on that list?

  20. Anonymous says:

    I was holding my breath waiting for someone to coin the term “bligger”. Thank goodness nobody would be that crass these days.

  21. Halloween Jack says:

    You’re not a brother-man, Joel? Color me shocked.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I’m too lazy to create an account, especially since this will probably be one of three comments I will ever post here.

    Anyhow: Darla Mack and Craig Nulan could not make it and were not on the panel. Cheryl Coward (www.cherylcoward.com) and I (Tiffany B. Brown, http://www.tiffanybbrown.com) filled in for them at the last minute.

    That said @David Carroll: The question isn’t just why aren’t more black people blogging about tech. Actually, I’d argue that there are plenty of us doing just that. The better question — one I’m disappointed we didn’t ask — is Why do we assume that there are no black people blogging about tech?

    That’s an issue of perception, geek culture, race, gender and class privilege. One illustrative point: why are Madden and NBA Live fans not conceived of as Gamer Geeks in the same way that players of Final Fantasy or WoW are?

    The other point (And why does this even need explaining?) is that the people who are using the produts and tools aren’t involved in creating them. What constraints on people’s income, living situation, culture, etc. are we just completely missing out on because they’re not at the table?

    No, that’s not specifically a black thing, but it is something that most people who are not some kind of minority (used in the sociological sense, not the numbers sense) tend not to get. And it’s those same issues that minorities are more likely to blog about.

  23. clothingoptional says:

    Don’t forget Hank Williams. His site is “Why Does Everything Suck”

    http://whydoeseverythingsuck.com

  24. strider_mt2k says:

    One of the reasons I like BoingBoing is the open and interesting discussions that come from the posts.

    For me personally it’s about the tech.

    I am, however reminded of the David Cross routine about racist zombies…

  25. CantEvenGo says:

    Black Tech Bloggers are just the tip of the iceberg. The problem with their lack of visibility is the problem with Black blogs overall. Because they properly conflate their online existence with their offline social status, they are condemned to “niche” status.

    This isn’t just a social phenomenon (or homophily, if you will) – it’s not just about “who links to whom”. Try googling for “Black tech blogger”* or even better, google for “(Black OR African*American) blog”. The web’s limitations as a discursive medium come to the fore – how do you disambiguate “Black” (culture) and “Black” color?

    But even more interesting to me is the Web’s SYMBOLIC deficit…the normative cultural racial portrayal of online culture (the Web) is “color-blind” (as some commenters here have said) but it translates into “White” from my educated (and Black) perspective. For those playing along from home, that means that THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE WEB IS THE CONFLATION OF WHITE (offline) SOCIAL STATUS WITH ONLINE IDENTITY.

    The internet is so overwhelmingly White – with all of the cultural, historical, social baggage attached – that POSITIVE mentions of Black culture bring out the “race trolls” with their snarky comments about “not seeing race”. and let me be clear…Black people who say that they “don’t see race” are just as confused as White people who say that. Facebook is the most popular Website out there right now…and has NO option for identifying yourself by race(!) or even searching for other POC.

    Tech is even worse, culturally. When i go to tech conferences, i can count the number of Black people on one hand. The NSF has funded grants in the millions to rectify problems with racial and gender diversity in STEM, with middling-to-poor results in terms of representation. Research about race and technology follows the same ol’ path; the stuff that gets published and promoted features deficit models – brown people “just trying to keep up”. Public discourse about race and technology focuses on tech illiteracy and dropout rates.

    It’s unsurprising to me, that there are a surprising number of Black tech bloggers. Black people have had a contested relationship with technology since before the Internet – why WOULDN’T we be all over new tech like “white on rice?” we’re just as American as the rest of y’all, with all that portends for our love affair with technoculture.

    Thanks for giving this some light, joel. i’m sure it will end up with little or no OVERALL effect on content providers, but for readers like me, it’s good to know that people like me write about stuff i like.

    now…can you get some POC bloggers over at IO9??!? it’s so white over there that i can’t even read the damn thing…

    ——
    *today’s search results are hyperinflated because of the attention garnered by the topic at SXSW (and on here), so the majority of links are not ABOUT black tech blogs..they’re about Lynne’s comments on the lack of Black tech blog attention, with few links to any of the blogs Lynne or Joel mentioned

  26. hightechsister says:

    I’m a black technology blogger, I run hightechsister.com. I think there are more black tech bloggers in the blogosphere than we think. Quite frequently we really don’t know who the actual blog publishers are.

  27. cha0tic says:

    Things White People Like #1247 – Blogging

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