Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Guerilla Blogging

So I have repeatedly been attracted to the blogosphere and repeatedly been repelled. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Michele Montas an award winning journalist and widow of Jean Dominique (Agronomist 2003) (thank you SCOR for a kick ass conference). In discussing the role of media and the potential for an authentic critical voice, she suggested that one area of prospect and hope were blogs. Now I usually look at blogs for people's takes on news, after all they are not verifiable, and there is no quality control, but I had often put blogs off as a lot of bang for a little buck. To hear her mention them as a tool of critique, I really had to rethink this blogging thing. It's commonly acknowledged that a finite number of people control the stories we read and hear on the news. When I was younger, that frightened me, now it just pisses me off!

One of the first issues with blogging as revolutionary would be the digital divide. Even though in the last ten years access to the internet has increased greatly in public spaces (i.e. libraries, coffee shops, even McDonald's and KFC) there are still a number of folks who are without access to the internet. There are of course a number of barriers. If you aren't computer literate, blogs are about as much an option as me walking onto the Pistons. With that said, I have found a lot of blogs out there that deal with issues of race, class and gender that make me hopeful that not just rich white men are in the blogosphere. Not that I have anything against rich White men, but controlling all the media is just not playing fair ;) Even as blogging becomes more common and people have more options on blogging software there is the inevitable issues of voice and silence come up. There are plenty of company blogs, wikis, and other variations that exist to help people their ideas out to the masses. Some of my good friends blog for comedic relief, political jousting, and even as a reflection of their work experiences. Which lead me to thinking about the lines between formal and informal blogging. Granted, blogging is rather informal by definition but ther are a number of ways blogs can be used. Is it constructed to be an alternative to the news? Is it a personal reflection? Or is it something you can use to cover your ass if you mess up on an official publication? I guess it can be all of those, but I personally want them to be radical and critical... enter my bias.

So how do people get to your blog? How do people connect to your ideas? How can you know you're going to find the information you want from the sources you trust? It's hard to come by. People get to blogs through so many different ways, but still there is no formal way of categorizing them. I have taken notice of Technorati's work, but trust me, I'm sure 9 out of 9, I mean 10 people don't know about Technorati and are still using google to enter the blogosphere. Unfortunately the more we categorize, sanitize, and organize the less power the blog may have. But on the other hand, the 1 bajillion blogs that exist can't possibly be what we need.

In closing, while talking with Ms. Montas one of my friends asked her for her favorite blogs. I sat there waiting, waiting to hear from a woman who knew the power of media and had been doing it for so many years...Unfortunately she never revealed her sources. So I'm still looking for something revolutionary, if it will come in the form of a blog is yet to be seen.

p.s. If you'd like to hear Haunani-Kay Trask's keynote from the SCOR conference click here.
p.p.s. It's really annoying that blogger's spell check always comes up with "blog" as a word spelled incorrectly.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Case

So I figured once enough people asked about it, then I'd post. Here are the top five questions about the recently filed complaint by Black graduate engineering students:

1) Dumi, what do you know about this?
As most of our readers are now aware U of M was named in a complaint to the US Department of Education. The complaint is spearheaded by Simeon Anderson a Black PhD student in Engineering. Prior to his filing of the complaint I did hear that he was working on "something" and he was compiling experiences of Black students at U of M. So when the new story broke I was not surprised, but I was intrigued.

2) Dumi, do you know this guy or are you one of the people who is filing?
Despite my obsession with Blackness and graduate education, I am not one of the filers. I do not know Simeon, but we share a few mutual associates. In the near future I may have an opportunity to learn a bit more about where his head and the heads of other Coalition for Action Against Racism and Discrimination members are at. Right now, I'm still learning.

3)Dumi, have you seen the complaint?
I have seen a version of the complaint, I do not know if it was the complaint that was filed to the US Department of Education, but I have read it a couple of times.

4)Dumi, how you gonna say you saw the complaint but not tell use about it?
Well, because I don't know Simeon (yet) and I know that sometimes discussing non-public things (or items that haven't been FOIA'ed yet) can be counter-productive to the needs of those who filed them. I've contact Simeon, if he'd like me to post the complaint, I will. Remember, I'm not a journalist, I just play one in cyberspace.

5) So what do you think will happen?
This is the most tricky of all the questions that people have asked me. First, I don't have access to all the materials of the complaint nor the statement of all members of the Coalition, so predicting with little data can be dangerous. Man those X years of stats really paid off, huh?

But on the real, I'll be watching the situation closely. It is occurring in a very interesting political climate. I've seen a number of conservative responses to the complaint which essentially boil down to unqualified or underqualified applicant theses. These are always interesting to me because people know nothing about him except his race and that he filed a complaint of discrimination. Somehow the next response is to jump to one of these "theories." It seems to me, before one should advocate these theories, one should have access to his (and others') academic records, maybe that's too much to ask... or as my mom would say "too much like right."

Obviously in the face of MCRI, this stands to create a tense relationship between the U and people of color... particularly in the public eye. So I'm sure that the conservakids will try to use this to spread their messages of anti-race preferences as they campaign to 'give us free' of discrimination.

Lastly, the bar of demonstrating discrimination in the contemporary United States is extremely high. Even if everything Simeon and coalition said is true, the pending investigation will likely not find discrimination- or rather racial discrimination. Oops, well there it is, a prediction. My prediction is honestly based more on the political climate than the facts of the case, so I would not mind being proved wrong.

Aight, those are my five responses to the top five questions. Thoughts?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hello World

Before I begin my contributions to the digital marketplace of ideas I figure I'll tell the world a little about myself. First of all I'm a Senior English major here at the University of Michigan . I'm a Resident Advisor at Mosher Jordan Hall, I'm an Opinion Columnist for the Michigan Daily , and I sporadically attend meetings for several black campus organizations.

In addition to that riveting bio I figure I'll give you a few more tidbits about my personality that can't be inferred from the skeletal info above. In what I believe to be the style of Scoop Jackson's original introduction to (I can't, for the life of me, find the actual article--it's not listed in his personal archive) I'm going to give you a few of my beliefs.

I believe that the triple is the most exiting play in baseball.

I believe that the concepts of Black Pride and Black Power are not as anti-white people as the standard, Fox News watching, right-winger thinks. It's more about black people having self love.

I believe I will probably have a harder time convincing people of that last belief than any other thing in the world.

I believe that Chauncey Billups' command over the game of basketball right now is the stuff of legend.

I believe that Spring and Summer in Ann Arbor are fantastic.

I believe that I may be the first black person to give utterance to that sentiment.

I believe that purchasing a slice of pepperoni pizza and eating it while walking around aimlessly is one of life's greatest joys.

I believe the most important function of black organizations on campus is to reach out to black youth across the region.

I believe I've pretty much failed to reach out and need to hurry up and try to mentor somebody or something before I graduate.

I believe that Affirmative Action is necessary for, at least, a few more years.

Finally, I believe I should stop telling you all of these beliefs and prepare to post something real.

Guest Contributor: David Betts

Besides this being the beginning of Black History Month, is making it's own history. Our first guest contributor is David Betts. Over the next couple of months you'll hear a couple of different voices on this blog. Here's to some new blood! Enjoy.