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Does Social Media Mean Social Justice?

by Jose Vilson on August 27, 2009

in Jose

puzzlemirrorplanet

The World as a Puzzle

In the 1950′s, as civil rights groups of interest (i.e. dissident and radical groups) began to truly penetrate the mainstream thought of America, the FBI developed a program with a series of protocols for disruption and misinformation called COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INtelligence PROgram). By most reports, not only did they intend on gathering as much information about these dissident groups and individuals as possible, but they also sought to produce misinformation within the groups to create malcontent and chaos within even the most structurally sound organizations.

While J. Edgar Hoover’s dream child no longer exists under that name, I have a couple of quandaries I think about all too often. As someone who has run the gamut as far as social networks are concerned, I have to wonder how much of my information I’ve freely given to agencies whose primary function is to silence my voice. On the other end, I also wonder how much of the networking I’ve done online has helped me mobilize and proactively find like-minded individuals across the nation and the world.

On the one end, most social media users I know don’t give away information that we don’t already know through simple conversation with them or through their friends. They’ll post pictures of themselves, their friends, and the events they’ve been a part of. They’ll discuss their thoughts on a certain issue, and usually not too in-depth. They may even post their personal troubles, but again, nothing out of the ordinary in the grand scheme of things. Thus, this information becomes almost redundant for those looking to find information on anyone they’re interested in. On the other end, with the advent of these social networks, it becomes more enticing to reveal more about yourself to distinguish yourself from other profiles in the interest of “standing out” or becoming “most popular.” It’s a temptation a few of us fight, especially if we don’t have people who market for us. Promoting oneself has its positives, but how deep do we take that?

Even deeper is that social media can also be a mechanism for misinformation and eventual separation. For instance, today on Twitter, I laughed when someone wrote “Huffington Post has 18 white men as their featured bloggers,” and immediately called out the lack of diversity at Huffington Post. My questions cascaded as follows:

1) Why should Huffington Post care?

2) We have a few Black / Latino bloggers on Huffington Post and they get featured on the site every so often, so why does a day where they strictly feature whites surprise you? That’s stat quo.

3) If / when people of colors (and I do mean Asian and indigenous people as well in this conversation) have a viable alternative to Huffington Post, will we use it as a platform to converge or to outdo the next? The latter has become customary here on the Internet, if you ask me.

4) Do we somehow believe that the Digital Divide has seized to exist? That really doesn’t even come up on any social media platform I’ve seen. People are so concerned with having Barack Obama’s ears instead of giving “the people” in their communities a real voice.

In all of this, we should already see how social media in and of itself has very disparate consequences on the ideas of information. It can liberate and celebrate the ideas and voices of our generation and future generations to come and make these ideas more facile to build around. We can build whole curriculi and engage hundreds in a matter of minutes without leaving our seats. Some of the biggest campaigns of recent history came via the power of the interwebs. On the other end, if we don’t keep tabs on the sorts of information released out there, the consequences can become much more dire. Instead of a rumor about Lindsay Lohan’s plastic surgery or Chris Brown’s new chick, we’ll get a made-up report about a local activist or an nonfactual tweet about health care reform (is that happening already?).

So, does social media mean social justice? You tell me.

Jose, who just got 2 more projects to work on just now …

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Every few weeks or so, I run into a YouTube video so excruciatingly hilarious, I deem it worthy to be linked on my site. This is one of them:

I borrowed it from my brother-from-another-mother Carl and I deem it apropos for my reflection tonight, not because I care whether or not Mike Arrington of TechCrunch is right or because I’m going to get my own puppet and take my show to YouTube. Actually, it’s to highlight the artistry of effective expression, especially when done at the fringes of what we deem as popular opinion. Let me give you all the clearest example I can.

In my own explorations as a writer / blogger / teacher leader / web designer / etc., I’ve received some overt (and covert) compliments, all of which I’m humbly grateful for. I don’t consider myself a self-made man by any means nor do I subscribe to the self-moisturizing methods some of my fellow contemporaries exert in environments where no one’s asking for that. As recently as tonight, I dressed as inconspicuously as possible just for that anonymity. In a way, I need to be reminded what it is for people not to know me and for me to focus on the work (and in tonight’s case, the awesome poets on stage at the Acentos Poetry Showcase at the Bowery Poetry Cafe).

But like many of the people on stage and in the audience, I didn’t get where I am today by staying quiet. I connected with the right people. I let my stuff get on search engines and blogrolls. I designed and modded this whole site practically by myself, and learned far more about advertising and search engine optimization than I cared for before I got my own calling card (by calling card, I mean thejosevilson.com). Even after all the nominations, mentions, and TV and blog interviews, I still consider myself on the fringes of the blogosphere because, while people love the blog, you won’t hear CNN or Rolling Stone calling my phone, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I also know I don’t (nor do I care to) have a publicist, agent, or assistant of any sort.

For another example, I turn to the aforementioned Acentos, now a foundation sponsoring and promoting Latino poets, many of whose voices would never be heard in the cacophony of literary heads trying to create a silo so only those with, say, MFAs from prestigious colleges or their arms hanging off the pelvises of prominent predecessors in places that actually may NEED new voices that consider themselves in the fringes … like I do. Tonight proved that these un-settlers could come into a sanctuary of rarely-heard voices and make beautiful music together, or in this case, poetry. While that’s a huge credit to the egos of former and current board members of the Acentos Foundation, it also demonstrates the fact that, as humble and reflective as these ladies and gentlemen are, their efforts may have been buried in the graveyard along with other well-meaning organizations if they didn’t take the time to promote their efforts and make sure they stayed in the forefront of people’s minds and tongues.

Does this warrant everyone getting a Facebook fan page or writing press releases about their joints? Not really. I honestly believe that if you can’t count to 100 people who are feeling your work, then maybe it’s not in your interest to do anything too wild. It doesn’t mean that I too am creating a silo. If the work is good, then promote away. For those of us who aren’t blogging / writing or anything that needs a little promotion, they should remember that very few of their favorite popular people ever get noticed until they put themselves in the position for this thing called “luck.”

In other words, shut up.

Jose, who’ll write this in more personal and poetic form exclusively on his Facebook fan page …

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A Call To Inter-Action! (Google Reader)

by Jose Vilson on August 31, 2008

in Jose

courtesy of Ken Burbary

A few weeks ago, Google revealed Barack Obama and John McCain’s Internet reading list for the world to see. Most of it wasn’t surprising: Barack goes left and John goes right. Most of it is political news and the world keeps rolling, because we’ve seen all these blogs before. But ever wonder what some of your other blog heroes (::ahem me::) read too?

Well, no worries, ’cause when you add me on the Google network, you read what I read! All 90 blogs or so. I pick the best, you read the rest. Simple, right? What’s better about this is that like-minded people can also share their blogs; if you desperately want me to read a blog, I’ll just get it in my G-Reader. For instance, Eva, who recently joined Google Reader, just sent me a post courtesy of FailBlog.org. She clicks, “Share.” I log in. I click on her name. I read. I double over with laughter. I GChat her back with “LMAO!” Repeat.

Easy right?

Some of my blogs include:

NY Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer
Lifehacker
Hasta Los Gatos Quieren Zapatos
The Daily Gotham
Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York
Jeff Pearlman
Boing Boing
NYC Educator

Of course, you probably expected some of these, but this is really a small sample of the 90+ blogs I have access to daily, and the information is anywhere from titillating to outright absurd, and everywhere in between. My vision for Google Reader is to create a streamlined reading club where everyone reads a bunch of the best and obscure blogs out there and shares the information with others … like me :-).

Google Reader is dope. Not heroine, but just as addicting. Not saying that other services don’t do this, but by far, Google Reader is the most user-friendly, especially if you have GMail already. With that said, subscribing to my blog is good in any reader, but if you want to find out what I’m reading so I can stay informed about everything from education and politics to hip-hop and all-out foolishness, hit me up on Google Reader.

And yes, people are reading, so if you have a tip on Google Reader tips, a person I should be “friends” with on that service, or other cool Internet tips, leave a comment below.

jose, who wants to talk a little about web design as soon as he finishes his long overdue remake of his site: thejosevilson.com

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I’m a BlogCritic

July 28, 2007

I’m now a writer for a sinister cabal of superior writers. Or something like that. For my first magic trick, I speculated on why computers will replace people with a little help from Mr. Roboto. Support, mi gente. There’s more in store. And of course, this is still the #1 place for my writing. Just […]

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About My Blog: Notes of Interest

July 22, 2007 Jose

Back when I started blogging my life away back in 2003, I never thought I’d actually continue it with the intention of addressing issues of interest to me. I felt it was more a personal thought journal, something I’d use to emulate the last sequences in Doogie Howser M.D. since I didn’t have his word […]

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