h&f 0023 (plub #003) Unity ‘08 Convention, Chicago IL July 23-27 – 2nd of 2 posts. (or: Don’t Ax Why Come)

In this second post on Unity 2008 (first one here), I’d like to give you a little background on the panel discussion in which I particpated and to tell you, “Don’t Ax Why Come.” (…also: hang on to the end of this one or just drop down for James Brown’s blog philosophy.) one more thing: I think this counts as a PLUB.

First, the vitals…

The Topic: Color Me In: Building a Multi-Cultural Blogosphere That Matters

The ModeratorKaren Russell is a cutting figure – lawyer, commentator, thinking leader.  She is, indeed, the daughter of NBA legend Bill Russell (below left), but has carved more than a niche for her own style of commentary.  I am wary of that word “commentary” in today’s media milieu as any and all now appear as commentators and strategists, polite names to describe anybody the party or company wants to speak on tv.  She is, nevertheless, a real commentator and a deft moderator, able to draw the audience in and draw relevant threads out of panelists, purt-near relegating bland panelistic non-speak to somebody else’s  dull podium.

The Panelists: Eric Henderson (me) – blogger for AdAge, Kai Wright – a real writer of books and everything, Esther Cepeda – former Chicago Sun Times columnist, author, and blogger who incorporates bona fide journalism into her posts, and Cindy Mosqueda – blogger bringing high-quality blog volume and a wide landscape of perspective through a Chicana lens.

Now, The Nitty Gritty…

A tired topic if we reduce, reuse, recycle the familiar tropes – ain’t no color in the blogosphere.  Wah!  But, thankfully, this was not the focus, or even a theme of the session.  Yes, there is a place for calling out the carryover of race as an organizing principle into the blogoaphere.  Daily Kos conference, Yearly Kos (now Netroots Nation) has come up as poster child.

Let me take back the wah! now – or, rather, morph it into something more useful: the legitimate recognition of implicit and explicit lack of panoramic thought in popular media.  Wade through this post to get a feel for the issue and the frustrations that accrue.   My frustration is that real thought and progress are lost with artificial exclusions.

But the only place we can really make viable demands is on the public sector, e.g. ensuring diverse blog views at the convention.  Check Here. The (presumed) liberal mainstream may never include a variety of voices.  This would not be the first time that liberalism found a wall at the color line.   So, we shouldn’t be surprised that Republicans or Democrats may overlook.  We’re here to make ourselves included.  It’s the history of the country.  I’m not much for appealing on moral grounds “you should” versus presenting the circumstances that say “you will,” and that doesn’t always mean drama.

But, back to Unity:  Karen, and the natural preference among the audience and panelists, kept us focused on  the often neglected flank of  content and its impact, i.e. simply doin’ the do with a clear awareness of the structural race component as an unavoidable context but without any recycling of, “Why don’t they include me?”

I appreciate this because I believe that it takes us to a discussion on technique and content.  With this approach, anyone willing to broach some degree of intellectual honesty can learn the real value of inclusion, well beyond the stigmas that always accompany inclusion driven by overt advocacy.  I’m not hating on advocacy as I wouldn’t be sitting here on a Brooklyn rooftop writing if someone else, from before Frederick Douglass to Rev. Al were not stirring coals.  I’m just saying that we should grow the discussion beyond the moral appeals for hearing from all people.  The fact is that the moral appeal only goes so far when the zeitgeist is immune to that approach, only morphing when it absolutely has to versus evolving on the basis of finding itself surrounded by beautiful and compelling content that itself demands change whether that content be flowers or the breaking of the already foul wind of exclusion that both the left and right offer up as oxygen for us to breathe without question.

I have begun to write on this concept, the subtle yet forceful suasion of just showing up not as stylized racial figures but rather as simple folks who bring heat on a variety of topics …while they happen to be of color: The Power of Random Images.

So, poor man’s philosophy apart, what did we talk about?  We drove deep into what we write about in our respective spheres, how we started, how we keep doing it, and the results.  What a mind tour I found in listening to the other panelists and the audience.  There is an eagerness to just show up in this medium that I am sure will build the content flank to the robustness of the protest flank.  Once that happens, I believe the democratic force of the web will actually evidence itself.  We already have much proof of that concept.  Jena 6 was just a story by Howard Witt, a compelling and thorough one, but, as forceful as a message in a bottle until the Afrosphere picked it up, spread it around and, as a result, generated the attention of a nation in multiple outlets.  That is content and action.

Propagation of news, events, and reporting has flipped the media model as journalists seeking real impact are figuring out how to develop meaningful relationships with blogs, ones that don’t cross integrity lines for either.  If a journalists’s article is just in print or on the web site of the news outlet, it is the equivalent of a gnat’s footprint.  Once it gets picked up by bloggers, you could compare the phenomenon to the economic concept of the velocity of money, bluntly summarized as “a relatively small money supply can fund a relatively large amount of purchases,” i.e. that same dollar moving quickly as I pay you, you buy groceries, the grocer buys a car, the car dealer buys…

That is, mirroring the speed of transactions between successive entities with that same dollar, that same story can have a drastic effect on the economy of information.  The importance of all of this is directly proportional to the fact that control of the agenda and conversation quickly translates to flow of resources and action.

The trick now is presence and content.  Each of us has a given sphere of influence with a number of network points.  So, throw some meaningful content in your network.  Networks are sustained by perceived value.  I won’t stay in a network that doesn’t give me something back.

Too bad Facebook doesn’t have the value or ability – to purge networks of bad nodes.  It’s like a roach motel.  Friends check in but they can’t leave without a great deal of effort and awkwardness.  Still cool that we won’t have to leave a crooked hairy leg in the goo, though.  It’s not bad yet, as most of us shouldn’t have to worry about removing friends or defriending ourselves, but in an electronically networked world, this will be a problem.  I digress.

Just write something meaningful – a comment, your own blog, whatever – and this dispensation of the argument on inclusion, exclusion could be moot as they will want to be included in your sphere.  Unfortunately, though, humans will find other ways to divide, with our preferences living stronger than Lance and viruses.  But, so what?  A new problem is welcome sometimes.

If this all sounds like preachin, please know that I’m talking to me first – challenging myself to study, write, and bring something of value.

So, don’t ax why come.  Just get on your own good foot and be about it.


~ by ericjhenderson on July 29, 2008.

2 Responses to “h&f 0023 (plub #003) Unity ‘08 Convention, Chicago IL July 23-27 – 2nd of 2 posts. (or: Don’t Ax Why Come)”

  1. Interesting analysis of the Unity workshop on the blogosphere. I’m not a journalist, however I am a blogger. I attended the 1st annual Blogging While Brown conference in Atlanta last weekend. At the end of the day, your conclusion is accurate … we simply need to be committed to quality content whether as blog posts or blog comments.

    peace, Villager

  2. Thanks for reading, Villager. I am also raising this topic on my next AdAge post: http://adage.com/bigtent/index?sid=Eric%20Henderson

    much peace,


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