Scholars Mull Over How New Digital Media Service Seeks Exclusivity

In an opinion article appearing in theGrio.com, digital media strategist Lauren DeLisa Coleman has scholars mulling over whether App.net, a Twitter-like social media platform, will benefit from a potential White flight” of users fleeing the base of Twitter’s racially-diverse following.

The greatest talking point in the debate over its launch is the fact App.net will require an annual $50 membership fee. This cost might create a space segregated by class and color on the web, prompting richer (usually White) people to flee social media outlets like Twitter, on which people of color over-index, for more exclusive environs,” DeLisa Coleman writes.

Race and new media expert Andre Brock, who teaches at the University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science, has studied statements by App.net founder Dalton Caldwell to examine his “attitude as it relates to how cultural ideologies affect Internet technology use and design.”

“Dalton Caldwell’s brief mention of ‘K-Mart ads in my timeline,’ while a problematic reference to lower socio-economic commerce opportunities, is much more emblematic of the geek’s desire to retain the instrumental ‘purity’ of a social network ‘For Geeks By Geeks,’” Brock told theGrio.

In Brock’s view, however, Caldwell has invited scrutiny for the possibility of race and class-baiting.

“Deploying racial and class-based ideology to attract attention to a fledgling enterprise is a longstanding tactic of American corporate and civic society. It’s disappointing to see, but not surprising to find,” Brock said.

Dr. Jessie Daniels, a professor at City University of New York and author of Cyber Racism, has said it’s reasonable to consider that White Americans view social media platforms through the lens of race and class.

“If [it’s] true that [people of color out-index on Twitter], it doesn’t surprise me to learn that White people might find [such platforms] ‘too Black.’ And, perhaps more to the point, White people in the U.S. have a long and consistent history of finding racially integrated spaces uncomfortable and then fleeing as a response. There are lots of examples of this, but racial integration in housing is maybe the most telling. Research indicates that, when the percentage of Blacks in a previously all-White neighborhood reaches about 7 percent, Whites consistently begin to vote with moving vans and flee the neighborhood,” Daniels told theGrio.com.

For the entire article at theGrio.com, click here.