#BlackTwitter and Ferguson

The demographics that we saw Wednesday indicated a higher percentage of black users on Twitter than on other social platforms. The Manjoo and Ellis articles that you read showed that the trend has gotten national attention since 2010 — when the pattern had already been around for several years.

Social media, Twitter in particular, provide a space for discussions among voices that haven’t been heard in the mainstream. It’s not perfect, and not all people use it the same way (as the 2010 articles pointed out), but #BlackTwitter and other interaction among black users provide a place for day-to-day conversation.

The Washington Post article offers a good summary of the role of Black Twitter: “Perhaps the most significant contribution of Black Twitter is that it increases visibility of black people online, and in doing so, dismantles the idea that white is standard and everything else is ‘other.'”

WP also points toward the activism possible because of a concentration of any group of users. Twitter communication spurred the Arab Spring lasting from late 2010 to 2012 (as a side note, check out this excellent interactive timeline from The Guardian organizing all of their coverage from that period).

Another great example is the shooting of Michael Brown and ensuring protests in Ferguson, Mo. You can see how news and discussion about Ferguson spread on Twitter in the 12 days after Brown’s shooting. At the time, many people criticized the sparse news coverage of the situation in Ferguson, but analysis showed that cable news coverage increased parallel to Twitter discussion. It’s particularly fitting that we discuss the case on a day when people are waiting to hear whether a St. Louis County grand jury will indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown.

We’ll talk about privacy on Monday. Please read The Web Means the End of Forgetting from the New York Times Magazine to prepare.

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