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VIDEO from #140Conf: Joan Walsh, Blaire Kelley, Liza Sabater and Elon James White on Race and Politics on Twitter

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

April 21st, 2010

Although the first day of #140Conf (the #140 Conference: The State of Now) was too pale-male-stale, one panel stood out as a highlight not only for the diversity of its participants but for the humor, insight and strategic advice participants brought to the conversation.

In Finding Common Ground: Discussion of issues of race and politics in 140 Characters (video below), Salon’s Joan Walsh @joanwalsh, Professor Blair Kelley @profblmkelley (author, Right To Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson, Culture Kitchen Blogger (and friend of WIMN’s Voices) Liza Sabater @blogdiva, and comedian and This Week in Blackness host Elon James White @elonjames discussed:

– Social media as educational tool: how to use Twitter as a way to teach, inform and engage others about socio-political issues;

– Social media as correction to corporate journalism’s racial (and gender, etc.) exclusivity: how Twitter is functioning as a populist version of the pundit’s table, allowing diverse communities space to voice opinions, share facts and debate (in contrast to the mostly white slate of broadcast news analysts);

– Social media as a bridge to new allies: how disagreement and debate within social media, if done with caution, intention and respect, can yield not only deeper understanding of politics, but can result in real-world friendships.

The conversation focused strictly on the politics of race in social media, but the points that arose could easily have applied to the politics of gender in social media as well. I was especially pleased to see a panel on race and new media in which 75% of the participants were women–and none of those women were there as tokens.

Now, if only there were even one session throughout the #140Conf that had a similar focus on the politics of gender in social media. Or any general sessions in which women spoke about politics from a gendered perspective. (What, Jenn, you weren’t satisfied with a panel of stylish women talking about fashion? You’re so demanding…)

[UPDATE: On the second day of the #140conf, filmmaker Angela Shelton discussed the way that her film, Searching for Angela Shelton, sparked a movement around supporting victims of incest, child abuse and sexual assault. So while my comments about day one missing any overt discussion of feminist topics still stands, I am happy to note that Shelton’s moving and often funny talk did bring an important perspective to the group.]

If you’re interested in investigating the possibilities of social media for political and community engagement, you’ll want to pre-order Share This: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking, by GRITtv and AlterNet contributor, tech guru extraordinaire and friend of WIMN’s Voices, Deanna Zandt.

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