I blame the Patriarchy for my technical incompetence.

This is cross-posted at Geek Feminism.

I demonstrated an aptitude for computers when I was a young girl, but I didn’t have home Internet access until I graduated from high school. I blame the Patriarchy, partly.

By the time I was in high school, I was usually the only person in my classes who didn’t have any Internet access, while most of my peers had high-speed access. When my peers communicated with each other through e-mail and chat, I was shut out of the social conversation and didn’t understand the “technical” terms they were using. I understood the creative potential of being able to communicate with computer users all over the world. I knew that Internet access would allow me to communicate with others without my social anxiety getting in the way. However, my father was hard-set against the idea of “the Internet”.

For five years, I was part of a persistent family campaign to convince my father that we should get Internet access. He thought that the Internet was a software program that was just a “fad” and would go out of style. Back then, the mainstream media was even more confused than now about what “the Internet” was. The news sensationalized stories about online predators luring young girls through “the Internet” to rape them. The implied moral of these news stories was that the Internet was dangerous and full of sexual predators.

My father did not work in an office then, so he heard more about “the Internet” through his coworkers. One male coworker basically explained to my father that The Internet Is For Porn. My father came home and told us that he was never going to let us have Internet access, because girls especially should be protected from exposure to pornography.

Read the rest of this entry »

Endorsement of racial “color-blindness” is linked to racism.

Color-blind racial ideology linked to racism, both online and offline (University of Illinois, via Racialicious):

In a study that examined the associations between responses to racial theme party images on social networking sites and a color-blind racial ideology, Brendesha Tynes, a professor of educational psychology and of African American studies at Illinois, discovered that white students and those who rated highly in color-blind racial attitudes were more likely not to be offended by images from racially themed parties at which attendees dressed and acted as caricatures of racial stereotypes (for example, photos of students dressed in blackface make-up attending a “gangsta party” to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day).

People who reported higher racial color-blind attitudes were more likely to be white, and more likely to condone or not be bothered by racial-theme party images,” Tynes said. “In fact, some even encouraged the photos by adding comments of their own such as ‘Where’s the Colt 45?’ or ‘Party like a rock star.’ ”

To conduct the study, Tynes showed 217 ethnically diverse college students images from racially themed parties and prompted them to respond as if they were writing on a friend’s Facebook or MySpace page.

“Since so much of campus life is moving online, we tried to mimic the online social network environment as much as we could,” Tynes said. “What we saw were people’s responses almost in real time.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Google’s race and gender makeup is Trade Secret in tech business, says Google

Google, Don’t Be Hypocritical (NBC Bay Area, emphasis mine):

Despite its supposed mission to “organize the world’s information,” Google has fought to hide data about the race and gender makeup of its workforce.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that it had fought for 18 months through Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain data collected by the Department of Labor about the employees of Google and 14 other large Silicon Valley employers.

The question of diversity cuts to the core of Silicon Valley’s values. Investors, entrepreneurs, and managers love to tout the technology industry’s so-called meritocracy, in which talented workers rise quickly to the top. And yet the reality is that the technology industry remains dominated by white males, especially in management.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to: Make your blog’s images more accessible

This tutorial explains how bloggers can make their images more accessible for people with visual impairments by adding ‘alt-text’. While most web accessibility tutorials assume that the all creators of web content code in raw HTML, it is 2009, and most bloggers today probably do not know HTML.

This tutorial also assumes that the blogger uses a blogging software (such as WordPress) and creates web content through a graphical interface. While this tutorial uses WordPress examples, the vast majority of this tutorial is applicable to any blogging software, content management system, and even to those who build webpages from scratch.

Tutorial

Understanding how to add ‘alt-text’ requires understanding how to edit a post in HTML mode, as well as understanding the structure of a HTML tag. These two prerequisites will be explained first. The content of this tutorial consists of the following sections:

  1. Accessing the HTML of your post
  2. Understanding HTML tags
  3. Adding ‘alt-text’ to images

Read the rest of this entry »

Zaibatsu was a hidden black man on Digg.

Zaibatsu, a.k.a. Reg Saddler, is best known for being the #4 Digg user of all time (despite being arbitrarily banned from Digg since September 2008). A political progressive, Zaibatsu had the power to collect Internet news stories that were ignored by mainstream media and bring it to the web’s attention.1 (Zaibatsu contends that he is even more influential now, since he has relocated on to Twitter.)

A lesser-known fact about Zaibatsu is that he was a top Digg user for a long time before he outed himself in 2007, revealing himself to be a black man who had previously kept his racial identity hidden.2

Read the rest of this entry »

On the Internet, I can pass as white, but at a cost.

Even now, when I am part of the anti-racist blogosphere with supposed anti-racist allies, I avoid mentioning my ethnicity on the Internet, because I don’t want people to use that knowledge to guess where I’m coming from, even empathetically. Because they would guess wrong.

A few months ago, I browsed the submissions of the first Asian Women Blog Carnival, and in a post titled On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re Chinese, aozhoux articulated how I used to feel, and still feel (emphasis mine):

Because there are, in my opinion, possible downsides to owning my Asian-ness. I worry – accurately or inaccurately – that people’s impressions of me might change should they be confronted with the realisation that I am, after all, not white. That anything I say or do may henceforth be conveniently attributed to my Chinese-ness, especially if any of my personal quirks should happen to fall into certain common stereotypes (and oh, some of them do *g*). Even worse, people might go so far as to start projecting their language biases onto me, and then I’d start getting the equivalent of “but you write so well (considering your ethnicity, never mind the fact that you grew up exclusively in white-dominated, English-speaking countries)”, and then I’d… have to kill them.

Perhaps this last point sounds a little absurd, but let’s just say it isn’t coming out of nowhere. I’ve seen a milder variation of this kind of language assumption happen right in front of me on lj, and while the corrections and apologies were gracious all around, it still kind of hurt. And in my personal experience many people, of all ethnicities, still seem to have problems with the idea that someone with Asian features and language ability could possibly be a competent, educated, native speaker of English. While I do understand the balance of probabilities backing that assumption, I’d really rather not have to prove myself every time I attempt to construct a sentence.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s funny to you, because you dislike Arabs.

Does Humor On The Internet Mold Political Thinking? (ScienceDaily):

Jokes are not merely a source of popular enjoyment and creativity; they also provide insights into how societies work and what people think. Humor is so powerful it can help shape geopolitical views worldwide, according to Professor Darren Purcell and his team from the University of Oklahoma in the US.

Their study of humor including the analysis of two Achmed the Dead Terrorist skits, has recently been published online in Springer’s GeoJournal.

[…]

The authors use ‘disposition theory’ – a framework that allows them to understand who will regard which content as funny, and how derisive humor can be seen as amusing – to examine particular types of humor in texts which reflect society’s concerns, developments and relationships, and by extension, the geopolitical implications of these texts. With an emphasis on social context, the theory suggests that the appreciation of humor is dependent, in part, on whether one holds a positive or negative attitude, or disposition, toward the object of humor.

Purcell and colleagues analyze two stand-up comedy routines performed by American ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. The skits center on the character of Achmed the Dead Terrorist, an unsuccessful suicide bomber. The humor plays on anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment. Dunham uses his audiences’ disposition towards terrorists to get laughs, while at the same time challenging his audience members to look at their own views of terrorism, Islam, and American efforts in Iraq.

Read the rest of this entry »