tech culture and cultural techs

an article in cnn.com's technology section caught my eye this morning:
Social-networking sites link Hispanic youth (posted 4.27.07)

in brief, the article explores the growth of social networking sites aimed at a spanish speaking, self-identified as latin and/or hispanic audience such as elhood.com and vostu. according to the article, "ElHood is sort of a bilingual MySpace promoting the latest in Latin music, and for Miami-based [Indie rocker Eric] Monterrosa, it has become a personal and professional lifeline. It is also the latest in a wave of Hispanic social-networking sites building links across the U.S., Latin America and Spain, all hoping to capture coveted advertising dollars."

other excerpts from the article that have me thinking and wondering about the intersections (and working definitions) of technology, culture, and youth:
  • "About 56 percent of Hispanics in the United States use the Internet, compared with 71 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 60 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But the number of Hispanics online jumps to 67 percent among 18- to 27-year-olds -- the group most likely to visit social-networking sites and one coveted by advertisers."
  • Another site, Vostu.com, presents itself as an alternative to Facebook.com, where students post profiles of themselves visible to a mini-network of their college or high school classmates. ... Dan Kafie, the 24-year-old Honduran native who co-founded Vostu, believes his site can compete with the larger ones because it's specially tailored to the needs of a relatively small but affluent group. ... "There's similar types of sites, but they don't capture the cultural subtleties," Kafie said. "We thought there's an opportunity."
  • But are technology, culture and language enough to draw people away from MySpace, Facebook or Google Inc.'s YouTube?
  • "More young people come to this country and don't have a family," Monterrosa said. "They are here to strive or to study and they need contacts. They don't have money to go to shows or clubs, but they can reach out to people who also like the same things," he said. As for those in Latin America, they can connect with music and youth scenes that are difficult to find outside the big cities.
  • "The youth, they want it to be fast. They want it to be hip, and they want to see themselves in it -- but not just themselves,"


fictive kinship

when the identity of the shooter in the virginia tech killings was revealed, a couple of the young men who are enrolled in a digital media class i co-teach made the following statements:
"i'm glad he wasn't black."
"the new york times probably wouldn't have printed it if he had been, anyway."
both young men are african american and had just made claims about the ny times being a newspaper for white people, unlike the daily news, which, in their opinion, had stories that mattered to them: "to black people."

elaine richardson, during a colloquium delivered at teacher's college this week, spoke of fictive kinship when responding to a question about her talk, in which she explored african american young women's engagement with hip hop lyrics and video imagery. she noted that despite diverse opinions that may exist within a minority or marginalized group of people, there tends to be, in some of those communities, a sense of wanting to protect someone who looks like you from those who don't look like you; similarly, when someone who looks like you does something you wish they didn't, you feel the pain on behalf of everyone who looks like you. thus, the young women that richardson talked about expressed critique in response to the images represented nelly's "tip drill" song and video, while at the same time finding messages of empowerment and accommodating this text.

the limits of my own fictive kinship were tested this past week when the country in which i was born and where many of my relatives still live made me cringe with a mix of embarrassment and frustration. should people be displaying awkward public affection in the manner that richard gere performed on stage at a fundraiser last week? probably not - i say this not for reasons of "morality," but rather because the whole mess looked more like a poorly choreographed sequence from dancing with the stars than a playful "star"-to-"star" kiss on the order of brody-on-berry at the '03 oscars.

these are moments of self-definition borne out of public performances in which ethnicity and race take center stage. as an adolescent, i don't recall feeling excluded from the literature i was reading or the television i was watching - a claim i sometimes i take up in my classes in response to how young people engage with such texts. however, i was keenly aware of when "people who looked like me" did something that mortified and disappointed me:
- watching the funeral of indira gandhi and knowing that she was gunned down by her own bodyguards
- watching earth, a film by deepa mehta
- reading the karma of brown folk, by vijay prashad


recently in class we listened to a youth radio podcast by ayesha walker, a young woman reflecting on the v-tech shootings. the last lines of her piece are as follows:
"Here, our tragedy is so embedded in the city that it doesn't make the headlines. It's just what we're known for."

is there room to change what "we" are known for? and what informs the ways in which young people make sense of themselves? what leaves lasting impressions? and which are the moments, words, images, and interactions that last a lifetime?


online findings and sitings

check out this series of very excellent interactive multimedia stories: inanimate alice
(thanks for the link, angela!)

the birth of wiki-man - see also other words-to-music by verytasteful.com

also, my favorite wiki hosting service, pbwiki, is now ad-free for educational wikis!!


arresting developments

a few weeks ago, a 7 year old boy was arrested for being in possession of a banned dirt bike - it was motorized and that's not allowed in baltimore, where the boy lives.

it's bad enough (horrific, actually) that we're suspending kids as young as 4 for "improper touching" - remember the hug-gone-bad story? - but can't we (and by we, i mean law enforcement, lawmakers, adults in positions of power) find ways other than physical and verbal intimidation to communicate with elementary school age children?

in the spirit of multiple perspectives and sources, i leave you to read the following re: the bike story and ask you to think about what is being educated to the young boy at the center of it all:

Arrest of 7-Year-Old Draws Condemnation

HANDCUFFS, TOO: Baltimore police arrest 7-year-old bike rider

Groups clash over child’s arrest


with words like this, who can sleep?

Where the FUCK did you learn to drive? Jerkoff!
Words spoken by a baseball cap wearing, ruddy complexioned, Bluetooth headsetted driver of a navy blue SUV to my turbaned cab driver in response to the bopping and weaving the cabbie was guilty of as he tried to jot down a phone number of a car for sale while driving at high speeds down the West Side Highway, all the while as I clutched the Mac I was transporting for use in our digital media class.

You’ll never have to lift anything heavy with all these men around in here.
Words spoken by a female staff member at the alternative to incarceration program where I conduct fieldwork and occasionally teach classes as I walked in with my arms full of the cardboard box containing the Mac I had risked my life for just a few minutes earlier.

It’s not me, but it’s me, you know? You'll see...
Words spoken by a graduate of the above noted program after giving me his Myspace url.

JESUS is my boss
Words embroidered into the navy blue cap worn by a man who looked at me strangely as I was recording field notes into my digital voice recorder as I headed home from fieldwork on the subway.


adding to my list of favorite blogs...

drop that knowledge - authored by youth radio's education director and senior producer lissa soep. if you haven't already done so, check out the youth radio website, subscribe to their podcasts, and visit dtk frequently to engage in conversation with an emerging leader in youth media discourse and dialogue.