My multimedia project for this class will be a multimedia extended blog post on “Black Twitter.” Research has shown that Twitter users are more diverse, culturally and ethnically, than the greater US populations (Pearson-McNeil & Hale, 2011), and compared with only 9% of white online users, 25% of black online users use Twitter (Smith, 2011). This skewed participation allows for a unique view into otherwise marginalized opinions and points of view (Papacharissi, 2012). As an avid twitter user, and as a black person, black twitter is a topic that comes up often. It’s where many people go to get their daily pop culture information, depending on what Black Twitter is talking about that day. It’s where people find funny memes, and running hashtag jokes, make fun of celebrities, and live tweet shows like Scandal or various award shows. Defining Black Twitter is probably one of the most difficult things to do. After all, it’s not like there’s actually a separate twitter just for black people. According to André Brock (2012), “Black Twitter can be understood as a user-generated source of culturally relevant online content, combining social network elements and broadcast principles to share information” (Brock, 2012). Black twitter gives an exclusive look into black life and the experiences and modes of interaction that shape the black community. The structure of twitter, as with other digital networked spaces, encourages shareability, and, in many cases, the sharing of information that would otherwise be kept private or exclusive (Papacharissi, 2012). Black Twitter gives black people a voice that is often overlooked, ignored, or shut out in public conversation, and a interconnected digital platform that allows them to be widely heard. Consequently, studying black twitter allows us to listen to that voice and gain deeper insight into the, often shared, experiences from which those opinions come.
In addition to creating a space for the black voice to be heard, twitter also gives us a clear representation of the networks of users, and allows us to see how their connections are formed and utilized. Twitter’s “follow” function allows people to create centers of information based on topics and people of interest. Thus users are able to filter their experience on Twitter through various personal frameworks, including race (Brock, 2012), bringing about the emergence of black twitter. The study of these networks has greater implications for the way that black people organize, form connections and relate outside of digital spaces. Moreover, Papacharissi (2012) presents the idea of a networked self, a self sustained through performance to a networked audience, such as the one on twitter. Studying Black Twitter will give me the opportunity to better understand how individuals perform their identity based on the real or imagined audiences that surround them, and how those performances may differ based on a variety of identity factors, such as race.
This project will explore the way that black people form and perform their racial identities on the social media site twitter, and the strategies they use to manage authenticity, multiple networks, and the line between publicity and privacy. Using publically available tweets, I will examine the performative strategies black people use in tweets, hashtags, and trending topics related to black twitter. Black hashtags are hashtags that are started within the black community, usually in response to some pop culture event or celebrity/media fail, and are relevant to the black community. Anyone can participate in the hashtag. While there are several types of hashtags, many of the most infamous ones are jokes. Take #abcreports, for example, from a year or so ago. It all started with Miley Cyrus’ “twerk” performance at the VMA’s, and ABC doing a report on the “science of twerking”
This sparked hilarious spinoff parodies of possible #abcreports relevant to the black community, such as:
and much much more. Needless to say, the #abcreports trending topic left people
but, for the most part, only if you were black, or had access to black cultural history and traditions. Otherwise, you might not get the joke. Or, even worse, you may be laughing for the wrong reasons. Looking at tweets such as these, in addition to talking with various black twitter users on campus, I will research how these hashtags are tied to racial identity and performance and present my findings in the form of a multimedia blog post.
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