Digital Activism/ #BlackOutDay March 6th


This week’s readings dedicated to digital activism and the consequences of algorithmic filtering brought about connections to a social media wide hashtag I will be participating in this Friday called #BlackOutDay. Friday, March 6th all Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Vine users are encouraged to post and re- post positive depictions of Black people all day long. The demonstration was first intended for Black Tumblr users to combat the under representation most of us feel when combing through tags on the site. On Tumblr “notes” are like currency and give a post immortality as it is liked and re-blogged throughout the site while being seen by its 225.5 million blog-owners and countless lurkers. But often when I hit up the trending page that shows the post with the most notes, I don’t see people quite like me. Today, there was Beyonce and Kanye among the cats, SoundCloud, One Direction and other popular post but when it came to just regular people I only saw White women. Pictures of women in cute midriff barring outfits, with floral crowns and awe worthy eyebrows that could have easily been women of color but were just not. #BlackOutDay creator , echoed  the same sentiment and was compelled to do something about it:

I got inspired to propose Blackout day after thinking “Damn, I’m not seeing enough Black people on my dash”. Of course I see a constant amount of Black celebrities but what about the regular people? Where is their shine? When I proposed it, I thought people would think it was a good idea, but not actually go through with implementing it. Luckily people wanted to get behind the idea, and @recklessthottie created the #Blackout tag…We need a unified agreeance that ALL black people are beautiful and worthy of praise and admiration, and Blackout day is a step towards that.

Tumblr’s main page is an example of the impact algorithm filtering have on what we see and #BalckOutDay is how we can unite as communities to take control of the algorithms. Zeynp Tufecki explains in her article What happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson: Net Neutrality, Algorithmic Filtering, and Ferguson: ” … algorithmic filtering, as a layer controls what you see on the internet. Net Neutrality (or lack thereof) will be yet another layer determining this. This will come on top of existing inequalities in attention , coverage ad control.

The problem with algorithms is that they are a representation of the systemic deficiencies in media representations of minorities that have already been in place for ions. If you had trusted your Facebook alone the night Ferguson erupted after the non-indictment announcement, you would have thought the story was not a top “trending” issue just like if I had trusted my Tumblr mainpage alone,Id think people like me don’t exist.

Professor Noble cautioned in her lecture to us the other week the importance of recognizing algorithms as not these infallible, all knowing representations of what you are looking for. The sad truth is that because the average person does not know the way an algorithm works exactly there are higher levels of trust in that technology than there should be. With demonstrations like #BlackOutDay and the passing of Net Neutrality we can usher in response to these oversights and be in charge of what we want to see.

10 thoughts on “Digital Activism/ #BlackOutDay March 6th

  1. ErikaFriesenN

    I think this an excellent issue that we should be concerned with the eruption of major hashtags and bringing into account priorities on social media. As users we should be knowledgeable about the algorithms that influence trending topics and use them to our advantage rather than having these tech companies review and verify what content we should be posting. In this case, knowledge is power. The more we know about the social media platforms and the way they operate, the easier is will be to relay our points and issues across a large scale. The issue of social movement identity should be considered when debating this topic.

  2. sjanetos

    This might sound ignorant, but the idea of #BlackOutDay seems pretty weird to me. First off, when I read the title I assumed it was a day that all those sites would be offline, thus blacked out. A blackout is never a great thing- be it an electricity blackout or a drunken one. I kind of worry that the day will bring not so great attention to black people. One thought is that pages will be full of stereotypeing memes, Madea for example. Another is that we will see everything we normally see- hipster girls and shirtless guys- just black instead of white. That’s not celebrating difference, it’s an attempt to fit everyone into one mold. Also, shouldn’t we be making an effort to be embracing people of all types every single day, not just on one specified day?

    1. ShannonMartine Post author

      It’s just about representation. Social media is flooded with stereotypical images of everyone and this is just an attempt of this community, my community to counter those images. I think that celebrating all people is beautiful and I hope we get to that place where everyone is equally represented in all their differences but this is not about that – but it’s not anti that sentiment either. It’s just a way to show solidarity and change the landscape of images we always see whether they be negative depictions of us or the absence of us from the main pages. I understand your doubts but I can’t speak for anyone else’s intentions but my own. I will put out positivity that day and appreciate the positivity I recieve back.

  3. christineholland

    I hope this movement achieves its goals and breaks the algorithms that have hidden positive representations of Black people online. As a white girl online, algorithms on sites I use often like Facebook and Pinterest don’t reflect the diversity of people I experience in real life. My feed is full of white hipster girls or white fashion bloggers. Yes, these girls look like me (minus the hipster trendy part), but they don’t look like all of my friends or my peers. I want my social media to be an extension of my life; I don’t want algorithms to decide what my life as a white girl should look like. And I want my friends of color to be able to log on to the Internet and see positive images representative of their communities, an experience I am privileged to have. I hope this movements educates people about the power of these algorithms, and I hope that we as a society can work to give all communities the power to dictate their portrayal and representation online.

  4. emdesur

    I had not heard about #BlackOutDay before reading your post, so I am glad I am aware of it now. Because I have heard about it, I will be able to look out for the hashtag on Friday. Although I don’t go on tumblr too often, I have been on it enough to have observed the phenomena of pretty, skinny, trendy, white girls dominating the feed. I like this idea of starting with positive images of black normal people and hopefully it could expand to positive images of ALL people. I don’t want to criticize what is already out there, but I appreciate the idea of just putting out more positive pictures of people on the internet in general, there is already enough negativity.

  5. natalypalma

    When I was on tumblr a lot 3 years ago, I was honestly very naive and never noticed the lack of diversity. But now that I am more aware of these issues, I see them everyday. I am of Salvadoran heritage and I see this with Latinos as well. I feel like the only time Latina women are seen on the internet, they are over-sexualized (but arguably this is with all women!) I’m glad this hashtag is going around and maybe others will pop up too! So we see more diversity 🙂 For Latinos, Asians, Arabs, etc!

  6. samanthaong

    This event is so timely and appropriate to what we have been studying and discussing- thank you for bringing it up 🙂 I am all for diversity but I think the way it should be advocated requires special attention. I was speaking to my English professor and he pointed out that diversity in itself is a philosophically empty concept- it calls for difference, but oftentimes that falls short of making a true impact. It’s almost like people use diversity as a emotional leverage that is supposed to make people feel better about themselves. That is, there is a lot of action taking place at the grassroots level but for me, I have yet to see these concepts being implemented in ways that call for institutional reform and better laws/ governance. Take the Ferguson issue for instance- what we need is not exactly diversity, but a way of addressing broader issues of bias and legal injustice in the system.

  7. prisahdev

    I think this is a really cool idea that also helps bring awareness to others about the algorithm as well. Before this class I had heard of it but didn’t know much about it–but I think this is really important for the public to understand that the internet is filtered and shifted. For example when our guest speaker Professor Noble showed us her google searches it really blew my mind just how shifted and warped the internet can be. I think bringing awareness to this will also make people question the ideas and generalizations they are really being subconsciously exposed to.

  8. frcarbonellm

    Your post had me reflect on what I see when I look at my own #Trending topics on my social media sources. When I log onto Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr I am now flooded with trending topics “related” to my interests. What I see is an overload of shirtless men and quotes from movies such as Mean Girls and Clueless. It is this same misrepresentation provided by the mentioned algorithms that works to promote a stereotyped culture and image.
    Yes I do identify as a gay man but that does not automatically mean that my Facebook should be bombarded with ads and products directed towards gay males. The same goes for Instagram on their discover/explore page where you can find other “relevant” topics and people to follow. If anything, your post has encouraged me to really reflect on how stereotypes are depicted online.
    Thanks for your post, I really enjoyed reading it!
    – Felipe

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