May 05, 2005

Blog Gatekeeper Oligarchy Perceived III, Feminism/Progressive Edition

I feel like a traitor to my sex, but I want to quote Karen Schneider's take on attention-distribution:

As Mena suggests, the women are there; it's that their blogging efforts are not featured as much in the media, largely because women are not the dominant voices in the so-called "political" blogs, which in the peculiar self-referential nature of sexism, are the important blogs because men write them. This morning I was browsing several major technologically oriented websites such O'Reilly Network,,, and so forth. As is always the case, when you look at the conference panel mug shots, you see men. Men. Men. It's much less imbalanced in librarianship (though the loudest voices in our own technology discussions tend to be male); I wonder why we haven't promoted library systems work more to female techies.

But aside from another verse of "there's no one here but men" (very true but also incomplete), there's deeper preceding analysis (my emphasis):

To speak to another kewl tool dominated by a minority voice, Wikipedia will have truly arrived when its "community" begins to express disappointment in the rabble infiltrating its citadel. It's not just a question about content -- ensuring Wikipedia has Gretel Ehrlich as well as John McPhee -- but about the values expressed through design. The "egalitarian" nature of Wikipedia favors the loudest voice over the most authoritative, and as long as that continues to be the case its structure as an institution will be much closer to Lord of the Flies than Britannica. You can only be oblivious to the problems endemic to a system favoring strength over reason when, to quote one of my favorite bumper stickers, you are part of the dominant paradigm.

Which connected with Shelley Power's recent examination:

Certain behaviors are rewarded with links in weblogging; certain behaviors are not. It's just that a certain class of weblogger (white, male, Western, educated, charismatic, pugnacious) has defined the "winning" behavior in weblogging and what must be done to "earn" a link, and this is what we need to change, if change it we can. We have to start valuing the poet, the teenage girl, the middle aged gardner, as much as we value the pundits, whether political or technological.

Bottom line: I want to be respected, I want to be heard, I want to be seen. I want to be visible, but I don't want to be you.

And led to Dave Rogers:

Absent any real responsibility or means of accountability, what the A-List really is is a lot of people with a lot of opinions who get a lot of attention. Yet the fact remains, as a result of that attention, they are regarded in other quarters as "authorities." So we have the situation where some type of authority being exercised without regard to responsibility or accountability, and that's a formula for being an autocrat (lots of "A" words associated with the "A-List" - I won't mention my favorite one), or a fraud; and I regard many on the "A-List" as both. But that's just my opinion.

But, this all comes back to general issues which have bedeviled feminist and progressive thought forever. We should all be good people, valuing each other's humanity, kind and charitable. Now how do we make an economy which reflects that (whether it's dollars or links at stake)? There's of course some value in breaking through the myth of pure meritocracy, and refuting advice trivialities of the general form of "Be the best little Z-lister you can be" or "A billion Chinese couldn't care less", or even "Shut up and write your diary".

However, there's only so many attention slots. It's almost exhausting to get people to even begin to realize that they're not allocated in some sort of bibble-emergent yada-cyber cluelame-paradigm magic method, but very much closer to crony politics.

The implications are disheartening.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on May 05, 2005 11:52 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I proposed a way to ameliorate the Wikipedia "strength over reason" misfeature a while back, but it seems to have generated no traction whatsoever. My distance from the Wikipedia A-list presumably has something to do with my lack of success. Ah well.

Regarding the other oligarchies you mention, it seems that members demographic groups that have disproportionate influence in society at large have disproportionate influence in the blogosphere. (I'm shocked--shocked!) If more women become influential in the political and the high-tech worlds, we can expect to see more influential women bloggers. I'm not sure how much blogging can do to make women more influential, though.

Posted by: Seth Gordon at May 6, 2005 09:23 AM