ASR Installment 5: Multiple Views

Some people say the internet has made the world larger.  Some say it has made the world smaller.  Bigger, smaller, or just different, online technologies have changed the way we see the world and operate in it. 

Discussions about changing worlds, changing forms of expression, and changing ways of seeing others can be understood as dimensions of what is conventionally called a "diversity curriculum."  This week's ASR focuses on how online experience plays into the diversity discourse. 

Does an internet connection make diversity education easier?  Does it make it more complicated?  Does it change the conversation?  Does it empower?  Does it trivialize?  Please go on and investigate on your own.

How this Works

As always, navigate the 3 selections below-- they are the required parts.  The 3rd part (Character 140) asks you a question, which you are encouraged but not required to answer.

Of course, reactions to any of the following are welcome.  Another clarification and reminder: responses to the readings and the questions are strictly OPTIONAL at this point.  We'll let you know when a response is required. 

The Further Reading page is there for your reference and interest, as always.  This week, there are a number of good resources, including a long but interesting article on gender, power, and Silicon Valley (courtesy of the New Yorker).

Tune in on August 22nd for the next installment of the ASR.  It will be #6 of 8 total installments.

SELECTION #1 race, the final frontieR (Sexual Orientation too?)

Backstory: The two short videos comprising the first selection were pulled off the "Ill Doctrine" youtube feed.    The titles tell you something of the approach and style: "How to Tell People They Sound Racist" and "An Old Person's Guide to 'No Homo.'"  The videos' creator  is Jay Smooth, "founder of New York City's longest running hip hop radio program."  Other nuggets from wikipedia's entry on Jay Smooth (born John Randolph): "The son of an African-American father and a white mother, he grew up in New York City and credits his mixed racial heritage for putting him in a 'unique position to travel between different worlds.'" 


"That's the conversation you want to have."

"This is the conversation you don't want to have."

"(it's) a rhetorical Bermuda Triangle, where everything drowns in a sea of empty posturing, and everyone just blames it all on hip hop, and we forget the whole thing ever happened."

"One of my favorite things about hip hop is our everlasting love of language.  One of my least favorite things about hip hop is our everlasting fear of being gay."

"It's just so absurd and stupid that it's mad funny."  (Timm See)


1.  Each of the selected videos has hundreds of thousands of hits.  Given the fact that they deal with topics that are not necessarily easy or entertaining, to what do you account their relative popularity?  Or are they just insignificant blips on the youtube radar screen anyway?

2. Both videos deal with the uses of language.  How does the presentation enhance (or detract from) the point  the videos try to make? 

3. Is this mode of expression an "only on the internet" phenomenon?

Watch  Selection 1

SELECTION #2 Back to Virginia

Backstory: Virginia Heffernan covers a wide (can we say 'diverse'?) array of topics through her New York Times bloggings on digital and pop culture.  One fairly recent post included some interesting angles on expression, race, and digital trends.  This reading will provide an education on, among other things, hashtags (for those needing a remedial lesson, here is a decent cultural definition of 'hashtag'.)  Another promotional reminder: Virginia Heffernan will be at Middlesex on September 24th, headlining our ASR discussions.


"Twitter 2011 is in fact a wiki-wit machine that specializes in black one-liners in the spirit of Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes. "

"Last fall, Kanye West, a zealous user of Twitter, coined the phrase “hashtag rap” to describe analogies in rap lyrics that use a comic pause where the words “like” or “as” might be expected."

"A good joke can walk through territory riddled with cultural landmines, engulfed in racial flamewars, and the laugh creates an insulated oasis,” he told me. “Jokes are like hurt lockers." (Patrice Evans)


1.  Jay Smooth says in one of his video selections, "If you're not the original target of an insult, you can't be the one to reclaim it." Would he (or would you) have a problem with Virginia Heffernan appropriating and commenting upon the "black one-liners" she attributes to twitter?

2. Is the whole hashtag/blacktag discussion totally beyond your comprehension?  Or do you get it?  Why/why not?

3. Is the informal,don't-take-it-all-so-seriously style of the internet an equalizer/neutralizer when it comes to differences in race/power/status?

Read  Selection 2

SELECTION #3 character 140 (Part 2)

Backstory: Briefly, Character 140 attempts to get quick, quality answers to fairly deep questions.  For a further description of Character 140 in general and this question in particular, go to the Character 140 ASR page.  Or you can respond immediately to the question below by clicking on it (you will be taken to a submission form).  

Question:  Do you feel that your use of technology helps you understand people who are different from you better?

Read  Selection 3

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