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The Curious Case of a Black Browser: Cultural Values as a Predictor of Technology Use

Google Tech TalkFebruary 8, 2011Presented by Andr? Brock.ABSTRACTPopular conceptions of information technology revolve around feature sets, physical size, speed, and technocultural rhetoric about 'open' and 'closed' platforms. Unlike flashier consumer electronics, the humble web browser has become part of our cultural infrastructure, invisible to our communicative practices until a rupture occurs.In November 2008, 40A's Blackbird browser, designed for the informational needs and interests of African Americans was introduced. Blackbird was designed to tightly integrate social network sites with web browsing, as well as to provide targeted search suggestions and results for Black cultural information searchers. Instead of focusing upon its speed at rendering web pages or displaying multimedia, the rupture for reviewers and early adopters was Blackbird's open declaration of its cultural affiliation. It was derided as being racist, unnecessary, and pejorative to the actual needs of Black Internet users. These reactions are unusual for any modern information technology, let alone one as ubiquitous as the web browser. During this talk, I'll review Blackbird's social and culturally-aware user interface features, followed by my findings from an analysis of selected blog discussions reviewing the browser.Andre BrockAssistant Professor School of Library and Information ScienceUniversity of IowaAndr? Brock studies the complex interactions between race, gender, and technology. His most recent project is a rhetorical study of blogs in the aftermath of Katrina. In this work, he explores the ways African American bloggers engaged media representations of race in the days following the hurricane in New Orleans. Andr? Brock has a 50% appointment in the School of Library and Information Science and a 50% appointment in the Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry (POROI).
Length: 53:17

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