SXSW: The Digital Ethnorati and the Excluded Ethnorati

I attended The Digital Ethnorati panel because I noticed Mini Kahon, whose employer shares an office space with mine, on the program.

So who are the Ethnorati? As one slide put it, those who are colored+hip+wired, where hip translates to identifying as ethnorati ( was presented as an example of non-ethnorati, despite presumably qualifying as colored and clearly qualifying as wired — too establishment, contrasted with , who gets cool points for being political).

Another term introduced (to me) by the panel is “digital exclusion”, an attempted reframing of “digital divide”. I expect this term to gain far more traction than Ethnorati. The nice thing about “exclusion” is that it can’t be “bridged” merely by obtaining net access; rather power structures must change, as the power structures represented on the net are more or less the same as those represented off the net. So the lingo has great staying power and does excellent worldview fitting.

Digital ethnorati almost by definition are part of power networks (again, wired doesn’t just mean digital) — so how can the digitally (and otherwise) excluded connect or grow their own? In small part by learning to podcast and acquiring other “21st century skills.”

I drifted during the part of the panel presented by a representative of the “Center for 21st Century Skills” and a few high school students who participate in the program, until one of the students, videoconferenced in from Brazil, apparently started crying. I gather that student could no longer participate in the program because she had been deported from the U.S. Now there’s exclusion.

2 Responses

  1. gurdonark says:

    “so how can the digitally (and otherwise) excluded connect or grow their own? In small part by learning to podcast and acquiring other “21st century skills”

    I think access, in whatever form one posits the issue, is a “real” issue, and a goal and a challenge and an important thing. Yet I sometimes get disappointed when folks posit the issue as “there is a huge problem because so many with access lack connection into the power structure”.
    Call me naive, and also a bit entrepreneurial, but to me the whole beauty of the thing is that one can become a media generator so much less expensively in today’s era than in in prior times. Rather than seeing problems, I like it when people see the opportunities for a more egalitarian expression inherent in the ‘net and recording technology explosions.

    I agree that this will come when “21st Century skills” are widespread, but to me this is not an issue, as this spread is inevitable and will occur with more or less lightning speed. To me, the issue is instead “who will build the structures to facilitate and enhance the experience of this wonderful new sharing of culture”. I suppose I am saying “call me excited” rather than “call me ishmael”, because I see the changes as possibility, and not as some great whale to fear.

  2. gurdonark, I am also a long-term optimist.

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