The "Race and New Media" Conference

On May 3, 2008, the first “Race and New Media” conference will take place on the campus of New York City College of Technology (CUNY) in downtown Brooklyn close to both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Though in an academic setting, the conference is intended to draw from the broader community as well, bringing in “outsiders” as both presenters and participants. My colleague Annie Seaton and I are the organizers, and are exploring a number of ways of expanding the conference beyond college walls. One panel, of example, will be a walking tour of a small section of Brooklyn while relevant topics are discussed.

Brooklyn native (and Harvard PhD candidate/Rockefeller Fellow) Omar Wasow has agreed to provide the keynote talk. Wasow is the co-founder and ongoing strategic advisor to and an on-air technology analyst. Under Wasow’s leadership, became the leading website for African Americans, reaching over three million people a month. Wasow also works to demystify technology issues through regular TV and radio segments on NBC’s Today Show and public radio’s Tavis Smiley Show.

Tentatively, Natasha Dow Schull, Assistant Professor in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, is also scheduled to speak. Professor Schull has won fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Joel Rainey, from the Harvard History Department, a Cultural Historian, agreed to be another featured speaker.

City Tech physics professor Dr. Reginald Blake Assistant Professor, also a Visiting Research Scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and director of the CUNY-wide Black Male Initiative (BMI), will provide the opening remarks.

Panel papers will deal with a range of aspect of the relationship between “race” and “new media.” Included may be questions like the following: Does race work differently in the “new” media than it did in the “old” media? Network news, for instance, was widely derided as a nearly diversity-free zone. Is the blogosphere different? How do video games, blogs, chat rooms, and other forms of “new” media and “digital” or “virtual” spaces construct or reflect notions of race? What kinds of “new” identities and/or communities exist in these “new” digital spaces? How is new media being used to make connections, to empower communities, and/or to control, colonize, or dominate them? In other words, are there digital forms of “cultural” imperialism? Anyone interested in participating on a panel should sent a 250-word proposal to

City Tech students will be drawn in in a number of ways. Students in my Advanced Technical Writing course will be creating and presenting one of the panels; coverage of the conference will be provided by my City Tech journalism students, who will be involved in a cooperative venture with ePluribus Media to supply information about the conference to the wider world. ePMedia will offer mentoring in such things as ethics, fact checking, and editing.

We are open to experimentation of many sorts. Contact us through the email address with any suggestions or proposals.

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