Beyond HashtagsRacial Politics and Black Digital Networks

Beyond HashtagsRacial Politics and Black Digital Networks

Sarah Florini

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9781479892464

Publisher: NYU Press


In a culture dominated by discourses of “colorblindness” but still rife with structural racism, digital and social media have become a resource for Black Americans navigating a society that simultaneously perpetuates and obscures racial inequality. Though the Ferguson protests made such Black digital networks more broadly visible, these networks did not coalesce in that moment. They were built over the course of years through much less spectacular, though no less important, everyday use, including mundane social exchanges, humor, and fandom. This book explores these everyday practices and their relationship to larger social issues through an in-depth analysis of a network of Black American digital media users and content creators. These digital networks are used not only to cope with and challenge day-to-day experiences of racism, but also as an incubator for the discourses that have since exploded onto the national stage. This book tells the story of an influential subsection of these Black digital networks, including many Black amateur podcasts, the independent media company This Week in Blackness (TWiB!), and the network of Twitter users that has come to be known as “Black Twitter.” Grounded in her active participation in this network and close ethnographic collaboration with TWiB!, Sarah Florini argues that the multimedia, transplatform nature of this network makes it a flexible resource that can then be deployed for a variety of purposes—culturally inflected fan practices, community building, cultural critique, and citizen journalism. Florini argues that these digital media practices are an extension of historic traditions of Black cultural production and resistance.