Archive for the ‘Diversity’ Category

Today, as I went to Google something, I was met with the Google Doodle below. It honours Emmy Noether who, I learned with one click, “was an influential German mathematician known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics.”

Google doodle Emmy Noether.

So like millions of others today, I learned about another great white, European contribution to modern Western society. More broadly, I had the idea that white, Europeans are accomplished and valuable, reinforced.

This got me thinking about the digital divide and how few Doodles, if any, I’ve ever seen about non-white folks.

To check my assumption, I typed a query under Ms. Noether and found I wasn’t the only one thinking about this.

A February 2014, MailOnline article, Are Google’s doodles racist and sexist? discussed the campaign by the women’s group Spark to get Google to diversify its Doodles.

The team analysed Google Doodles from 2010-2013, and found that Google celebrated 445 individuals on its various homepages throughout the world. Nine were women of color, 54 were white women, 82 were men of color, and 275 were white men.

It called for Google to include all races and genders in its Doodles, “demanding that Google make a concerted effort to change such a blatant imbalance.”

“Google Doodles may seem lighthearted, especially when accompanied by quirky games and animation, but in reality they have emerged as a new manifestation of who we value as a society, a sign of who “matters.” Just like statues, stamps, and national holidays, you know that if someone is featured on Google’s homepage, they’ve done something important.”

Now, although I like Spark’s goal, I have a different reason to offer Google why they should take action: because the world needs all the diversity it can get to deal with the challenges facing it. We need people to think broadly about solutions to today’s complex problems. However, if Google reinforces the idea that only people who look like Emmy Noether and Albert Einstein are the sources of valuable insights, they are limiting the abilities of people, including their own employees, to think out of the white box.

Where my brown people at?

Author: Robin Browne

Whenever new communications channels emerge everyone rushes to use them to reach “the public”. Then, after a while, a few folks remind everyone that “the public” is pretty diverse – especially in Canada. Recognizing this is key to effectively marketing whatever you’re trying to sell.

This is especially true for the Government of Canada which has policies mandating that its marketing efforts reflect the diversity of the Canadian population.  So, in the age of social media, how do you ensure your social media marketing efforts are reaching all the Canadians they need to?

Well, having some studies showing where diverse segments of the Canadian population spend their time online would help. But if such studies exist they’re a pretty well kept secret because even the mighty Google could only turn up one 2007 study by the Parliament of Canada with this small reference:

New Canadians tend to use the Internet differently from those who are Canadian-born. They are more likely to use it to communicate with friends and family, particularly those back home. Indeed, in 2007 new Canadians were much more likely to make telephone calls over the Internet or to use instant messaging than were the Canadian-born.

The US is more advanced and may provide some insights in to what Canadian studies would find (or perhaps have found already). A 2010 study by BIGresearch found that:

  • Minorities (i.e. Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans) are more likely than Caucasians to be regular Facebook users (55.7 percent of Asians, 54.2 percent of Hispanics and 47.7 percent of African Americans use Facebook, compared to 43 percent of Caucasians).
  • Minority groups are more likely to regularly use Twitter. Overall, just 6.5 percent of those surveyed regularly use Twitter, but 11.4 percent of Hispanics and 16 percent of Asians did.

The study also found minority consumers (hey, it’s the US, if the study didn’t focus on consumers it probably wouldn’t have been funded) more likely than Caucasians to regularly research products and buy them online. And, not surprisingly, given these findings, it found that minority groups lead use of mobile technology for accessing the Internet.

So if anyone knows where Canadian brown folks are hanging out online, let me know: I need to talk to them.

ps. Thanks to Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson for the BIGresearch study tip via episode #570 (that’s right, 570!) of their For Immediate Release podcast.

I’m nearing the end of Clay Shirky’s great book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations and the gems of wisdom just keep coming. The latest one is empirical evidence of the importance of getting out of our respective fish bowls and exposing ourselves to a diverse range of people and opinion.

To many of us this is obvious. What’s much less obvious is how recommendation-driven social media are making this harder and harder.

First, a little theory.

Shirky breaks the well known term “social capital” in to two types: bonding capital and bridging capital. Bonding capital is the strength of bonds between members of an existing group. Bridging capital is the strength of bonds between members of different groups. Shirky uses the example of lending money to people to explain. He says, “an increase in bridging capital would increase the number of people you’d lend to; an increase in boding capital would increase the amount of money you’d lend to people already on the list.” (Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, pg. 222)

Next, Shirky tells of an experiment by a sociologist wonderfully titled, The Social Origins of Good Ideas. The researcher looked at a large US electronics firm undergoing restructuring and examined which managers were coming up with the best ideas for improving the company. What he found was that the best ideas came from managers who bridged “structural holes”, meaning those whose immediate social network included employees outside their own department. They even had better ideas than managers who had more connections – but all within their own departments.

This finding wasn’t all that significant. The fact that the best ideas came from managers who exposed themselves to more diverse ideas by looking outside their departments seems fairly obvious. What’s significant is when you think about this in the context of recommendation-driven social tools.

The main power of these tools is also their biggest fault: how they help us sift through mountains of information and decide what’s good via recommendations from people in our existing networks.

The problem is this creates more and more fish bowls as more people rely on recommendations from their networks to decide what’s good, what’s bad, where to live and even who to vote for. Are we not all becoming managers looking in our own departments? Do we care? We should….

The best ideas comes from exposing ourselves to diverse opinions – no matter how uncomfortable doing that may be.

So what do we do it? How do we get out of the fish bowl?

One place to start is to occasionally check out online sources that aren’t part of your network. Blog sites like Global Voices Online, that aggregate blogs from around the world is one place to start. Visiting social networks opposite to your normal fare is another way. If you lean left, check out the best from the right from time to time and vice versa.

The best ideas are there for the taking  – just on the other side of our comfort zone.

I was talking to a friend the other day about marketing to diverse communities and he said I should check out his friend’s company Dakima marketing. When I did I felt like jumping up and yelling, "Finally!".

I have been searching in vain for a company that does what Dakima claims it does for about a  year now. I have set up Google Alerts on "marketing and diversity" that have returned few , if any, quality leads. And I have to say that, in a country as diverse as Canada, I’m shocked because it seems there is an obvious market for such services.

Clearly the people behind Dakima think the same thing. The company bills itself as "Your partner in creating inspiring communications for audiences in today’s increasingly multicultural Canada." Right on.

And judging from their client list, that includes American Express, McAfee and Canada Post Corporation, Dakima has a knack for getting clients to jump aboard the diversity train.

One big question I have is what language or languages does Dakima work in?

As communicators in a global world it’s important to expand our world view by searching out alternative views on the issues of the day. Well, GlobalVoices has some on the issue of this day: Barack Obama’s inauguration. The website is a collection of reports from citizen journalists from around the world and offers perspectives reflecting that diversity.

A case in point is Jillian York out Boston blogging that, "While Arab support of Obama has been waning over the past few months following the selection of his cabinet and his silence over Israel’s attacks on Gaza"…Not something you hear everyday about the new pres…

The site gives you access to the content of bloggers around the world on a variety of topics including, cyber-activism, business, media, internet & telecom, politics, war & conflict, humour and much more.

Always good to get out of the intellectual comfort zone…..

I just browsed through Technorati’s latest State of the Blogosphere report hoping to get some insights on the ethnocultural breakdown of North American bloggers but didn’t get any satisfaction. So, those of you trying to include, or specifically target, ethnocultural communities in your North American social media communications and marketing mix won’t get any help from this version of the State report.

I got excited when I saw this…


…only to realize that it was referring to bloggers in Asia – not Asian bloggers in North America.

Does anyone know where to find this info?

PAB2008: Stuff White People Like?

Author: Robin Browne

The title of this post is inspired by the wildly popular (average of 1000 comments per post), satirical website of the same name, Stuff White People Like, and the fact that I just checked out the group photo from Podcasters Across Borders 2008 (PAB2008) and was surprised to see that this year’s PAB looked less diverse than last year’s – and last year’s didn’t set the bar very high. I’m not saying that is the fault of PAB or its organisers – I’m just stating a fact.

PAB, and unconferences like it, are amazing opportunities to learn and network but, unlike most conferences, they’re free or very cheap. For many brown communities that are economically disadvantaged these are golden opportunities. However, for some reason, very few brown folks come out to these events (at least the ones I’ve been at) and this only widens the digital divide.

One way to change this is for the folks who do attend to make an effort to connect with other communities, let them know about these events and encourage and help them to attend.

So I make this pubic commitment now: I will personally bring at least two young brown folks to PAB2009 to join and diversify the conversation!