From the Blackhand Side: Twitter as a Cultural Conversation

Brock, André
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Twitter’s combination of brevity, multi-platform access, and feedback mechanisms has enabled it to gain mindshare far out of proportion to its actual user base, including an extraordinary number of Black users. How best to understand Twitter’s reception and uptake by Black Americans, who surprisingly
comprise over a quarter of all U.S. Twitter users? This article approaches Twitter from two perspectives: an analysis of the interface and associated practices alongside critical discourse analyses of online discussions of Twitter’s utility and audience. This dual analysis employs critical race and technocultural theory to understand how mainstream online authors (out-group) and Black online authors (in-group) articulate Twitter as a racial artifact employing technocultural practices. Initial findings indicate that Twitter’s feature set and multiplatform presence play major roles in mediating cultural performances by Twitter users. These same features also, depending upon the racial affiliation of the discussant, mediate how those cultural performances are understood:
for example, Twitter was seen as a venue for civic activism (or public sphere) or as an active facilitator of deficit-based Black cultural stereotypes. Of particular interest are the complex reactions offered by minority and mainstream commenters on the ‘‘appropriateness’’ of Twitter as a Black cultural outlet.