Following up on the diversity discussion going on at Rebecca MacKinnon's RConversation site started by my earlier post - Blogging the News, In Color, I posted this earlier today on Rebecca's site. Thought it wise to share it here as well.
The concept of reducing this to an affirmative action argument misses the point. In the first place, getting a computer and internet access is still a huge barrier for the majority of the world's population, including a significant number of people in the so-called developed world.
Just as generations ago only a relative handful of people had access to printing presses, so too today, the internet community is an elite group of publishers, 'printing' the news from the viewpoint of those wealthy enough, educated enough, and fortunate enough to live somewhere that can connect to the internet.
But like the printing press, the internet's distribution far exceeds its boundaries. Even if you can not get online, the influence of those who can is already effecting how you live, who governs you, and what things are being discussed in boardrooms, military barracks, and halls of government around the world. Those discussions, influenced by the connected, lead to decisions that effect connected and unconnected alike.
The point of diversity, whether in a newsroom, the blogging community, or at conferences where the attendees are discussing issues aimed at shaping the future of developing technologies and ideas, is not just to have people of diverse genders, colors and backgrounds sitting in the same room. It is to take those issues and problems under discussion and filter them through prisms other than our own, in order to find alternative and perhaps better ways to solve them.
Growing up in rural China or inner city America are two very different experiences from growing up in the Hollywood hills or on New York's Long Island. Naval gazing only occurs when we refuse to view these experiences as being anything different from our own and therefore incapable of adding anything to the various discussions underway.
Maybe this will become a moot point when we have truly universal computer access and translation software that can keep up with the thousands of languages spoken in the world. Until then, however, those of us fortunate enough to be connected to this global network should do what we can to be mindful of the experiences, knowledge and cultures of those who are not.